When you graduate from university and go out there to start looking for your first graduate job, you will most likely come to a stark realisation. The outcome of university wasn’t exactly what you expected and just because you’ve got a degree in your hands doesn’t mean that employers are begging for your attention. Add Covid on top of that and finish it off with all the negative talk of a ‘tough job market’ from mainstream media and you can certainly be excused for feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed about how you’re going to land your first job.
Well, worry not. There is a way, and it’s actually not as complicated as you might think. In this blog post I’ll take you through what’s necessary in order to stand out from the crowd, and even outcompete top candidates from top universities.
Before we begin it’s worth noting what is meant here by ‘corporate job’. I’m referring to any job that is full-time (9-5). Corporate does not mean that this position has to be non-creative in nature (i.e banking/sales/accounting). My definition also includes roles like graphic designers, computer engineers, and data scientists. In other words, ‘corporate’ is more relevant to the type of employer rather than the actual position itself.
What do Corporate Employers Really Want?
Now that we’ve nailed down the definition of a corporate job let’s look at what it takes to get one.
By completing your degree you have (or will have) passed the first litmus test of most corporate employers. Many firms ask for degrees in order to confirm that you can:
- Show up on time consistently
- Take in information and then present it in a more succinct manner
Once you’ve got those two checked off, you’re now in line with all other candidates from all other 163 universities in the UK (and this doesn’t include foreign students who come to the UK to seek work).
When you’ve got your degree, you’ve passed that hurdle. But that isn’t enough. You see, people don’t get hired based on degrees, grades or qualifications. They get hired on merit. And apart from confirming the above two points, your degree tells employers nothing else about you. So if you want to stand out, you’ve got to do more to make yourself look like the ideal candidate in their eyes.
You’ve Got Your Degree, Now You’ve Got to Prove It
Well, that’s easier said than done. But it can be done. The point you’re trying to make here is that you not only have a degree in your back pocket, you also have an understanding of what it takes to succeed in the real world.
There are a few ways you can do this. First of all – experience. Nothing will ever beat experience and nothing will ever beat the kind of learning that experience gives you. Lessons you learn in the field are invaluable, and hold far more weight than anything you can learn inside of a classroom or auditorium.
Having been on both sides of the table here (hiring and being hired without a degree), my suggestion would be to get yourself a part time or gig job to get things going. If you’re studying in university, you can still have a part time job before you graduate and fully commit to the working world, and apart from experience it will also give you an additional stream of income to keep yourself afloat.
Now that you’ve got yourself some experience (in any field, not necessarily the one you want to work in), you have to make sure you speak the language of your target employer. Think about what industry you want to go into? Do you want to work in sales or marketing? Do you want to become a photographer or graphic designer? Do you want to go into finance?
Start learning about the industry, it’s jargon and usual problems/challenges that are faced by people working in it. Start online, then begin to expand your network by going to conferences/events/meetups. Although many people will have you believe that you can network your way into your first job, I’ll be realistic and say that this is mostly quite hard to do and you definitely shouldn’t be relying on this as your main source of potential employment. Your main goal here will be to know and understand this industry inside-out, so when it comes to being interviewed, you can blow your competition out of the water and impress your employer with industry jargon, while other candidates will be spewing out phrases from textbooks written 20 years ago.
The third thing you’ve got to focus on is your personal brand. By this I don’t mean having followers in the thousands and putting out consistent content. What I’m referring to is primarily LinkedIn. This is the social media platform that has become most popular among the professional network over the last 18 months, and for good reason.
It is literally a safe haven for recruiters and hiring managers and the ideal place to be if you want to get on their radar. To bring your LinkedIn profile to life make sure you’ve got a good headshot picture, add your relevant work experience and most importantly, make sure you find who your target employers are and engage with them. Comment on their posts, like their content, share it, do anything that will get you noticed. Don’t ask for anything – help them out first and then they will help you out. For the most comprehensive guide on how to build your LinkedIn and secure job interviews while still at university check out our free eBook here.
Lastly, you’ll need to put a CV together and start reaching out to prospective employers through various job sites like Indeed or Monster. Through email and social media, and just about any other way you can get hold of them.
And remember, start putting in overtime when it comes to looking for your first real graduate job. Employers appreciate it. It pays to stand out.
Best of luck!
About the author
Tim Sekundyak is an online entrepreneur on a mission to help young people in the UK with their employment prospects. His company, DropoutDough, is the world’s first platform dedicated to teaching sixth form, college and university students and dropouts who believe that the traditional educational path is not for them, how to succeed in the competitive world of employment and start seeing their position as an advantage, rather than a burden.