It is a disgrace that so many UK graduates struggle to find an appropriate job to start their career after their years of studies not to mention the expense these days, but nevertheless they do. Hundreds of graduates are applying for every graduate-level job so you need to be pretty dedicated to tracking down the opportunities that are right for you, and resilient enough to handle the inevitable possibilities of rejection and uncertainty.Finding a graduate job
Know what to do but not where? If you took a vocational course such as Law, Dentistry, Medical Studies, Accounting or Business Studies and you still want to pursue a career in those professions, your next step will be fairly clear cut. Research the employers, recruiters and jobsites dedicated to those areas and just grind out those applications until you get what you want.
Find a career you'll enjoy rather than just going for the highest starting salary. If you studied a vocational course and hated it, don't be tempted to follow it further and make yourself even more miserable. You do have other options so spend some time researching them instead.
Popular choices. It's difficult to get accurate figures for from year to year but around 45% of the previous years graduate scheme vacancies were in the accountancy, professional services, banking, investment and financial services sectors, 7% in law, 6% in transport, 6% in consulting, 6% in retail, 5% in construction and 9% in engineering/industrial sectors (16% fall into a mysterious 'miscellaneous' category). If these aren't for you, then make sure that you consider your options carefully rather than just falling into something you hate for the sake of it. Check out the 2011 official graduate careers destination report and the 2013 Graduate Market Report from Highfliers Research.
Entry requirements. A 2:1 is the a gold standard requirement for many graduate-level jobs. Both elitism and nepotism are still alive and well in recruitment - the top 100 employers still appear to prefer to recruit from the 17 universities that belong to the Russell Group.
Starting salaries. Students from these Universities - Imperial, LSE, Cambridge, King's, UCL and Oxford also command the highest average starting salaries. These were last registered at around the £29K mark - the recession has impacted some of these figures. They will doubtless bounce back in better times.
Transferable skills. Many graduate employers aren't necessarily looking for a specific qualification so don't worry unduly if you don't have a vocational degree. What interests them more are your transferable skills - problem solving, creative thinking, project management, adaptability, leadership, team working and analytical skills. Make sure that you emphasis these skills on your CV if you do indeed possess them. According to research by the I-graduate barometer, the skills that employers say graduates lack (in order of importance) are: communication skills, confidence, planning and organisational skills, passion, analysis and decision-making skills, literacy, commercial awareness, relevant work experience and personal development skills. Ring any bells? Science and engineering graduates may very welcome in City firms because of the numerical analytical skills they will possess. History graduates may be equally favoured because of their mastery of quite different research and analytical skills.
Selection criteria. The growing popularity of psychometric testing, and the low cost and ease of conducting tests online, mean that many employers now use them to further discriminate beyond the class of degree you hold. These will include numeracy and literacy tests and, increasingly, personality and emotional intelligence tests. To get ahead of the game, go to any of the sites that offer free demo tests and practice before you have to do do one for real. Many of the big brand employers have complex application procedures and countless filtering processes, assessment days, group interviews etc.
Get organised. Trying to find a job and do well in your finals can be a tough thing to juggle. So, make sure that you keep your search focused and organised; only apply for the careers you really want to pursue and keep a log of deadlines and copies of the various CVs and covering letters and test types you've completed. You might be able to reuse the material or experiences again and save time - just be sure not to make any of those career-limiting 'cut and paste' mistakes!
Finding work. There are plenty of places to register for work opportunities - the best ones are listed throughout the site.
It's not just what you know. Networking and self marketing are increasingly important these days - Facebook may be great for your social life but professionally you need a rather different approach. Check out our guide from Facebook to Linkedin.
Straight to work? You don't necessarily have to go straight to into career oriented work either. There are lots of post graduate qualifications that, with a year's extra study, can lead you into a completely different career direction e.g. Journalism or Marketing. If you didn't take a gap year before you went to University, it isn't too late. You could take a year out working overseas or at home on a variety of interesting projects. Having work experience on your CV whether it was during your graduate studies or after them is highly appealing to employers even if it was waitressing or bar work - they have an indication of whether you know what it's like to get your hands dirty or not! It is easy to be seduced by the large salaries that many of the big multi-nationals will pay to graduates with what they consider to be a good degree (a first class or an upper second class honours degree). You will work very hard for it we can assure you. If you really want to know what we mean check out 'From New Recruit to High Flyer' by Hugh Karseras and some of our other recommended top reads in our great books on career management selection.
Continuing personal and professional development. You may have finished your undergraduate studies but choosing an employer who will help you with the additional skills that you will need, especially if you aspire to lead others, is critical. Make sure that you understand what they will offer you to sustain your long term employability. Redundancy and lay offs happen all the time irrespective of your age and qualifications. Do give your all but don't forget to keep investing in yourself too - training, networking, professional memberships, community leadership activities and so on. Just because you don't get on to a graduate training programme the first time around doesn't mean you have missed out completely - try out niche job boards such as Second Post that specialise in positions for graduates with work experience.
Starting work. Once you have passed all the interviews, assessment centres and other filtering devices that larger scale graduate employers will throw at you, prepare yourself carefully for your first few months at work. It may come as a big shock to you. You won't necessarily be surrounded by lots of very clever people like you will have been used to - showing off and being dismissive of, or arrogant with, experienced co-workers, whatever their rank, will not endear you to them. Be good to people on the way up, as they say, because you never know who you might meet on your way down! You may have a nice shiny degree in business strategy or an MBA, few sensible employers will risk letting you run the show when you are very inexperienced. Management Consulting firms may let you practice on their clients, they won't let you decide their strategy!
Staying on track. It's essential to have a vision of what you want your future to turn out like. It gives you focus and makes success more likely. Don't be afraid to seize unexpected opportunities as they come up, however, whole new worlds that you hadn't previously envisaged may be opened to you. Equally, if you have set backs, the measure of your character is in how you deal with what leadership guru Warren Bennis calls 'the crucibles' of life. Many of the most successful people we know have had plenty of hard knocks, they just get back in the saddle of life and don't let it defeat them. Careers are not necessarily straight lines, and we all know that there is no such thing as a job for life. Be prepared for change, the unexpected and learn how to turn adversity into opportunities.
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