For many new graduates entering the job market, finding their first professional role will seem like an almost impossible mountain to climb.
And after years of hard work and dedication (not to mention the odd mid-morning start and a healthy dose of daytime television), it’s unlikely that finding the perfect role will be an immediate priority.
But if you are ready to start making applications right away, there may be some simple mistakes you can easily address to help you perfect your technique.
With that in mind, here are our top five pitfalls for graduate jobseekers to avoid:
After years of intense study (ok, a few weeks at the end, at least), the last thing many graduates feel like doing is to start applying for jobs straight away. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with taking a break and making the most of your summer, it’s wise to try and avoid losing momentum.
Sometimes the hardest part of looking for a job is getting started. That doesn’t mean sitting down the day after graduation and frantically applying for every available opportunity, but instead, spend an hour or two a day working on your CV and cover letters to keep your job search on track.
And who knows? You might actually be a morning person.
2. Falling into a career
For the majority of your time as a student, it may have been a struggle to keep your bank balance out of the red. And, with a degree under your belt, why wouldn’t you get straight out there and start earning some cash?
Getting a job to pay the bills is fine. The issue for many, however, is that it can be all too easy to become comfortable with what you have only to find that you never really move on.
To combat this try setting yourself a deadline, after which you agree to dedicate yourself to the career you want, rather than continuing with your stop-gap position. That way you can not only plan for the move financially, but also avoid making more compromises than you’re comfortable with.
3. Underestimating yourself
For most graduates, the painstaking hours of time and effort spent studying provides something of an entitlement to have certain career expectations. But it’s up to you to justify to employers why you feel that this is the case.
In direct terms, particular course modules you’ve undertaken may be relevant to a role or scheme you’re applying for and should be used to demonstrate your wider knowledge of the subject. More indirectly, transferable skills you’ve picked up during your time at university (such as time-management, project-management, leadership and the ability to meet deadlines) will almost always be desirable.
Including references to a few of the more specific pieces of work you’ve done in your cover letter and using them to outline what makes you the ideal candidate will always win favour with recruiters.
Whether you’ve gained your university skill set through studies or societies, most students graduate with a wide range of experience and a surprising amount of knowledge. Using this to turn yourself into an ambitious and well-rounded prospect for employers, however, requires preparation and confidence.
4. Unwillingness to start at the bottom
Although underestimating yourself is an undoubted pitfall, overestimating yourself can be just as damaging. For example, your expectations for what you should be paid for the position in which you should start may be set too high, causing you to miss out on what might be the ideal opportunity.
Remember, your career is not a sprint finish. It’s all about starting in the right place, with the right people and within the right industry, while using your talent and connections to help you progress to the next level. It may well involve interning, paid or unpaid volunteering, work experience, or even studying for extra qualifications to take you to the next level. But in a few years’ time, your hard work and dedication will be well worth it.
Always try and think about pro-active ways in which you can enhance your CV. And, if there are alternative routes to your chosen position, always keep an open mind and be willing to take them.
Don’t miss out on the perfect position just because you’ll only settle for a ready-made career.
5. Not enough focus
When you’ve been studying a particularly broad subject or one which doesn’t seem to lend itself to a career as well as you’d hoped, it can be tempting to apply for any job you may feel qualified for (or even just any job with the word ‘Graduate’ in the title). Unfortunately, though, a broad search seldom results in a good match and a well-tailored application.
To increase your chances of success, try and make your application as specific to the role as possible. Write down some specific job titles (no more than two or three) and initially apply for only those positions. That way you can not only demonstrate your passion for the position, but also exhibit the vital knowledge that could prove to be the difference come decision time.
Remember, answering a question about your motives for applying for a position with ‘Because I really need the money’ is unlikely to impress.
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