It’s now been one year since I started working at Motive PR, after gaining a work experience opportunity which led to a three month internship, and then a full time role.
Yet I still see friends and former classmates struggling to find career opportunities a year on from graduation.
I graduated with a degree in American & Canadian studies from University of Nottingham last summer and was certainly very fortunate to land a job just weeks after finishing university. Yet many graduates I know have found it hard to secure a career straight away, and some risk feeling left behind.
It can be really disheartening to constantly feel as though the only thing that is landing in your inbox is job rejection emails time and time again, but the most important factor in job hunting is consistency.
One year on in my first job, here is the advice I’d give to all final year students seeking graduate roles.
The first starting point is to draw up a list of businesses you’d like to work for. After deciding the sector you’re interested in, take into account where you’d like to live. Many graduates, myself included, stay in their university city for a few years after finishing uni. But remember that many job roles offer remote/hybrid working so you shouldn’t limit by location too much.
Decide on a shortlist of these companies - look into the sort of work they do and read client testimonials, case studies and business insight pages. Businesses who are award winning and are named in industry titles will be doing the most exciting work, so take into account which companies are the headliners of your sector.
Before filling out any application forms or sending off your CV, it’s crucial to research the companies you’re interested in. You must be able to chat confidently about some of the work they’ve done to show genuine interest and enthusiasm.
Read up about their most recent work and the campaigns that have really stood out to you, and are topics which you’ve found interesting. Come prepared to job interviews with questions about their work to learn more about what the business is about, but also to show your passion for the role.
Don't Fake Flattery
Citing real examples of work they’ve done will show how well you regard the business, and how interested you actually are. Fake flattery will likely get you nowhere - avoid saying things like ‘you guys are the best agency out there so I want to work with you’. Present the real reasons why you were impressed with their work and the business.
It’s important to make yourself known to the company so they don’t forget your name. The easiest way to do this is to follow their social media pages and interact with their posts. Of course, don’t go overboard and start becoming a sycophant - just drop a like and a comment on the posts that interest you.
Aside from having online interactions with companies, don’t be afraid to contact the business owners directly. Call them by their first names and feel confident in chatting in a casual but professional manner. Tell business leaders the specific reasons why you like their work, and most importantly, the value that you would bring to their projects and the company.
Don’t wait for job advertisements to show up on the careers page of your target company's website, Linkedin or any job searching platforms like Indeed. Although this is the most conventional route to seek a new role, going directly to the companies you admire most, alongside your research, will present your confidence and genuine interest.
Although businesses may not be hiring, they may be impressed with your ability to go above and beyond other potential candidates and are more likely to keep in touch with you.
Little to Lose
Offering to come in for a week unpaid will create a situation where the business has very little to lose, and you have the opportunity to show what you can do as soon as your foot is in the door.
Bring a positive approach to work each day and chat to those sitting near you to get a feel for what the business is like. Once you’ve completed a task don’t be shy to ask for another one, or for some guidance on something you’re not quite sure about. Showing that you’re not afraid to ask for help will present a hard work ethic.
Getting to know the office culture is important - that’s why chatting to colleagues will help you understand the day to day workings. It should go without saying, but be polite to everyone you meet - whether it’s the CEO or the cleaner, the cafe workers or your line manager, everyone in the business should be valued equally. And go out of your way to do the tea and coffee runs - it never fails to impress.
At the end of your work experience make sure to thank everyone for the opportunity and speak to the manager about what you enjoyed working on. Remember that a small gesture such as a thank you card or a box of Roses can go a long way in getting asked back, or even lead to a permanent role.
If you're reading this and seeking your first role after leaving university I hope this post has helped in some small way. Whatever career you're embarking upon I wish you the very best of luck for the future.