10 survival tips for graduates

So, this is it…

You’ve spent years working towards getting your degree, and all that hard graft has finally paid off. It’s time to take the road signs back, start eating breakfast before midday, and face the facts. The money’s run out and there are no more loans. It’s official: you need to get a job. So what now?

Finding your first job as a graduate is a daunting task at the best of times, even more so in today’s challenging economic climate. 

We’ve already highlighted some of the top graduate employers hiring this year, but here’s a list of our top survival tips for new graduates to help you get started.


1. Keep calm and make a start (today)

When it comes to starting out on your graduate job hunt, it’s easy to feel like everyone else has it all figured out already. But they haven’t.

The majority of your peers will likely be more focussed on letting off steam over the summer than working on their CVs, let alone applying for jobs.

If you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your degree or you don’t have an up-to-date CV, don’t panic. The first step is taking the time to take action.

Graduate CV template

What job can I do with my degree?


2. Cover yourself

A cover letter is essential for graduate jobs. This can’t be stressed enough: it’s your chance to put your personality across and tailor yourself to a specific role.

Recruiters receive hundreds of graduate CVs, so a well-crafted cover letter can be the deciding factor in who they choose to interview.

Make the content relevant to the job you’re applying for and avoid opening your letter with a generic ‘To whom it may concern…’ by taking time to find out who to address your cover letter to.

Graduate cover letter template

How to write a covering letter

3. Do your homework

It may seem obvious, but the more planning you do, the more it will benefit you in the long run.

You can learn a lot about a company just from visiting its website and doing some research.

Your CV will be more relevant (for instance, you can use value statements to match yourself to the company’s mission statement and goals), and you’ll have the background you need if you make it to the interview stage.

How to: Research a company before you apply

Tailoring your CV: What you need to know

4. Get yourself a hobby

Think about what sets you apart from other graduates. Include any relevant units or subjects you’ve studied which may make you an ideal candidate.

Have you done any voluntary work or undertaken any courses which may be relevant to the position? If not, this may be a good time to consider it.

The same goes for hobbies. Make the most of your new-found free time and take up something which will set you apart.

Remember: it’s never too late to learn something new.

Hobbies and interests: Should I include them in my CV?


5. Sell yourself (not the title of your degree)

When you start applying for jobs, there’s a good chance your degree won’t have that much relevance to the position you’re interested in. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re unsuitable.

Look past the title of your degree and think about what skills you’ve picked up along the way. Working to deadlines, research and analytical skills, giving presentations, demonstrating logical thinking and interpersonal skills are all great attributes often gained through higher education.

The list really is endless. It’s all about how you present and communicate them.

Graduate skills: What are employers looking for?


6. Be confident, stay positive

This applies, not only to your attitude, but also to your language. When writing your application, avoid common CV mistakes such as ‘I feel I have…’ or ‘I can be good at…’ Remember: you’re selling yourself to the employer. A little confidence can go a long way.

This also applies if your degree doesn’t completely match the position you’re applying for. Starting a cover letter with a phrase such as ‘I know that I don’t have much experience in this field…’ won’t give an employer much of an incentive to continue reading.

Recruiters seldom see ‘the perfect candidate’. Focus on what you can offer them, rather than what you can’t.

Five lines that are killing your CV


7. Keep building your network

Never underestimate the power of networking. Search through your friends and family, family friends and friends of friends. You may not have seen them for years (you may never even have met them!), but that shouldn’t matter.

Get your name out there. If you can pick up some work experience from one of your contacts or even an update when a potential position comes up, it’ll definitely be worth it.

How do I network?


8. Get some experience

It’s a dirty job, but… you should be prepared to start from the bottom.

To get into your desired field or dream job, you’ll probably need to gain some experience. This could be entry level and many companies provide internships or graduate work experience opportunities too.

The pay may be relatively low to start with, but at this point you’ll probably be used to having limited funds – so, if you can afford to take on this type of work, a few more months won’t hurt!

Eight things all recent graduates are tired of hearing


9. Consider all the options

Ok. You’ve reached graduation and have absolutely no idea what kind of jobs you’re qualified for. Trust us, you’re not the only one.

Make sure you know all the options before you start writing yourself off. Sometimes your degree can open more doors than you realise and take your career in a completely different direction. Even if you don’t think it’s necessarily ‘career friendly’, you’d be surprised.

Graduate schemes are a great place to start, and allow you to try out different roles – generally regardless of your degree subject. Find out what other areas you can go into and start applying.

Graduate schemes: What you need to know

How looking for graduate jobs has changed this year


10. Don’t take it personally

It’s an unfortunate fact but, as a graduate jobseeker, a certain amount of rejection is inevitable. However, just because it’s competitive, that’s not to say it’s impossible.

If you’ve applied for a few positions and haven’t heard anything back, try not to take it personally. It’s all about perseverance.

If possible, try taking the positives (and negatives) from each application. It doesn’t hurt to ask a recruiter why you were unsuccessful. You might just learn something.

Four ways to follow-up after an application

Five ways to beat graduate unemployment


Ready to love Mondays? View all available graduate jobs now.


2 comments on “10 survival tips for graduates

  1. Alex - March 14, 2013 at 16:01

    thank you !! good tips !

  2. TheJobWorx.com - February 9, 2015 at 14:20

    The importance of taking the time to look at not only what jobs you want to do, but also what jobs can you do, cannot be overstated.
    Many people wrongly feel pigeon-holed by previous experience and roles, when their transferable skills and ability to learn could see them branching into other careers and sectors, if only they took the time to consider it in more detail.