How to get a job straight out of university

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 12:00 AM

Richard Claridge, a recent graduate, has some tips for landing a good graduate job

I graduated from university last summer with a 2.1 in physics and have had my current (graduate) role since September. So far, it's great fun, if an incredibly steep learning curve! Here are some of my thoughts on how your university can help prepare you for the real world and how you can make the best choices about where to go after you finish your course.

How did university prepare me for my current job?

Well, without my degree there's no way I could have got the job I applied for. I don't just mean the actual course; the extracurricular activities you have access to at university are unique and the so-called 'soft-skills' that you gain are hugely important. That said, the best asset most graduates have is their degree, so make sure you spend some time actually doing your course!

What help did I get from my university/department:

Careers fairs are the best place to start. There're loads of people there to talk to and this might at least give you an idea of the sector you want to work in, and if not, go for the sweets, pens etc. Your University will have lists of alumni broken down by course, that's worth a read and there will always be lecture about careers that are often worth going to. A lot of University alumni (myself included!) leave their contact details with their department/university so that they can be contacted and asked for advice. They are a great resource, it's all about asking questions!

How did I go about job hunting?

I started out looking on some of the graduate jobs websites (milkround, target, gradcracker etc). These are useful to give you an idea of what a career in a particular sector would entail, whether my course would make me a suitable candidate for that job and of course whether it is a job I would choose to do! Another useful resource was my university careers department. This was one of my best resources, not only in terms of finding jobs but also in terms of actually making applications - getting my CV right, finding practice numerical tests etc.

Some cities, for example Cambridge have a network of local companies who also post job applications on a central website (imaginatively named Cambridge Network). This was another really useful resource as the companies listed were not just the really big graduate recruiters but also some of the smaller more specialised firms. If you do want to work for one of the really big firms, the Times Top 100 book is one of the best tools for looking into big recruiters and choosing the one that suits you. In general, once I found a company I would choose to work for (and you should want to work for the companies you apply to!), I tended either to email them directly with a CV and cover letter or to apply to them through their websites; which of these you do depends on the company and they will make it very clear which they prefer.

How did extracurricular activities/summer jobs help?

Internships and extra-curricular activities are hugely important; everyone coming out of university and choosing to venture out into the real world will have a degree, so while the contents of your course are important they should not be regarded as the be all and end all. I was lucky that my summer jobs were directly relevant to my course and the jobs I chose to apply to so it was very easy to work them into an application. To be honest (with the exception of having previously worked at the company) this is probably a best-case scenario but anything where you have developed skills beyond those learned in your degree, from teamwork to some experience of working to people management, timekeeping etc has value.

Advice for graduating students

It probably sounds counter-intuitive but don't apply to too many jobs. The best thing to do is to make a few (still a few) strong, well thought out and employer specific applications that directly answer what the employer is looking for. The other option is send hundreds of applications in the hope that by the law of averages a few impress. This will cause you more stress than the other way and take much longer to actually do.

When you get to interviews relax; if you're there you're in the top 50% or better, you've done a lot of the hard work not least in your university course! The interviewers are not trying to be nasty or to trick you, they want to get to know you better and you should use the interview to get to know them and see if you were right to choose to apply to them


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