When you're choosing the right graduate career for you, you can either start by looking at yourself – your strengths and needs – and then looking for jobs that match your skills and needs, or you can look at jobs that interest you and then see whether you have the necessary skills to do them. Browsing jobs can be a really useful way of getting started on your career planning and understanding the range of opportunities out there, and seeing where you might fit in. Ask yourself:
- What are the main duties of the job?
- What skills is the employer looking for?
- Have I got most of these skills? – be honest
- Could I persuade the recruiter I have?
Point to evidence that confirms your suitability
The best way to prove anything is to point to evidence – the times in your life when you have successfully demonstrated the key skills that they are looking for. And remember that skills are transferable from any part of your life and can be used to show that you have the potential they seek. But don't torture yourself. If you have no evidence, it may be that you are looking at the wrong job.
Of course the best sort of evidence is if you have relevant work experience in the job or the sector. This doesn’t have to mean that you need a long summer internship with a top employer. There are all sorts of work experience opportunities out there. The old expression ‘all experience is good experience’ has never been more apt than when applied to your career.
A part-time job at uni will give you transferable skills (such as teamwork, communication, time management and so on) as well as showing that you have knowledge of working in the real world. However, if you know the area that you want to work in then seek out work experience in the types of organisations that may interest you. This can also help you to decide whether the career suits you or not.
Ditch the baggage
There will be times when things don't exactly go to plan. You may have all the right skills and experience and have a terrific personality but sometimes the jobs you crave are just hopelessly competitive. In such cases you have to ditch the baggage and apply the reality test. How realistic is it to carry on? If you can't face doing something completely different from your aspirations, can you do something similar that's easier to get into? The classic examples are working in sales as a foundation to a career in marketing or working in a bookshop to gain useful experience for book publishing.