Your Graduate Job Hunt: General Advice

Sophie Hudson

Starting a job hunt is, more often than not, a pretty daunting task. Whether it’s your first, second or third job, the same questions often still arise: “Is this the right job for me?” “What do I actually enjoy?” “Am I good enough to apply?”.

Here at TalentPool, we’re trying to demystify the whole job hunting process by providing helpful careers advice based on the questions that we have heard come up again and again from our candidates. Although still a stressful time, if you put in the time to think about your career path, do some research and make good applications, it should all start seeming less overwhelming.

So, where do I start?

If you are still at university or have only just graduated then it’s a given that you will not have much professional work experience. And don’t worry, employers don’t expect you to have it either! This does make it hard to know which direction you’d like to take your career in though, since you won’t have had time to try out different roles, sectors, industries etc. The key here is to start broad and keep an open mind. It’s important that you begin to identify your capabilities, weaknesses, interests, values and ambitions:

  1. What am I good at? What could I improve on? I’m really organised and able to multitask well. I would like to improve my presentation skills and confidence in public speaking.
  2. What do I enjoy doing? What do I want to avoid doing if possible? I really enjoy working as part of a team but I do not like delegating or being in charge. I really enjoy writing and using my creative skills and would like to avoid doing any numerical work if possible.
  3. Which aspects of a job are most important to me? Which are less important? The office culture and the people I work with are the most important to me. I am not too money focussed so a very high salary is less important to me.
  4. What do I want to get out of a a job?I want to develop my skill set and understanding of a particular industry. I’d like to receive some formal training to help my career progression. It is really important to me that I am challenged in a role.

This will be a work in progress, so don’t sit down and answer these questions in one go. Keep coming back to it and jot down new points when you think of them or when you change your mind. You may want to give our career decision tool a try to work out whether specific roles are right for you or not.

Do your research

A key way of narrowing down which jobs to apply for is by deciding which sectors you are interested in. We recommend choosing a maximum of 3 sectors to focus your job hunt on. Again, this isn’t something that you should expect to be able to do in an afternoon sitting, but over a longer period of time. The best place to start is by reading industry news and journals - what do you find really interests you? And which articles do you lose focus with immediately? This is a pretty good indicator!

Remember to make use of any family or friends who are working in jobs that you like the sound of. Ask them about what their job really involves, what a typical day looks like, what they’ve found best or most difficult about it. The more people you talk to, the better. That includes your university careers centre too! We strongly advise to make the most of these career experts whilst still at university. Go for a chat, get your CV and cover letter checked over and make sure to attend some careers fairs!

Be very organised

Once you start applying for roles, it’s essential that you manage your applications in an organised manner that works for you. We find a simple spreadsheet pretty helpful but you may already have a system that works for you. Since you’ll have multiple ongoing conversations, deadlines, interview dates it will soon become impossible to keep track of everything in your head. And there’s nothing worse than missing an interview simply because you forgot!

So, be sure to keep track of any positions you have applied for and any that you are interested in applying to. Note down key bits of information about each role, contact details, key dates and make sure to save your application documents too! This will really help you when it comes to interview preparation.

Don’t lose motivation

Finally, it’s really important to stay motivated and positive about your job hunt. Your are bound to be rejected from a role or two during your job hunt - this is to be expected and shouldn’t put you off applying to more positions. Don’t beat yourself up about this but view it as an opportunity to learn and improve for your next interview. And hey, if you weren’t right for them then they probably weren’t right for you either!

Always ask for feedback, even if you think you don’t want to hear it! It will only help you in the long run and is usually very insightful. More often than not, there are quick fixes that you can put into place for your next interview. Perhaps you need to think about your interview outfit and body language more carefully. Or maybe there are a few skills that you could brush up on. Nerves can often get the better of candidates, and this will only get easier with time. So, treat this all as a learning process and don’t give up - your perfect job is out there somewhere!