This is a guest blog by Randal Whitmore.
University is an amazing place of opportunities, not only to learn but also to meet and befriend people from all walks of life. It may appear to some members of society that we don’t do a huge amount and drink a lot but I’m here, as a recent graduate of Brunel University, to tell you that it is hard work that pays off, giving credence to the old saying “work hard, play hard.”
Following the completion of my degree I was faced with many opportunities, one of which was to go travelling, which many of my friends decided on pursuing. Personally, I opted to find a job that coincidentally started the week after my final term of Uni ended. Unfortunately for those of my friends who went travelling, they are currently struggling to find employment relevant to their degrees. I hate to think that they missed the boat of opportunity due to their “holidays” but to find out how I successfully landed my job we have to travel back a couple of months before my final exam began.
Organisation is Key to Success
Historically, the planning of your success is more likely to lead to it. A term we were taught in my Strategic Marketing was Strategos, which our lecturer identified as being a term that the Romans used as wars were won on strategy according, which is transferable to my job hunt.
If you’re intent on finding employment after you finish you degree, you better give yourself at least two months before your final exam to start looking for jobs you’d like. Three months would be better so that you can give yourself a whole month to search, leaving the other two free for you to apply.
Begin searching in all the obvious places such as Milkround and Prospects and note down the ones that apply to your interests as well as your degree. It’s around this time of year that companies begin searching for their future graduates if they have graduate schemes, therefore, it is ideal to get applying ASAP as there will be a lot of competition, especially with the larger corporations.
Once you’ve noted the jobs you’d like, visit their websites and gather any information about them that you can. Keep a look out for anything to do with the kinds of employees they employ or the work ethic they have because this gives you some background that you can tailor your applications and CV to.
Custom Fit Your Experience
As you’ve probably guessed, the next step is to write your CV, even if you already have one. By personalising each one to the job descriptions you’re applying for, you are more likely to tick the boxes that they are specifically looking for e.g. if the job description says they require someone who can work independently then you could benefit from having a previous job role/ life experience where you’ve successfully worked on your own.
Some Universities have job centres to help with CV writing and how to handle corporate employment processes. If yours does I’d recommend having a visit and chatting with them about structuring your CV professionally. There’s also a good article from the BBC on how to write a successful CV, which should be very helpful.
Now that you’ve spent a good month looking for jobs and writing your CV for each one, the next phase is to start applying. Many have online application processes and others prefer an email. The handy thing about having a pre-written CV is that you can pick parts out of it and just place them in each of the fields on their online forms (some also allow you to just upload your CV).
Many online applications have a mini examination involved with their process on your first visit. Rather than just completing the fields I’d recommend using a word processor to write out your answers to their questions so that you can ensure you have no spelling or grammatical errors, as this is the first flaw that employers look for in applications – a reason not to employ you.
Top tip: try to impress by adding some really unique experiences you’ve had. Thinking outside of the box can sometimes pay off. You may think that those strange things people add to their CVs in The Apprentice are unusual but they definitely made them stand out from the thousands of applicants.
What to Expect Next
Following your applications you should expect a reply within the next couple of months – ample time to study for your exams/ finish off your final year project. These replies will either invite you to training centres for examination processes or to a face-to-face interview.
Some employers have different examination phases to test your knowledge, which might be applicable to the role. These are known as psychometric/ aptitude tests. If you are working with PCs or in a technology company you can be guaranteed that they will be testing your typing skills (speed and accuracy). It is ideal to train yourself for these tests as personally I came across an algebra test having not touched the subject since I finished my GCSEs six years prior to it. That was one job I didn’t get because of the exam. More information on this can be found at http://www.prospects.ac.uk/psychometric_tests.htm.
The face-to-face interview process is something you can train yourself with using either the job centre at your University or your close friends. Role-play is the simplest way to perfect your interview skills. Just make sure your friend doesn’t break character and has a copy of your CV prior to the practice. Some employers do a phone interview first so practice this too, as there are plenty of subconscious behaviours you have on the phone, such as errrm noises, which you will need to train yourself to stop.
Following successful testing and interview phases you should expect the final call of success or failure. Each application process is a learning curve where you can put your learning into practice at the next interview so don’t be too disheartened when you fail to succeed in gaining employment. Learn from it and apply it to your next interview.
Apart from the fairly standard process I’ve described, gaining employment opportunities can be very easy to do which will make you stand out from other graduates and potentially land you with a job rather than a grad scheme. The following are just methods I’ve tried but use your imagination and be inventive to think of how you could gain opportunities too.
Check online for events near you that are specific to the industry you want to work in e.g. ad:tech is a massive marketing event hosted in London where plenty of exhibitors and high up marketing heads attend to learn more about recent developments in their industry. Plenty of these events are free to attend and provide you with great networking opportunities. Prior to visiting these events, ensure that you have plenty of customised business cards to hand out when you meet people who you’d like to work for. Professional printing companies like Solopress are my recommendation for luxury business cards that stand out: http://www.solopress.com/business-cards/.
Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile because you have an opportunity to upload your professional work experiences to a free and open network that employers search on to find industry professionals. Don’t add everything though. Add experiences, which are relevant to the type of job you are looking for. This was how I landed my dream job in marketing, proving it as being a successful method. All you have to do is search for the companies you’d like to work for in the network and submit your profile as an application to their vacancies.
Put It Into Practice
To summarise, the main things you need to remember if you want to successfully get a job immediately after finishing University are:
Be organised and apply months ahead;
Practice your application skills and interview processes;
Try gaining employment opportunities using innovative methods.
Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought if you’re in your final year and starting to think about landing your dream job. Start using some of these practices now if you can such as networking and LinkedIn to get a head start.
Finally, I wish you all the best in your studies and hope you find the employment that you are searching for.
About the Author: Randal Whitmore studied at Brunel University and graduated with a 2.1 in Business and Management (Marketing) He currently works as an Online Marketing Executive and writes blog articles for the professional printing company Solopress.