The Great Grad Scandal – My Advice

If you’re a recent graduate and you have no job, you’ve been conned. After what many people have claimed is a good investment, the door to your dreams, you’re unemployed. Jobless. Dreams of having an enriched and interesting career are quickly diminishing. The average graduate starting salary now seems like the lotto jackpot. You want to be on a grad scheme, any grad scheme. Gone are the days of dreaming of the investment banks and the £60k starting salaries – you just want a grad job, something with a monthly paycheck to tide you over. Yes, you’ve been conned.

No one ever told you how tough it really was. Yeah, you’re aware of the great banking crisis of 2008, just about, and you keep hearing the words ‘European Debt Crisis’ on the TV. Obviously there’s a recession on, but who knows what the hell that means…

A 2.1 degree in hand, and an extortionate grad photo that your Mum shows all her friends, you can’t see why all these companies have rejected you from their application processes. For all you care, you’re an excellent candidate; intelligent, good looking, witty and most of all ambitious. So why haven’t you got a job?

Most likely, you’re doing it wrong. And no, the UK recession and the wider macro-economic situation aren’t to blame. Companies need people, even in bad times. Granted, the competition is tougher, but that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t any jobs going. You just have to adapt to it all and then knock ‘em dead.

On top of the usual advice that every Careers Service will hand out, here’s where I think some grad job applicants go wrong:

1. Wrong Attitude: This is the most fundamental point when starting out your job search – no one owes you a job. The first thing to consider is why should anyone employ you? What do you have that they can use? Essentially, what you’re saying to a prospective employer is that you’re worth more than the salary they’ll pay you. You need to demonstrate your ability to add value. No one cares if you have a first class honours and 10 A* GCSEs. If you can’t give someone a reason to trust you in their business, they won’t give you a job.

More importantly, if they don’t like you – you won’t get through the door. You have nothing to be arrogant about either; so far you’ve achieved what a million other people achieve every year – so a degree isn’t a unique selling point.

2. Missing the Point: When you get past that first hurdle, you need to apply for a job. Some companies ask you to fill out an application form whilst others ask for a CV and covering letter. The naïve amongst you will check to see when the deadline is and start working 2 hours before midnight, quickly filling in all the required information and writing up crappy answers to the competency questions, only to get a rejection email a few days later – you’ve clearly missed the point.

The first stage of any application process is your sales pitch. Sound interesting and make your application ‘enjoyable’ to read. A lot of people write all the information that’s required but forget that someone, at some point, will have to read it all. Make sure your answers are structured and read well. Don’t make it hard for the reader – they don’t have the time and it’ll only mean your application ends up in the rejection pile. Take your time – if you can’t be arsed, why should anyone else?

3. Ostrich-like Behaviour: Burying your head under the sand is what I mean. Every application requires research. It may not specifically say ‘Insert research here’, but if you add little nuggets in your application, it shows you’re keen. And it’s easy! Look at what the firm does, the market it competes in, the competitors, and how it’s doing. Where do you get all that information from? Websites and annual accounts (available from company websites, Companies House for a fee, or if you know an accountant – ask them to download it for you). Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’ll get by without research, it’s definitely worth your time. Not knowing the fundamentals of a firm isn’t a good excuse – ignorance isn’t bliss.

4. Not Working Smart: Employers want to attract good employees, so most will go out of their way to tell the world how wonderful they are. Use this to your advantage. Go to the presentations and talk to the people. Most of the time, they talk utter shite and tell you that their firm is perfect, you’ll even encounter some who know bugger all about anything, but that’s not why you’re there. You’re there to pick up insider information and ask for tips. If you build good rapport, some may fast track you through the application process (I’ve known this to happen).

Don’t just sit on your arse and tell yourself that all the information you need is online. Show your face. Put up with some of the egotists who turn up to these university events and ask them about themselves – people love talking about their own experiences! Plus, the more you know, the better.

5. Giving up for a while: OK you’re probably not going to get the first job you apply for, unless you’re really lucky. Maybe that grad job at that prestigious firm just isn’t for you. Don’t get disheartened. But you’re not reading this to be told that. The trick here is to not waste your time wallowing in self-pity. Being sad eats precious time, and whilst your sobbing your eyes out or indulging in cake to make yourself feel better, employers are continuing their rolling recruitment and folks who are not as good as you are getting jobs. Don’t put it off; be relentless. Nothing worth doing was ever easy, and you should take the same approach to finding a job.