Leaving university behind you and getting your very first job is a daunting time. There’s a lot of change going on in your life and it is difficult moving from the familiar world of academia into the new and strange one of the workforce.

That said, there’s a lot you can do right now to make the transition much simpler. Some of these things might seem obvious, such as maximising the education section on your CV, but there are plenty more that don’t come as easily at first. 

We’re going to go through a few of these essential points and how they can help you make the quantum leap from graduate to graduate job.

Get a Good Idea of What Jobs Are Available to You

One of the first hurdles to overcome when you hit the job market for the first time is knowing what jobs are open to you. If you’ve never worked in your chosen field before, it’s important to do some research before starting. 

In this sense just getting to know job titles alone can be a huge help.

A lot of positions that are available for new graduates are normally upfront about the fact. However, getting to know your industry’s hiring market intimately will help you sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to spotting jobs you can reasonably apply for.

Of course, coming with little to no experience is a handicap at this stage of your career. There are ways to get around this - and we’ll get to that shortly - but this is something that will definitely affect which jobs you can get into contention.

It’s a much better use of your time to pick your battles than trying to break through for jobs that will competitive even for candidates with experience. Therefore, a little research of your sector can reveal a lot of where the opportunities lie and what’s worth your time applying for.

Find Ways to Get Experience Today

You probably already know the old paradox about how you can get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. It definitely applies to some extent but, fortunately, things aren’t really as bleak as that in reality.  

The trick here is to be tenacious and look at where you can get experience right here and now. This might be via an internship or a work experience placement, but having recent hands-on experience and familiarity with the sort of organizations you want to work in is a big plus for employers.

Not only does practical work experience look great on your CV, but it also helps you expand your professional network. You’ll be able to get to know other people in the industry who can help you find leads and other opportunities opening in the job market. 

Furthermore, if you really impress during your work placement, you might even be able to land a job with the placement company itself.

Graduate Focused Organisations Can Help You Along the Way

The good news is you aren’t on your own when you are graduate job hunting. There are plenty of organisations out there that can help ease the process of getting connected with  

companies that are looking for graduate employees.

Dedicated organisations focused on graduates such as Give A Grad a Go, Graduate Fog or Inspiring Interns are all well-placed to help you take the first step in your career. 

That’s not forgetting of course your own University’s graduate careers office, which is another useful resource for finding jobs and getting help on improving your professional profile. 

Tweak Your CV Carefully

Your CV is one of the most important tools you’ll have to get noticed by recruiters. However, as you’ve probably seen with most templates out there, work experience usually dominates the design. 

This poses a problem, although it can be easily solved. For one, getting practical work experience - as mentioned in the section above - even if it’s just short term, can give you a leg up. 

Not only that but there are plenty of other ways to draw attention to other features that will sell you as a candidate. However, it’s important to understand what employers are looking for from your CV.

Employers nearly always ask “what’s in it for me?” when they check CVs. Therefore, you need to try and give a positive answer to that question.  

Luckily, there are lots of little ways to optimize your template to achieve this, such as:

  • Adapting your skills and experience section to suit the company you’re applying for.
  • Highlighting important soft skills that can make you stand out such as organization, leadership or time management.
  • Using any practical experience you’ve gained either from interning or from University projects or organizations to fill out your work experience section.
  • Making sure your education section is comprehensive but not dominating the design. 

When it comes to your education section, you should use this section to highlight your main degree, showing your date of graduation, the institution you studied at and the course name, as well as your final grade (if received). Any other information about societies and achievements can be covered in their own section if you have space to add it. 

Figure Out Your References

References in your early career are like gold dust. Companies don’t like betting on unknowns and if you have suitable character references you’re much more likely to inspire confidence.

The best sources for references when you’re a graduate can be both professional and academic. For example, it’s wise to get one of your senior lecturers to vouch for you at the very beginning, especially if you did relevant research in the field you’re targeting.

Aside from your academic mentors, don’t forget to talk to any previous employers you’ve either worked or interned with. Even if this was for a job working at McDonald’s, recruiters can still learn a lot about you from such references. 

The same counts for any organisations you volunteered or worked with, even if it’s just helping out with your local scout group. It’s worth speaking to any leaders you interacted with closely through the years in this way to see if they can provide a character reference. 

Ultimately employers want to know that you’re a safe bet and that you can hit the ground running. References from part-time jobs and your university can help them learn a lot about your background and character. 

Getting your first job is definitely a challenge at first, although it gets easier as you move along. However, it’s different for every graduate depending on the sector you’re planning to work in.

By being prepared for what’s ahead you will be able to get moving much faster in the recruitment process of a company. This takes work at first but gets much easier as you go.

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