Getting a graduate job in the real world

They lied.

There is no job. Not one that you want.

Careers? Don’t you mean work?

What work exists is often poorly paid, with no prospects and doesn’t use your skills.

Ok, it is not quite that bad … but it is certainly not the world you expected.

Despite what people may think, you did work hard at Uni and learned what you were supposed to. You now have the post nominals to show for it. Unfortunately you also have the debts too. Of course you don’t start repaying the fees until you earn some money, but the debt is still there. Others that you owe money to are not so understanding. They want cash now. You can pay minimum amounts each month, but the bill isn’t shrinking.

And all for what?

Your ambition is deflated, your motivation has disappeared, and your finances are none existant. You are skint, disheartened and starting to get worried about a McJob being a serious career choice.

Tough.

Not it is tough, but tough luck.

Get over it.

The world has changed. The job market has changed. Employment has changed. You know this; but your parents, the politicians, many others in work don’t know this. Those who have lost their job in the last 5 years know it, but not most of those lucky enough to still have a salary.

The harsh realities of work in 2013 

… and what you can do about it

1) Your parents world of work has almost disappeared.

The world your parents had/have is mostly gone for most recent graduates and has already disappeared for those with low skills.  For them, employment is likely to be low paid and temporary for the foreseeable future. And by this I mean, the rest of their working lives. And by working lives I mean until you die. Retirement is not going to be any different from the life that they have now – just with higher medical bills (and not just in the US, we will all be paying soon). So you keep on working until you cannot. As a graduate, you have a chance to one day enter that elusive group of well paid, highly skilled workers, but don’t bank on your degree being enough. It isn’t. Today you are in the ‘may have potential‘ group. You are still likely to start on lower pay than you want, but at least you have the potential to improve this. Most in the low skilled group do not – not unless they spend a lot of time investing in their own development. Your primary challenge is coming to terms with this, and showing a potential employer that you are a safe bet. Shift your mindset. Stop complaining. Don’t moan. It is what it is. Now learn the rules and start playing the game TO WIN. This is the most important step. If you don’t shift your mindset, you might as well apply to McDonalds now … just don’t rely on getting the job. They might not want you.

2) Your current CV is unlikely to get you the job you want.

Jobs are still being advertised. You can apply, but you a playing a lottery. I’m not saying don’t apply – just don’t rely on this working – not unless your change the way that you think about this. If you do apply, then be the best you can. Most CVs will end up in the bin. Many will be auto-sifted by computers or recruitment agencies. Very few people will be interviewed. The odds are against you. If you apply – make your CV first class. There are some excellent resources available, so READ THEM and FOLLOW THEM. Invest in your future, by investing time in your CV. Get others to check it. You need ZERO spelling mistakes and no grammatical errors. Check the fog level. Make sure the readability is at the right level. Focus on achievements. Never lie. Make it personal, be a person not a robot. Have a PDF, Word and text only version (to copy onto websites). Amend this for EACH application that you want. If you want to mailbomb with generic CVs then expect the reaction to be the same as the junk coming through your mailbox – a fast-track to the bin. Recognise that there is nothing such as a perfect CV, but it must do the best job that it can do in selling you. Ask friends or family who work in HR to give feedback. Share with friends and get comments. Listen carefully to what they say and make a judgement call on whether to change it. You don’t need to have one CV. You can have a ‘safe’ core CV for clearly defined roles or a more creative ambitious one for roles that ask for this, but then build on this. Above all, your CV needs to answer one question ‘why should you hire me?‘. This is NOT the same as ‘here is what I can do‘. Do you really want the job? Then make that message jump out from your CV and application. Never be afraid to apply for any role that you think you can do. Don’t be afraid to try, whatever the requirements ask for. You have your work cut out – and the chances may be close to zero, but small chances are better than none. It may also get you noticed or retained online by an agency, HR department or hiring manager. Whilst on applications … many companies will never contact you once you apply, even to say no. There are some legal reasons, but this is mostly about resources and cost. Personally I think this is disgraceful, but it is a fact. Don’t stress about this. Just keep going. if they don’t reply – fine. Keep going. Don’t judge a company by this. Keep moving forward. Keep applying. Be glad that this is online and you don’t have to pay postage! 200 applications means that you still have several thousand potential employers left to speak to. Blue-chip companies are great – but also the hardest to get into. Don’t forget smaller companies, charities and other not-for-profit organisations. Charities still have paid employees.

3) Your network is best way to get a job

If you have rich, well connected parents with great connections, then use them. You can now skip the rest of this post. The harsh reality of work is who you know still matters. Many will say the only thing that matters. This is what the best schools and Unis provide – great networks. Sorry. I don’t like it, but I don’t get to fix it. So you need to think how you can use this knowledge. Simple – get to know people. You need a network. Don’t wait. You need to start building your own network as soon as you enter Uni, but it is never too late. Connect (Twitter, Facebook, any channel you can] and follow people you respect, can learn from, want to work for. Read what they write, attend events [lots are free] and speak to people. Ask questions at events. Don’t be shy to ask for advice, but spend the time thinking about your question. Never, ever by shy about asking for advice or for help. You will be surprised by how often this works. My Dad used to say, ‘the worst thing that people can say is no’. He was right. But never beg. Put your fears aside and ask. Remember though that your social profile is YOU, so be careful. Either separate personal and professional identities or NEVER post anything personal. if you have a personal profile, keep it personal. Lock down the security and don’t post anything stupid however much you think you have locked it down. Whatever you think of it, employers will check social media – so make sure that they only see positive things. Clean up your online history and fix security and privacy settings. Don’t look to be invisible, as this is just as dangerous – you want to have a life and be found, but think of it as a showroom. A customer should never see the back office or the store room – the same goes for your life.

4) Collaborate for success

Finding a job is mind-numbingly draining. You are forever on a roller-coaster of applications and rejections. Are there others that you can share this time with? This is easier at Uni than after. It doesn’t have to be face to face – although this is preferred. Find people who you will gain energy by collaborating with. If they sap energy – dump them. The collaboration should be a thread of your professional life too. Find others who you can share ideas and thoughts with and invest time and invest mental energy in developing ideas and thoughts. Increasingly your insight is your most valuable asset – not what you do, but how you can interpret and manage an opportunity or problem.

5) Make things happen – get proactive

The most important point of all. Be proactive. Keep moving. Keep pushing forwards. Publish, network, learn, interact, collaborate, read, call, email, follow, comment on … KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

Finally. Good luck.

5 useful resources:

  1. Need a job, invent it article by Thomas Friedman
  2. Lifehacker get hired guide
  3. 99U How to get hired when starting out
  4. Forbes article on referrals
  5. Guardian guide to graduate job hunting
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3 thoughts on “Getting a graduate job in the real world

  1. Jason warren

    Spot on and not aligned to the home truths list from bill gates for school kids. My next action is to ask my teenage daughter to read this to reset her expectations …

    Reply

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