JOB SEARCH / SEP. 04, 2014
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Top 10 Things I Wish I'd Known as a Job Hunting Graduate

Perhaps the end of the summer means that the party is over, and you need to get on with the job hunt - either in your final year of uni alongside finals, or maybe you’ve already had the rush of blood to the head that comes with graduation, and now need to hop on the milk round and figure out what the future brings. Either way, job hunting as a graduate is an all encompassing task.

For me, this year marks ten years since I turned up as the new grad, having gotten hopelessly lost on my first morning, spent a fretful hour trudging the streets of Greenford, and eventually hitched a lift with a sympathetic security guard who took pity on me as I had eventually arrived at the correct company, but the wrong building, for my induction. Fortunately, it got better from there. Looking back I would tell myself now to keep calm, and I would also have a few choice words for my graduate self concerning my job hunt and the many, varied, and frankly quite glaring errors I made along the way.

Number one - Keep a record

If you are going to apply for numerous graduate programmes, keep a record of which companies you have applied for, what stage of the process you are at, and vital details such as the contact name and email address you have used. I learned the importance of keeping a spreadsheet tracking all my applications only after having a strained conversation with a recruiter in which I could not recall which company she represented, and even with my best of bluffing skills struggled to draw out of her enough detail to identify my application without letting on that I had no idea what business we were talking so enthusiastically about.

Number two - Treat job hunting as a job

Getting a graduate job is hard work. In fact, it is a job in itself, and you will only succeed if you treat it as such. Spend quality time researching grad programmes, companies and different types of roles. When applying think, think and think again before hitting send on the application - and never take the lazy copy and paste option. It simply does not work.

Number three - Never turn down an interview

Interviews are tests of skill as well as nerves, and both are improved immensely with practise. Even if you’re not sure about the position, if the interview might be valuable practise, then take the chance.

Number four - Get over the fear of networking

Networking, when I was a graduate, seemed to me both terrifying and frankly tedious, conjuring up images of stilted conversations with distracted strangers, and the need to push a business card into the hands of passersby. As time went on, and with the help of some coaching from a boss who was a fellow introvert, I learned that networking was the lifeblood of business, building relationships to allow you to succeed; and that if I could chat with a colleague over a pint, then I could do the same with a new contact at a seminar, if only I stopped fearing the prospect.

Number five - Ask for feedback

After receiving a rejection for one particular role I was really interested in, I screwed up the letter in frustration before my brain had really processed the contents. It was only after I had tossed it into a public bin, and marched away trying to hold myself together, that I registered the offer to give personal feedback which was detailed in the letter. Rootling through the bin didn’t seem an option by that point, and so I never found out what it was that influenced that recruiters decision - a fact that I regretted for some time after.

Number six - Don’t sacrifice location/lifestyle without some serious thought

At the time of looking for a grad programme, my first concern was to get something - and the second was to think about what, and where, that something might be. That led me to consider roles that would require me to move to far flung corners of the British Isles, leaving my roots and various comfort blankets along the way. Moving in itself was never an issue - and I did end up relocating for the position I took - but some of the roles simply would not have been enticing enough, with the benefit of reflection, to ditch everything for and risk it on a role I wasn’t truly committed to. Luck saw me right on this point, but it was a lesson learned.

Number seven - Don’t compromise on principle

As you may have guessed, as part of my, frankly, rather scatter gun approach to getting a job, I applied to a whole bunch of places that I was not completely sure would fit my needs or aspirations. Some of them were harmless enough, and perhaps places I could have grown to love. Some were not, and taking a position would have been disastrous for my self esteem and values. However, I did not realise this until I was quite significantly down the line in interviews for a position with a sales firm that I knew to be unethical, which was keeping me up at night rather than inspiring me to press on. Eventually I dropped out of the process, but following my instincts sooner would have saved a lot of heart ache.

Number eight - Be flexible

I fell in love with my first job. I thought we would be together forever. And then, like star crossed lovers, it all went pear shaped in a heartbreaking slow motion car crash kind of way as the business went under and I found myself redundant, unceremoniously dumped outside of an empty office building. I thought the world would end. But, like all good rom coms, it all worked its way through fairly swiftly. I had a few awkward but character building encounters with other employers before ultimately learning to love again. The basic lesson I wish I’d learned sooner, is that flexibility is essential. Have a plan, but be ready to cook up a plan B; you never know when you might need it.

Number nine - Remember the pros and cons of a big company

I was pretty convinced I wanted to work in a big corporate; and that worked out just fine, once I stopped getting lost between buildings, departments and floors. However, I should have given more thought to smaller businesses, which are equally able to offer graduate prospects, and provide a family atmosphere which is far warmer than many large companies manage. Keeping my options open might have made my initial search more enjoyable and opened me to different opportunities along the way.

Number ten - Don’t be too hard on yourself

And finally - I would remind myself not to be too hard on myself. My high school graduation was accompanied by Baz Luhrmann’s ’Wear Sunscreen’, and - despite agreeing with Baz, that advice, like youth, is probably wasted on the young, I might remind the graduate me to be gentle to myself, and that, in the words of Mr Luhrmann, "Your choices are half chance, but so are everyone else’s"


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