10 Tips To Land a Graduate Job
The current job market is a tough one, with many recent graduates struggling to find a job. In 2014, Graduate Careers Australia found that only 68% of the over 100,000 graduates surveyed had fulltime employment four months after graduating – which doesn’t show how many work in unrelated fields (e.g. fast food joints), or how this statistic varies across different degrees. The results only apply to Australian citizens and permanent residents seeking full-time employment – so factor out international students, those who pursue further study and students who choose to take a ‘gap year.’ Plus, the likelihood of finding employment is even lower for students under 25 years old. The youth unemployment rate is double the national average. AND to throw in another obstacle, salaries have declined.
The statistics are pretty dire news for recent graduates. So, we’ve put together a list of tips for landing that grad job. Here it goes:
1. Start Early
The earlier you start your job search, the better. Knowing what’s out there now means you’ll be more prepared when you graduate – and if you’ve already started applying, you’ll be more experienced at writing job applications and being interviewed. So start working on your two, five and ten year plans. Sign up to careers listings (e.g. SEEK, the Careers and Employer Liaison Centre daily emails), your professional organisation, potential employers’ newsletters and social media industry groups. This is all the more important if you’re doing a general degree with many different career prospects, like an Arts degree.
2. Spruik your resume
Use your time at university to develop your skills and experience. This can include:
- casual employment
- work experience
- an internship
- volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about
- being part of a club or collective
- holding a leadership position (e.g. FUSA Student Council, school association position, executive member of a club)
Grades are not as important as being well rounded. Research has shown that employers are more receptive to students who have worked in the final year of their degree – even if it was in an unrelated field.
You may need multiple versions of a resume for different types of jobs – but make sure that all of them are up to date.
3. Write a kickarse cover letter
Polish, polish and polish again. Your cover letter demonstrates your knowledge, abilities and communication skills to a potential employer. It should be a powerful, punchy piece of writing. The Careers and Employer Liaison Centre can help you draft or edit a cover letter. There are also many sample cover letters available online that you can use as a template. SEEK provides two useful examples of a good and bad cover letter.
Each cover letter should be tailored to the employer. This takes time and effort, and shouldn’t be rushed. Do your research and make sure your knowledge of the employer and the industry shines through. Make sure the cover letter demonstrates your strengths. You should never list your weaknesses or what you can’t do. Keep any skills and experience relevant to the job you’re applying for – or show how your skills or experience is transferrable.
4. Prepare for interviews
You know that research you did for your cover letter? Well, now’s the time to do more. Find out as much as possible about your employer, the staff and the industry. You should also prepare for interview questions; make a list of what they may ask you and prepare your answers beforehand. Common questions include ‘Why do you want to work for Employer X’ and ‘What can you bring to Job Y.’ If you haven’t already done so, analyse your strengths and weaknesses and make sure you’re prepared to talk about them in an interview.
It’s also a good idea to prepare questions to ask the employer. This shows that you’re interested, proactive and inquisitive. Just make sure your first question isn’t about money.
Once you’re in the interview, be early, dress presentably, give the interviewer a handshake, remember names and positions, be positive, remain calm and collected, answer the questions with examples, and thank the interviewer for their time at the end.
You’d be amazed how many jobs aren’t advertised. There is a hidden job market that can only be found through networking. Meeting people is also best way to tap into industry gossip. Which employers only hire interns, who is great/horrible to work with, who is going out of business? Plus, networking means getting a bunch of fabulous referees – people who can let you know about jobs, recommend you to positions, and generally talk about your brilliance to other people.
It’s vitally important to be friendly to everyone you meet. Remember that your peers now might be in a position to hire or recommend you in a few years.
There are many ways to network. These include:
- Careers fairs – at university and externally
- Industry networking events
- Professional organisation events
Networking can be easy! Just take an interest in the other person and if you see something that might be relevant to them, pass it on. If they need an introduction, provide it. Be generous with your knowledge, skills and experience and others will do the same for you, plus more people will know about those hireable traits.
6. Check your digital footprint
Employers won’t just read your application these days. They will Google you. Make sure the privacy settings are high on your personal social media accounts. Any searchable content (e.g. your name and profile picture) should be workforce appropriate. You may also want to create a business profile, especially if having a platform is desirable in your field. This can be anything from a LinkedIn profile, to a website, to a Twitter account.
Also note: your email address should be professional. Ideally, it should use your name. Don’t email an employer from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org.’
7. Be a person they want to hire
Employers don’t want to hire a robot. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. But also be friendly, warm, open, eager to learn, enthusiastic and professional.
8. Don’t despair the rejections
Chances are, you’ll get plenty of rejections; try to see these as growth opportunities. Ask for feedback from interviewers and don’t take it personally. If you can’t get the job you want, try to figure out what’s holding you back. Experiment with different things – apply for different type of jobs, shake up your cover letter, look at interstate or international jobs. It may be that your dream job exists within a dying or rapidly changing sector, in which case, look at how you could adapt your skills and experience. You may also want to widen the net and look at jobs in related fields. There are often many different pathways to the same goal.
9. Stay active
Don’t let the time between graduation and finding a job turn into a blank void. Stay active while grad job hunting: work, volunteer, do an internship… Keep building that resume, connecting with potential employers and sharpening that skill set.
10. Don’t Stress
Try to stay positive and not to stress! Finding graduate employment is a tough ask in the current job market. Do your best. Keep trying. Make sure you’re receiving any job seeker or other government payments that you’re entitled to.
Need more advice? The Careers and Employer Liaison Centre can help you with things like job applications (resumes, cover letters and selection criteria), interview skills, and career direction and planning.