It can’t be easy being a graduate in today’s world, despite all the technological and societal advances that have made higher education more accessible in recent years. With every passing year, the population expands, more old jobs get automated into obsolescence, and the level of competition out there gets fiercer.
As such, for those outside of the hottest fields or the highest degree classifications, the time after graduation is absolutely critical. If you don’t do everything you can to secure a position, you might be left waiting, opening up a CV gap that could be tough to explain.
But the good news is that there are always opportunities if you go about things correctly. To that end, we’re going to review some top tips to help new graduates successfully transition from the student lifestyle to the world of full-time work. Let’s get started.
Network however you can
Like it or not, networking is a vital part of building a career in almost every field or industry. Hiring decisions aren’t made in a vacuum factoring in objective measures — they’re inevitably affected by personal opinions, and you can’t typically rely on making a sufficient impression in a formulaic 45-minute interview.
Through your time in education, you’ll likely have made various social connections, so lean on them as soon as possible. Let everyone know that you’re looking for work and give them easy ways to get hold of you (email, phone, website, etc.). There’s every chance are that your friend’s aunt’s brother’s former colleague works for your dream company, and you can get your foot in the door that way. Perhaps most importantly, do not be ashamed of networking. Everyone else is doing it, so it isn’t a “cheat” — you just have to do it better than they do.
Do some investigation on LinkedIn, attend industry events, email notable industry figures (or contact them through social media). Be succinct and clear about your aims. Ask questions, but make them specific and interesting. You’re trying to stand out.
Frugal living won’t help you secure a job, but it will help you remain in a position to look for one. If you spent too liberally, you wouldn’t be the first graduate to blow through the last of their savings and have to move back to their hometown, having incorrectly assumed that they’d be able to find a good position in their target area within a set amount of time.
So don’t do anything crazy following your graduation. Don’t go out for luxury dinners, don’t buy giant TVs, and don’t stump up the money for an expensive flat if there are much cheaper places in the area. The longer you can hold out on your savings, the more chances you’ll have to find that job you’re looking for.
Hustle (and learn) relentlessly
As satisfying as it is to head to your graduation ceremony knowing that you no longer need all those expensive books you were required to buy for your course, your education isn’t over just because you’ve had your final exam and submitted the last of your coursework. Your education is never over. If you thought otherwise, you made a huge mistake. Your time in formal education should have equipped you with a strong understanding of the basic elements of your field and an ability to engage in self-directed learning — and you’re certainly not going to reach the heights of your profession with that weaponry alone.
Now, I’m not saying you need to commit several hours each day to reading textbooks, because that isn’t practical or even that useful. Instead, simply try to keep your progression ticking over. In between sending applications and attending interviews, try new online courses, research your field, and ensure that your education-sharpened mind remains in good condition.
Your post-graduation period is also a good time to pursue secondary passions. With no more seminars to attend, and a lot of downtime inherent to the application grind, you can significantly expand your skill set while keeping yourself in good spirits. Here are some good options to try:
- Attend part-time classes. Take a look in your area for part-time evening courses in subjects that interest you. They’ll present natural opportunities for additional networking, help you make new friends (very important for staying on an even keel), and give you something fresh to discuss in your interviews.
- Run your own online store. You can create one from scratch, or buy one ready-made. Maybe you’re an artist looking to print your designs on custom T-shirts, or maybe you’ve just always wanted a pet shop — well, now’s your chance, before full-time work fills up your schedule. It’ll look good on your CV, and may even make you a tidy profit to give you additional options in the future.
- Work on a portfolio. In almost every industry, you’ll need to have some way of demonstrating your abilities. While you’ll have coursework to present, don’t stop there — expand your portfolio, and prove to prospective employers that you can get great work done without university staff or fellow students around to push you.
Stay busy and keep focused. While other graduates slow down and get complacent or frustrated, you’ll still be forging ahead, setting yourself apart from the pack.
Take what you can get
I’m sure you have a dream job that you’re ultimately angling for, and that’s great. It’s good to have clear aspirations to help you steer your professional choices. But like a first-time buyer on the market expecting a 5-bedroom mansion for £100k, you’ll be waiting a long time if you turn your nose up at anything that doesn’t seem directly relevant.
Career paths aren’t as static as they used to be. Perhaps it was once the case that you could be snapped up directly out of university by your goal company and steadily work your way up to the managerial level without much trouble, but that kind of progression is extraordinarily rare now. In all likelihood, you’ll move company numerous times throughout your professional life.
Knowing the changes and opportunities that await you, don’t be too precious about your first job after graduation. If you get offered a reasonable low-level position and nothing else seems on the horizon, you’d do well to take it. Not only will it give you some much-needed income while you chart your path, but it will give you an advantage as you continue to look for more relevant work — businesses always appreciate a strong work ethic.
Wrapping up, in addition to everything we’ve looked at, you need to keep optimistic about your future. It can be so easy to become demoralised following a number of rejections, but you’re not done unless you give up. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be realistic, of course (particularly with the frugality, it’s essential that you maintain a rational view of your situation) — it’s simply to say that it’s best to look on the bright side of every situation.
Follow these tips, keep moving on from the setbacks and adapting your strategy, and you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of getting that all-important first step on the career ladder. Good luck!
About the Author
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and startups in their paths towards success. For more actionable business tips, head to the blog now, and be sure to follow along on Twitter @getmicrostarted.