Old Man Advice: What you can learn from my mistakes
It's daunting graduate job hunting, isn't it?
It's daunting and boring. It's daunting, boring and time consuming graduate job hunting, but you've got to do it. When I left university in 2012, it was a very much all three. While the job market wasn't as fruitful as it is now, graduates in from the "Class of 2012" were going through the same as you right now. That sense of little purpose and high expectation, little purpose because of the lack of progress or direction many graduates find with their job hunt but the high expectation to get yourself a promising and respectful career.
It is always very easy for Careers Services and online services to churn out the "Killer CV Tips" and "Covering Letter Essentials" but it's not really helpful is it? Not only is it far too objective and blunt, but it doesn't really mean anything to you when you hit 11:30 on a day you've designated for graduate job hunting and you're bored shitless. So instead, here are a list of real advice that I wish I'd been told when I was in your position. Old man advice perhaps (I'm only 23!) but worthy stuff to help you focus and be smart with your applications and approach.
So instead, here are a list of real advice that I wish I'd been told when I was in your position. Old man advice perhaps (I'm only 23!) but worthy stuff to help you focus and be smart with your applications and approach.
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1. This is a Mohammed to Mountain situation
There are plenty of ways you can make yourself searchable by employers. Whether it is uploading your CV on graduate-jobs.com or setting up a profile on the popular professional social network LinkedIn, but that's not enough nowadays. Graduates are contacted by employers from our CV Database, we often have anywhere between 20 to 30 employers searching our database at any one time, but it's not enough. Applying for graduate jobs is more effort that just setting up an online CV/Profile and waiting for the offers to roll in.
2. Application forms are mammoth
Some of you might have already filled out a few, but if you haven't you need to be ready for the mammoth task that it is. However you line up your allotted graduate job hunting time, be prepared for the worst when you go to submit an application, especially for a large company. Often you're required to upload all your academic qualifications and I'm not just talking about your Degree and occasional A levels, but including your GCSES. Remember them? If you haven't dusted them 11 or so results off and know the exam board too.
3. Employers ask a lot
Following on from asking you about how you did in exams six plus years ago, they also like to go into massive detail about everything you might have done around your degree. This is not for all employers, by the way, some adopt different approaches to recruitment than others. Employers will have you spending one, two and sometimes three hours on an application form, meticulously going through minor details of your academic and extracurricular history but I'm afraid to say that's what it takes for some graduate schemes and jobs.
4. I'm sorry it's so dull...
It's dull and boring. There are no two ways about it. While you might get excited by the prospects of the role and the salary or location, the doldrum of drop down grade selections is a real vibe killer. Application apathy is the prognosis and it can be a real kicker when you're trying to get some progress made in getting applications out there. There's no secret hack or shortcut to this but it's just a slog. The one piece of encouragement or fear that should spur you on is that if you sack off filling out the form, somebody else will.
5. One or two-a-day isn't going to cut it
When I was applying for jobs back in the heady and poverty stricken days of post university life, I would apply for maybe one or two positions in the morning, sit back and think "Well, that's sorted then...". So very wrong on many levels. It wasn't enough and nor will it be for you I don't doubt. You don't warrant the afternoon off to indulge your Netflix account or games console because you've submitted a couple of applications. Set yourself a working day to help structure your time. There's no need to be too harsh on yourself, a nice 10 am until 4:30 will do it, but don't deviate from it, nor take two hour lunches.
6. Their silence can be deafening
It's easy to get hung up on certain jobs. You might have been perfect for it, ticking all the boxes for qualifications and experience but if you don't hear back after a certain period, you've got to let it go. Chasing up can be worthwhile, but probably not advised if you're at the early stages of application processes. No one told me that employers can be poor at responding to applicants and I have since been made aware that this is because of large amounts of applications employers simply cannot reply to everyone.
7. CVs are not set in stone
There was a time where I'd spent the best part of a day drafting, redrafting and double redrafting my CV until I was happy with it. "Great, I've nailed it" a boyish James said to himself. Alas, I couldn't have been more wrong. CVs are not, as some would let you believe, a definitive document or a Tablet of Stone, if you'll pardon the metaphor. But rather a vehicle to show employers what they want to see. They should be recrafted every time you submit them to an employer to emphasise particular attributes you have that they want to see.
8. Shake what your mother gave you
Well not exactly shake and nor what your mother gave you, but make the most of everything you've got. This could be drawing experience from the most unlikely places. Your bar job gives you great customer service skills, your shop assistant position gives you sales experience and so on. You get the idea. Even if you haven't interned anywhere or undertaken a work placement, see what's local and muck in there. M'colleague Ross attended to the social media for local businesses as an example. Although some say this might have been for discounted pints in his local.
9. Keep your options open
From what I remember, my approach to graduate job hunting was rather skewed. While sitting around waiting for the Graduate Job on The Times' sportsdesk I wasn't considering what else was out there. (If you're reading this Tony Evans, I'm still here!) Whether you have ambitious dreams or are not sure what you want to do, you should keep your options open. There's no point chaining yourself to one particular role and only that role, when you might have to take a side step to get closer to your dream job.
10. Little Middle Englander
Don't be local. Graduates can have their heart set on living in a certain place. It might be provincial Yorkshire-folk refusing to leave the boundaries of God's County or Southerners who might scoff and guffaw at the ghastly idea of moving to "the north". Some of you might share Alan Partridge's view of London, believing you'll either "be mugged or not appreciated". And all of those things are fine. But I implore you not to bear in mind locations too much. There's a big, wide world out there.
11. Schemes are open every year
This was a big one for me that no one felt inclined to let me in on. You know them graduate schemes that everyone bangs on about? Well you might have missed the boat for some of them that start in September (although not all of them) they are open again very soon. The traditional period of application is September to December/January, but there not just limited to those who are in their final year. There's no age limit on Graduate Schemes, it'd be harsh and also very illegal if there were.