We’ve picked the brains of 74,746 students to bring you four key tips for how to get a graduate job this year. While coronavirus and the resulting recession have together become a barrier against many people's career plans, there are still jobs out there for graduates. Not meeting every point is understandable under current circumstances, but our action plan should help you to take control of your job search.
- Get work experience
- Attend careers events
- Make social media work for you
- Work out what’s important for you
And how did we get access to those 74,746 brains? They took part in the Graduate Survey 2019, which is conducted by Trendence UK (a fellow business of TARGETjobs’ parent company) and is the largest survey of student and graduate attitudes towards employers and their job hunts.
The work experience I have:
- 46% of final-year students had completed an internship.
- 68% of final-year students had undertaken a part-time job.
- 53% of final-year students had completed voluntary/charity work.
- 28% of final-year students had been appointed to a leadership position in a student society.
Advice: Don’t fall into the same trap of thinking that the only form of work experience that counts is the formal internships and placements organised by big employers in the sector(s) you are interested in. These are competitive at the best of times; the fact that many employers who were unable to adapt their formal schemes to make them virtual have cancelled them this year has made carrying out an internship or placement even more unlikely. Still, part-time and zero-hour contract work, freelancing, work-shadowing days, volunteering, open days, joint research projects with industry or getting actively involved with the running of a student society are just as valuable.
If you are interested in a particular sector, gaining work experience in that field is advantageous because it is likely that you'll gain relevant knowledge and useful connections. However, many recruiters don’t require a CV full of obviously industry-related experience because they expect candidates to use work experience to help decide between sectors; they are primarily interested in your skills, no matter where you gained them.
Action: Get whatever work experience you can and then sell it in your applications by stressing the transferable skills you gained and what you learned from the experience. Read:
- Your A–Z of work experience options
- How to get work experience after you’ve graduated
- How extracurriculars can get you hired
- How to write up your work experience on your CV
- 74% of survey respondents had attended a careers fair.
- 22% had attended an employer networking event and 10% an invitation-only event.
- 10% had not attended any type of careers event asked about in the survey.
Advice: Try to avoid being one of the 10% who haven’t attended any events. Many careers services and employers are working to provide virtual careers events, so investigate and attend as many of those that are relevant to you as possible.
Action: Start by looking on your careers service website to find events that might interest you. If you are interested in a particular employer, check their early careers recruitment webpages to see if they are running any events. Browse the events run by TARGETjobs, too. If you need to book or go through an application process to confirm a place, make sure you do so as early as possible. Do some research on the employer or sector before you attend so that you have a base of knowledge to start with and can think of some good questions to ask the speakers. Read our article comparing virtual careers fairs with those conducted in-person to help you to plan for this specific type of event. Browse:
- TARGETjobs’ sector-specific, employer-specific and diversity events
- How to network at careers events
- How to make the most of careers fairs
I've used the following social media platform for careers purposes:
- 79% of survey respondents have used LinkedIn for careers purposes.
- 20% have used YouTube for careers purposes.
- All of the social media brands listed above have increased in use year-on-year, with the exception of Facebook, which fell 4%.
Advice: Many employers use LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to present and share information and news, so you can access these platforms to get a good feel for employers’ culture. You can also use LinkedIn to contact professionals working in fields or for employers that interest you – you can begin by sending them a tailored message explaining that you are interested in their employer or sector (as appropriate) and that you'd like to gain insights or tips from them.
Action: Devote some of the extra time you're spending online as a result of social distancing measures to creating a ‘professional persona’ so that if an employer Googles you they find a work-ready candidate; consider setting up new social media accounts for work-related purposes. You can show your interest in a particular sector by sharing interesting sector-related content. If you haven’t already, join LinkedIn, as it seems to be becoming almost mandatory: 89% of students interested in accounting employers have used it for careers purposes. Your careers service can review your LinkedIn profile in the same way as they’d review your CV. Read:
In the survey, respondents were asked to rank how important different factors were when choosing between employers. Here are the ten that most respondents ranked as ‘very important’:
Wanted! An employer with...
I plan to look for my first job:
- The top three attributes are all focused on gaining the skills, knowledge and opportunities to learn and progress.
- While 58% of respondents say a good work/life balance is very important, a high starting salary does not make the top ten list at all.
- 42% would be willing to work anywhere across the UK.
Advice: Thinking about what you value in life and what you want out of the first couple of years in your career may seem like a sizeable task, but doing so will help you to identify the type of organisation at which you would be happy and help you to be more successful at applications. It is better to shortlist a few employers you actively want to apply to and make them the best possible, rather than apply to every organisation under the sun, badly.
Action: Consider what is important to you, by thinking about what you have learned about yourself during different times in your life (for example: has studying during lockdown taught you that you thrive with people around or that you enjoy working independently? What did you enjoy or not enjoy at any part-time jobs?). Use your conclusions to create a list of things to research about employers – whether you are looking online, meeting representatives at careers events or undertaking work experience. Read: