Finding a job after graduating can be a daunting prospect. You might be thinking, what should I do after I graduate? Where do I find a graduate job? Or if you're a STEM student, where can I find a STEM job? There is also more competition for top graduate jobs, such as high-profile graduate schemes in major multinationals, than there used to be. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there were 14 million graduates in the UK from July to September in 2017 and there has been a steady increase in the number of graduates over the last decade. However, ONS also stated that graduates are more likely to be employed than those who didn’t attend university.
Whilst leaving university can seem daunting, it is also an exciting time as there are many opportunities to take advantage of. So, whether you are just about to graduate, have already graduated or are struggling to find a job after university, read our ultimate guide on how to get a graduate job.
Tailor your applications
One of the most common mistakes many job hunters make is failing to tailor their CV and cover letter to the job they are applying for. Sending out hundreds of identical applications to jobs and potential employers is not a tactic that has a high success rate. Adapting your application to each job and employer may take a little more time, but you have a higher chance of being considered. When looking at your CV and cover letter, an employer wants to know why you are the perfect candidate for that specific job in that particular organisation. To do this make sure you research the company and pay close attention to the job specification, and ensure you highlight any relevant skills or experience.
This does not mean you have to re-write your CV for every job you apply for, you can create a CV that is tailored to specific job roles you would like (e.g. financial analyst or quantitative analyst) and tailor it accordingly to the company and specific position you are applying for.
Professionalise your social media accounts
Ensuring your social media accounts reflect you at your best is now vitally important. Employers and their gatekeepers – such as recruiting companies –routinely check potential employee’s social media accounts. There are now a number of tools available for recruiters to use to check candidate’s online life. So, take some time to check over your social media accounts and clean them up if needed. Take down, detag or change your privacy settings to ensure that images and posts that don't reflect you in the best light are not found by potential employers. Drunken pictures, impropriate images and negative or offensive posts, misspellings or poor use of punctuation and grammar can count against you.
Its also worth remembering that even if you change your privacy settings, that does not mean everything you’ve ever posted is now private. For example, on Twitter you can change your settings so that your tweets can only be seen by a pre-approved list of followers. However, if your account was public in the past, any tweets posted at the time will still be publiclly visible. So, go through your posts and delete any that may no longer be approprate. It is important to do this; there have been many high-profile cases of people losing their jobs due a social media faux par made years before they took the job.
Get on LinkedIn
You can use social media to your advantage. Employers are not looking to catch you out; they want to understand you as a person. Information found on social media can lead to you being hired. Good and positive use of social media; highlighting your passions, interests and personality can be a huge benefit to your job search. One of the most important social media accounts to have when looking for a graduate job is a LinkedIn account.
Being on LinkedIn is now essential for graduate job hunting. Remember, if employers can't find you online at all they may end up binning your application anyway. When creating or updating your LinkedIn page, ensure that your photo, headline and profile are constructed in a way that sells you and your skills. Also, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Smashing it on LinkedIn may mean you are headhunted for a job.
Contacting recruiters, like us, is something that can be overlooked by graduates. Recruitment agencies are tasked by employers to find suitable candidates for their vacancies and to help you find a job. Recruitment agencies are sometimes the only way some companies source new employees, and they may have jobs that you won’t find anywhere else. Some agencies, like STEM Graduates, are specialist recruitment agencies and they can be a great source of knowledge and can point you in a direction that is relevant, but you have never thought about.
Applying on spec
Applying on spec means sending a CV and cover letter to organisations or companies that you'd like to work for in the hope that they will have a suitable position or that they will keep your details on file. This can be an effective job-hunting strategy, especially for those looking for roles in industries which don't widely advertise. As with applying to a specific role, you will need to tailor your CV and cover letter to the organisation and ensure there are no mistakes. Also, either check their website or call up and ask who you should send your CV to. A week or so after you have sent your speculative CV, you can send a follow up email. However, whatever you do, don't pester them and don't be too surprised or too dispirited if you don't hear back for some time or at all. Popular companies will receive hundreds of CVs on spec and they can't always respond to them all – but sometimes you might go months without hearing anything then, what can feel like out of the blue, they might call you in for an interview.
SME graduate jobs
When graduates are searching for jobs, they can often overlook start-ups, small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Typically, it is large multinationals and big public sector bodies that have graduate schemes, but smaller companies can have great opportunities for graduates too. Start-ups and SMEs may be working at the forefront of their industry and offer you more hands-on experience and responsibility than you might get in a bigger company. Also, as the company grows you may grow with them and find yourself leapfrogging into more senior positions earlier than expected.
How to find a job in a start-up or SME
Jobs in start-ups and SMEs can sometimes be hard to find, but we have some top tips on how you can seek them out:
- Research your start-ups in your area and get in contact with companies that interest you
- Approach specialist recruitment agencies. There are some recruitment agencies that specialise in hiring for start-ups
- Network: attend local business and networking events
- Visit jobs and careers fairs such as our STEM Women events
Anyone can network and the opportunities are there for the taking. Your area, university and if applicable professional body, are likely to host a number of networking events thought out the year. All you need to do is attend and have the courage to introduce yourself.
Broaden your horizons
If your commitments allow, look for jobs further afield from where you live and relocate if necessary, whether that is in another town, region or country.
Living and working abroad can be a hugely exciting adventure and can give you valuable work and life experience that can make you stand out from the crowd. Some countries have working holiday visas, so you don’t have to secure a job first before moving over, while some employers will sort out any visas you will need in order to be able to move and work in a specific country.
Also, don’t limit yourself to specific jobs that your degree qualifies you to do. Look at jobs that are not directly related to your degree, many graduates find their dream jobs after ending up in roles that are nothing like what they expected. Remember you don’t always have to take the most obvious or direct route – sometimes its worth taking a detour.
Temping and building up your work experience
If you have little to no work experience and are struggling to find a graduate job then taking some time to get some work experience, either through internships or temping, can help. In competitive industries, interning can be a great way to get your foot in the door and gain invaluable experience in how your chosen industry works and what kind of roles there are and which are best suited to you.
Even if your temp role has nothing to do with your degree, you are still getting value work experience and learning new skills. You can use this time to see if there is a possible role for you in the organisation you're tempting in. Temporary work has now become an important gateway for graduates to secure permanent jobs. If you do get a temp job in the industry or company you want to work in, but it’s not your ideal role then treat it as a dry run and make yourself a valuble part of the team.
There is no one way to get a graduate job, gone are the days of set and ridged career structures and many successful people take detours and indirect routes to their dream career. The most important thing to remember is to adapt your approach to each job you are applying for, keep your mind open and keep trying.
If you are a STEM graduate or student then take a look at our job listings, you never know your ideal graduate job may only be a couple of clicks away.