With more people going to university than ever before, the graduate job market is incredibly competitive. It’s pushing firms to demand that candidates arrive at a job interview not only with a degree under their belts, but internships and references to boot. As a result, so-called entry-level graduate positions now seem to be anything but.
Graduates now need to beat the odds in order for their first job searches to prove fruitful. Whether you’re looking for a graduate leadership programme or an entry-level junior management role, these odds can be stacked in your favour if you avoid a few common pitfalls and mistakes. So what should you avoid doing during the hunt for that first full-time role?
Don’t start by only looking for your dream job
Say, for example, that your dream is to become a senior consultant for a ‘Big Four’ firm or an editor at a well-established newspaper like The Times or The Guardian. You might be tempted to look at only one role within your dream organisation, and ignore other openings as a result.
This is a huge mistake. One of the things that major employers are looking for in their graduates is transferable skills, a breadth of experience and adaptability. Narrowing your job search to your perfect role and neglecting other jobs that could provide you with those necessary transferable skills could hurt your prospects in the long-term. The path you take to your dream role is often not straightforward. It helps to instead ‘go sideways’: look for roles at different levels in a range of industries and gain some necessary skills and experience first.
Don’t get the dress code wrong
One of the easiest ways to ensure you don’t get the job is turning up to an interview in the wrong attire, not looking the part for the job. There are many instances of promising candidates who are turned away because they attend an interview in casual wear or are inappropriately dressed for a particular company. Find out the dress code in advance of the interview – employers should inform you about this when they offer the interview, but if not, ask. Failing that, do some research, for example, look at the interviewing organisation’s website, brochures and social media. Even for more creative environments, it’s probably wise to err on the side of caution and wear a smart suit.
Don’t neglect your digital CV or portfolio
These days, a lot of recruitment takes place online and you may have already put a lot of time and effort into designing a great LinkedIn profile or personal website portfolio. The purpose of having a digital CV is that it makes networking and applying for jobs extremely streamlined – but if you don’t do anything with it, you might as well have not spent the time creating it. LinkedIn is a great way of networking with recruiters and potential employers, so get involved in discussions, promote your achievements, build your connections, and add testimonials. The more detail and engagement you put in, the greater chance there is of your digital CV making an impact. Don’t neglect your existing contacts either – the more people relevant to your job search that you connect and engage with, the more potential opportunities.
Don’t lose confidence
Here’s a fact: most successful people have been rejected countless times in their lives. You will, one day, be rejected or ignored after you apply for a job – even after spending hours or days on the application. Rejection is inevitable. It’s what you choose to do with rejection that counts.
Even if you’ve applied for many jobs and not secured a post, don’t give up. Ensure you get feedback from your interviewers, after all, you’ve invested your time, it’s only reasonable to get feedback. Find out if anything specific went wrong, use each interview as a learning experience and figure out how you can improve for the next one. Employers often receive hundreds of applications for a position and only one candidate can be successful. So what are you going to do differently next time you send an application or attend an interview?
Don’t ignore internships
You might be gearing up for a full-time job, but ignore internships at your peril. Most employers expect you to have some level of work experience, to the point where internships are quickly becoming the new ‘entry-level’. Not all internships are unpaid, and three months of working full-time will definitely boost your chances in the long-term. Some salaried entry-level jobs are even listed as ‘internships’, so, again, it’s worth looking further afield for your first role.
Preparation is key for successful job searches and interviews – you might find our blog, boosting your job search with social media, helpful.