friendship and job hunting at university

How to keep uni friends when you're job hunting

The ultimate test of the resilience of your university friendships commences during the ruthless graduate job hunt. Here’s how to survive social media boast-posts, application rivalries and long-distance friendship glitches.

It’s remarkable how unprepared so many of us are for the gruelling graduate job search. But finding an elusive graduate job after you finish university is hard enough without unwarranted friendship fallouts. We all know someone who spends all of their final year reminding anyone that will listen that they secured a graduate job at the end of their second-year internship. And while you desperately want to be 100% happy for your gloating friend, if you’re much more conflicted about your career it can be hard to refrain from wailing whenever they enter the room, or taking out your job-search frustrations on them.

You don’t want to fall out with your friends just when you’re setting off into the big wide world of work to be a ‘real’ adult. Here is some advice helping you to steer clear of any potential friendship glitches and come through with both your friendships and your career on track.

Types of friends you will have when it comes to job hunting

See anybody you know here? If you’re a fan of the TV show Parks and Recreation, you’ll recognise these names and characters and even if you’re not, chances are they will still seem very familiar.

  • Type 1 – ‘Let’s-get-it-done Leslie': Everyone knows someone like Leslie. They shame us all with their anally-retentive focus when applying to graduate schemes and jobs. They know exactly what they want and they get it – President of the United States seems out of reach? Not for them.
  • Type 2 – ‘Mellow Mark’: Mark knows what he wants to do but just assumes that the world will continue to shower him with opportunity and jobs. This type of friend thinks that their degree will automatically guarantee them success. Like Mark, they may eventually quit because they hate the career they ‘fell’ into.
  • Type 3 – ‘Conflicted Craig’: Much like the eccentric series six and seven character, these friends will have absolutely no idea what they are going to do with the rest of their lives (and they make sure you know about it). However, their volatility and obsession also means that they try really hard to figure out their path, usually gaining lots of varied work experience.
  • Type 4 – ‘Transparent Tynnyfer’: Like the brief appearance of the character in season six, this type of friend just goes with the crowd. They follow what their friends are doing without much sense of their own career purpose.
  • Type 5 – ‘Apathetic Andy’: Completely loveable but lazy. They seem to have no idea, and correspondingly no yearning to figure out, what job they want. They’ll probably just play video games and eat all day until they are forced to get a job.
  • Type 6: ‘Reticent Ron’: Robustly aloof or shy in revealing the details of their job hunt. This type of friend seems to get a job out of nowhere. They search for jobs in secret and surprise us all with their success.

So how do you cope with these different personality types and their job hunting aspirations and disappointments – especially if you’re also dealing with your own?

Avoid the trap of comparing yourself and your success to others

The experience of job hunting alongside your friends is made more competitive and tormenting (especially if you’re not sure what you want to do) by the joys of social media.

On the one hand, seeing the successes of the Leslie-types and, more occasionally, the Craig and Ron-types plastering your social media newsfeed can help motivate your own job search. However, as with most of the things you see on social media, it can be a gradual blow to your self-esteem. You question why you haven’t got a job, an internship or even a meagre sliver of an idea of what you want to do with the rest of your life.

However, the important thing to remember when you see someone else’s career successes on social media is that it is a paradox of life that there will always be someone better than you. This could be a four-year-old in China who can speak seven languages fluently or someone in your class graduating with a better degree result. There is no point using absolutes to compare yourself to those around you. Excuse me for sounding overwhelmingly clichéd, but you should only judge yourself on your own goals. Be supportive of the Leslies who are achieving the unattainable at twenty-something, but remember that you have different dreams and work towards those instead.

Be search selfish

Friends’ advice is unparalleled. It can help in difficult situations and make you feel like you’re not alone when you’re struggling, especially when your friendship group can offer you an amalgamation of their varied wisdom. However, while it can be helpful to make use of some of it in your job search, you should also be cautious about how much you share:

You should get someone to proofread over your application, CV and cover letter for punctuation and grammar.

But you shouldn’t be too quick to accept every piece of advice they offer about your answers. Remember, you will know the company's requirements far better than your friend will.

You should tell your friends if you’re proud of something or get through to the interview stage/get the job (obviously).

But you shouldn’t reveal every last detail to some of your friends and acquaintances. You may learn the hard way that other people can become blinded by their search for a job at any cost. People can apply for jobs you’ve just told them you applied for, or ‘borrow’ a line from a CV they just wanted to ‘look at for inspiration’. 

Ultimately, you should be search selfish. You can take other people’s advice but your career is your choice.

Natasha Hallam, University of Exeter English graduate

Advice from TARGETjobs about graduate careers

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