Your focus is on learning and enjoying student life, but before you know it you’ll be turning to job boards, creating a CV and hoping that you land your dream job. A little bit of foresight and forward thinking will make landing your dream first job more achievable.
It goes without saying that your grades are important. Getting a good degree will demonstrate that you have worked hard and are capable. But that’s only part of what an employer looks for. To stand out from all the other graduates who got good degrees, you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition…and that goes a bit further than having a snazzy CV layout!
Think Like An Employer
To start stacking the odds in your favour, think what a future employer is going to look for. Whether you’re applying for a graduate intake scheme, responding to jobs ads or targeting your own dream organisations, you need to be aware that there is usually a big step from being a student to actually being able to contribute in a role in a company.
This can come as a surprise to many students. You’ve just spent all this time studying for your degree… you’re an expert right? Well yes and no. Graduating will provide you with the bedrock of your career, and the theory, but you’ve probably got some ways to go before you are justifying your pay packet.
For example, in the first months of a job you need to
- Get used to working life
- Understand the employer’s business
- Understand your role in the business
- Get to grips with new processes and procedures
- Translate what you learned in your degree to real life
- Undertake training
- Navigate your way around company culture
Employers are basically taking a calculated risk on your potential contribution to their organisation. It requires an investment of both time and money. You can appreciate that employing a graduate is a serious commitment. To be chosen as a safe bet, you need to win their confidence.
How to demonstrate that you are a safe bet
When recruiters and potential employers are scanning CVs they will be looking for a few things outside of your qualifications. Here are 5 areas that you can keep in mind while you are going through your University years.
1. Work Experience
Probably the first thing that employers will look for. If you can demonstrate that you have some experience where you’ve learnt some transferable skills, like working in a business environment, taking responsibility or understanding the basics of a role, you are increasing your chances for consideration for the role.
If your course includes a placement make sure that you make the most of it. If you have to source it yourself start early, target companies professionally by finding out the name of the relevant person, introducing yourself politely. Remember to follow up – people are busy and placements will not usually be a priority. When you get through to an interview stage communicate that you understand that the company is doing this to give back and that you want to make a contribution during your time in placement as well as learning.
Consider using spare time during term and holidays to volunteer. This demonstrates that you are a person who is engaged with your community. Ask at local charities, community bodies and charity shops if they could use your help. It might not be related to your chosen subject but you will certainly learn skills that you can use in the future. (Win.) And you’re doing some good. (Win Win.) Also, there have been studies which suggest that people who volunteer have higher rates of happiness. (erm Win, Win, Win!)
This is controversial as Internship is not a viable option for many students. However, if you can manage it, working in an internship allows you to receive practical training and knowledge.
Ensuring that your studies are the most important focus, you might be able to do some part-time work. Many students work part-time in restaurants and bars or retail to help pay their way through college. While this can be tough it can really stand in your favour on graduation.
A Student Ambassador role is a great opportunity to gather experience usually well within your comfort zone. Organisations and brands looking for genuine communication with the student body create these positions. (Hint: We do that here at Portland Green – ask at reception!)
2. Start Building your Reputation
Employers will be looking at your social profiles – it goes without saying that what is published in social media stays on social media. Use this to your advantage. Follow relevant people in your industry/profession, retweet and build connections.
Reach out to individuals in the industry. That might be daunting but you’ll be pleasantly surprised and how most people want to help others starting off in their careers. One successful tactic is to send individuals an email to introduce yourself and ask them if they could give you a short nugget of advice for someone starting off. Always be respectful. If you get a response then great. Collect these responses and use them as a further guide to getting your dream job.
Set up a Blog
Think about publishing a blog. It’s cheap and easy to do. Start writing about things that you think a future employer would use as evidence of your enthusiasm. Remember to be authentic but curate for your audience e.g. don’t give away information which is to private and don’t publish anything you wouldn’t want your granny to see.
3. Find a Passion - Activities and hobbies
Make the most of your time in University to try new activities and hobbies. You probably joined up to lots of societies in Fresher’s week. How many are you going to? A great way of looking at this is to find something for your body, something for your mind and something for your soul. You never know, you might discover something which could become a lifelong passion. Don’t forget to have fun or to leave enough time for your studies!
4. Gain Some Notches On Your Achievements Belt
Depending on the job you are going for, that junior school badge for swimming 50 meters may or may not impress. Look for opportunities that are CV worthy… as well as worthwhile in terms of making friends, learning new things and being involved. Examples for achievements can be anything from organising events to getting on a sports/debating team to becoming secretary of one of the Uni societies.
5. University Career advice and Milk Rounds
Be aware of any career days and fairs which are being run in your city. And importantly – go to them! Even in your first year it is worthwhile attending to start thinking about future opportunities and jobs.
Make sure that you are know by your tutors, lecturers and faculty staff. They will regularly be approached to recommend graduates for positions.
Also get your CV into the university employment services nice and early. Employers will be on the look out for new recruits several months before you graduate to take advantage of any programmes which reduce the cost of taking on graduates. Make sure your in the mix.
Easy! A little foresight goes a long way
So what’s the upshot of all of this? Well, it’s really about helping yourself out with a little forward planning amongst all the things that University offers you.
Don’t leave it until the Easter before you graduate to start figuring out what you are actually going to do with your degree.
Your time in University brings with it lots of opportunities that can be used to make you a more attractive candidate when you graduate. Use them and you’re much closer to getting that dream job.