I felt an urge today to write a post that was plain and simply put a “no b*llshit” blog post. I love my think pieces and I also love writing up my more fluffy posts about how life is or things that make me feel my best, but I felt drawn to writing something factual, practical and to-the-point.
Coming up with a topic was easy: it’s , and by “that”, I mean for uni students, it’s most likely exam period and if you just so happen to be in your final year of uni, there’s probably a lot of chatter around graduate jobs. I see it all over my Twitter and Instagram even though uni is quite long gone for me now (I’ll officially have been a graduate of two years this July *shudders*).
I was lucky enough that I was able to enter my third year of university with a job in the bag (and I put a lot of emphasis here on the “luck”), but looking back in hindsight, going through the processes and watching others go through it too, I’ve come up with my own opinions for how to step on to that journey to getting a grad job…
“Luck” – What Will Be Will Be
Getting a graduate job – or job in general – is hugely down to a ton of luck. This is my first point and actually my most important point. You can get all the 1sts in the world, and have a CV so packed you have to reduce the margins and squeeze down your font size, and still find that the dude across the road with lower grades and an emptier CV than you ends up sitting in the seat you were fighting for. Is it fair? Maybe not. Is it life? Most definitely.
First of all, there’s getting your CV / application through the initial screening process – and this is a stage I always find the hardest as you can be rejected straight away and have no idea why. Plus, writing up these applications is typically quite difficult as they require you to be tailored whereas the real truth is that app is probably one of 50 others you’re working on (“Why do you want to work for us?” “I just want a job!!”). If you get through this initial process, then you have the assessment center / interview stage on your plate, which I usually think is better as you get to actually interact with the people you could possibly end up working for and also show off some of your personality. Here is where you need some luck – who’s to know if you’re going to bond with you interviewer(s) or not? And who’s to know if you’re going to end up in a terrible group for those AC tasks? You can do all the prep in the world, but sometimes it just comes down to these very simple points to be honest. I remember doing an assessment center one day where I had 1x group task and 4x interviews. The group task was extremely – “meh”, and my first interview was an utter disaster. It was so bad that I actually wanted to tear up – but I had to wipe those tears real quick because I had to go straight into another interview following the disastrous one. Interview by interview, things picked up, and by my final interview I ended up chatting very casually with my interviewer only to realise a few minutes towards the end of the interview that we actually had competency questions to answer. I thought I had failed the assessment center but to my surprise I was given the offer.
What’s meant to be will be – if you don’t get something, recognise that there’s most likely something better out there for you – don’t sweat it because it’s life and it’s never the end of the world.
I remember being younger and applying for a tons of jobs at anywhere that would accept my application – Tesco, Topshop, Superdrug – you name it, I probably applied. The issue was, they always seemed to always have this specification that they wanted prior work experience in the customer services industry, which I personally always found strange as how was I meant to gain this prior work experience if nobody ever gave me the chance to gain it in the first place?
Here’s where “starting early” comes in (but not in relation to customer services, that point still baffles me, I was 16-17 at the time, not sure I could have started any earlier!). Internships are your best friend. If you want to maximise the chances of getting a grad job, you really can’t graduate and only then decide it’s time to open your laptop to start applying for jobs. I mean, unless that floats your boat (sometimes it’s better to take a break from all the adulting, to be fair), but it does make things easier if you already have experience under your belt, and the wonderful thing about (some) internships is that they don’t expect much (if any at all) experience from you to begin with. You’ll find occasionally that when you intern somewhere the company will keep you in their good books should you ever want to return – for example I did a short internship in 2014 and then was invited back to interview for a longer term internship that fall. It’s so simple but it can make a world of difference. Of course, this most definitely isn’t a necessity, but it’s definitely helpful.
Start Prepping for Interviews ASAP
Getting a grad job, or job in general, is totally not easy. Whilst I was quite lucky with my situation, there were still a large number of companies that said “no” to me, and I still had a few panicky moments where I thought that nothing would work out. The competition is super high, and the decisions are not always as logical as you’d think, so you have to maximise your chances of excelling in these interviews by starting prep early. Let’s call it – “creating your own luck”. I spent so much time preparing for my first set of “summer internship” interviews in the summer of my first year of university, I prepared for them as if I was studying for an exam (albeit – less intensely); I literally had a whole folder on my computer (and a physical folder) dedicated to “interview prep”. Even though I was rejected from the first company I interviewed with, I was able to take my prep for that to another assessment center where I’d had little to no notice, and perform a lot better. You have to prepare as if you’ve already got an interview / AC in the bag – that way when it gets sprung on you (and it will), you’ve been ready.
One of my biggest tips is to just apply everywhere. If there’s one thing I can say in hindsight that I didn’t do – that would be to trial out enough different things. When I started university I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do consultancy or banking, but what I did know is that there was a banking app closing in a few days, so I did it… and I got it. From then on I decided just to stick with the whole banking thing and never really ventured out to try much else. No regrets… however, I do believe it’s best just to stay open and to keep your options open. At the end of the day, at this age, no body knows what they want to do (I’m still wondering what that age is where it all clicks and you just “know”), so it’s best to keep your choices wide. Also – apply everywhere because you really don’t know what the outcome of your different interviews will be. I firmly believe in never putting all your eggs in one basket – when you’re a grad you’re really just trying to get through the “door”, and figure the rest out later, than to land in a job you plan to stay in for 40 odd years.
… But Still Keep Your Bar High
Being open with options doesn’t mean you have to hugely lower your bar. At the end of the day, the height of your bar can often lead to even more jobs in the future. We’re all initially just trying to get through the “door” of employment, but once you get through there are a couple more doors and choices to make, and if you’re not careful some of those doors will be closed on you before you’ve even get the chance to peek around to see what’s on the other side. It’s all a balance. Don’t be too picky, but still maintain some sort of standard for the type of job you feel you’d like to work in. Again, whilst some choices can close off some doors, I don’t believe the door ever closes in someone’s face for good – you may just have to take a longer, more tedious route to get to it.
There ya go, a couple of very to-the-point practical tips! A little disclaimer, in no way am I calling myself an expert here, and hence the opening paragraph that most of it is down to luck. Remember – you’ll end up where you’re meant to end up in the long run! Don’t sweat it.