Graduate Careers Advice
We understand that navigating the graduate jobs market can be tricky (we all started out at Give A Grad A Go as recent grads ourselves) - but our expert team are on-hand to help.
We work with some of the most exciting businesses in the UK, from burgeoning tech startups and SMEs, to huge global corporations. We know what these companies are looking for in their graduate employees - so we have compiled a guide full of hints and tips to help you land your perfect graduate job.
These pages will take you through each stage of the job hunt covering Your CV, Your Application, Your Interview and Your First Day!
How do you choose which career path to take?
Finishing University and finally pursuing a career path can be daunting, particularly if you are still unsure of exactly what you want to do. Luckily for you, Give A Grad A Go have created a career test for graduates to evaluate which path to take. We look at:
- The benefits of working in each industry
- The most common job roles for graduates
- The average starting salary
- Graduate gender representation for each sector
Does my career choice need to match my degree?
The very simple answer to this is no, your choice of career path does not need to follow the same topic as your degree. The skills that graduates gain from studying at university bring so many benefits to employers, that a lot of the time it doesn't even matter what you studied! Throughout your job application process and in an interview, you have the power to prove, using real examples, that you have learnt transferable skills from your degree that can be applied to the job.
That being said, you might find that your degree will help to steer you towards the right graduate job. Break your degree down by module, assessment type and by learning methods. What areas are you good at? Which parts did you enjoy and which did you dislike?
Useful blogs for figuring out what job to do
- What job should I do? Career test for graduates
- How your degree can steer you towards the right graduate job
- How to figure out what your ideal graduate job might be
- Why your degree shouldn't dictate your dream career
- Graduate jobs you can do with your humanities degree
- What graduate jobs can I do with my social sciences degree?
- Graduate finance jobs - why pursue a career in the financial sector
- Why you should consider a graduate job in sales
- In-house or agency, choosing your graduate marketing job
- Why you should pursue a graduate job in FinTech
What makes a great CV?
As a recent graduate, your CV should be no longer than two pages. It should be as clear and concise as possible - so use bullet points, and an easy to read font such as Arial or Calibri.
How to structure a great CV
- Personal details - at the top of the page, include your name, email, address, and phone number.
- Profile - directly underneath, include a short personal profile, outlining your key skills and career ambitions
- Education - including dates, where you studied and the results you obtained (you do not need to list all of your GCSEs, but instead can say '9 GCSEs, all A-C')
- Work experience - this should be written in chronological order (with the most recent first). Include the company name, your job role/ function, and any responsibilities or achievements (try to limit these to 3 or 4 per job)
- Awards/ achievements/ interests - such as sports teams you were part of, societies you were involved in, or any academic awards you won
- Sell yourself - use action verbs like 'managed' or 'presented' to demonstrate your achievements and show that you have a good commercial understanding
- Give evidence for each skill - if you say that you're a great leader, back up your claim with an example of when you have used leadership skills
- Tailor your CV - if your CV states that you are keen to get into accountancy, but you're applying for a role in digital marketing, you will be fighting a losing battle from the off!
Useful blogs for CV and cover letter advice
- How to write a good CV
- 10 things graduate employers find more impressive than your grades
- How an employer reads your graduate CV
- 10 terrible cover letters from across the internet
- 15 super-slick creative CVs
- The 8 graduate cover letter mistakes you will be making
- How to tailor your CV to each graduate job application
- CV structure - how to write a graduate CV
Applying for the right graduate job roles
It's tempting to send hundreds of blanket job applications in the hope of landing an interview. However, it is far better to take time applying for a few positions that you are genuinely interested in.
Making each job application count
Go through each graduate job description carefully to get a full understanding of what the role involves. Only apply if you're sure that the opportunity is something you would genuinely enjoy.
Make sure that you make a detailed note of every job application you make. If a company or a recruitment agency call you about an opportunity that you've applied for, and you can't remember applying for it or you don't know enough about the role, it's won't paint a great impression. The more diligent you are about taking note of your applications, the better off you'll be if you receive any unexpected calls.
While you should carefully choose each opportunity you apply for, this doesn't mean that you should pigeon-hole yourself into a particular industry or job role if you're not absolutely sure what you want to do. Try to be open-minded, research several different industries, and who knows - you may find yourself interested in something you never considered before. If you're struggling, a good recruitment agency will be able to help you!
Useful blogs for the application process
- How to research an employer
- Decrypting the job description: What employers are really asking for
- Graduate phone interviews - 5 tips on how to answer the call
- What is a psychometric test - 9 tips on how to prepare
- Game-based assessments - what graduates need to know
- What is "commercial awareness" and why do graduate employers value it so much
- How to get a graduate job without experience
- How volunteering can boost your employability
Before you meet any potential employers, it is essential that you research their industry, their company, and your potential role within it. You will need to understand what they do, the markets they operate in, how long they've been established, who their competitors are, their recent highs and lows, as well as their culture, ethos and values.
While the company website is a good place to start your research, you will need to go beyond this to really impress your interviewer. So search the company's social media channels, take a look to see if they have recently been in the news, and read up on industry-specific blogs.
Preparation and planning is key to acing any graduate job interview.
Start by reading the job description thoroughly, identifying the traits that are being asked for (whether that be leadership, written communication or commercial examples) - and then thinking of examples of when you have demonstrated these skills, so you're not caught off-guard!
You should also be able to describe what the company does in 3 or 4 sentences, and be able to identify what makes them unique, their place in the market, and who their competitors are.
Candidates who have prepared well and have done their research will always stand out above those who haven't.
- Be on time - If there's a sure-fire way to ruin your chances in a graduate interview, it's by turning up late. Test-run the route you need to take a few days before your interview, and on the day aim to arrive at least 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
- Dress appropriately - If you're in any doubt about what you should wear, it's perfectly acceptable to call or email the company beforehand to ask about their dress code. If you're still unsure, always dress on the smarter side - and make sure that everything you wear is clean and crease-free!
- Ask questions - While you don't want to bombard your interviewer with endless questions, it's important to appear interested in the role. Use the research you have done to think up some unique questions - and avoid asking anything relating to holiday allowance or bonuses (wait until you have actually been offered the job!)
- Finishing the interview - At the end of the interview, finish with a confident handshake. If you think that the interview has gone well, request to take a business card, or ask the interviewer when you'll hear back from them, what the next steps will be, or what they think your chances are. It never hurts to show tenacity and enthusiasm!
Useful blogs for interview advice
- How to answer common graduate interview questions
- Graduate job interview checklist
- Do you ramble? Here is how not to in a graduate job interview
- 6 types of interviews - and how to master them
- How to relax before a graduate job interview
- What to wear to a graduate job interview
- Travelling to London for a graduate job interview? Here's how you can save money
- What NOT to do if you receive a job rejection
- How to accept a job offer
- Graduate assessment day tips - what you need to know and how to succeed
You'll give off the best impression if you come in prepared on your first day. This means:
- Arriving on time (of course!)
- Bringing relevant documentation e.g. any qualification certificates that have been requested, a form of ID, bank details, and P45 form
While your first day in a new role is always going to be nerve-wracking, it's important to hide any anxiety and try to be smiley, friendly and upbeat. Introduce yourself to your new colleagues and make conversation with as many people as you can.
In all likelihood, you'll spend your first day being bombarded with lots of new information - so take a pen and notepad, and jot down anything important so you don't forget it!
Don't feel like you're pestering by asking questions - your new colleagues will expect you to be inquisitive on your first day. Asking questions not only shows your enthusiasm for the role but can also be a great way to get to know your new workmates.
Useful blogs to prepare for your first graduate job:
- A graduate's guide to office life - preparing you for your work experience
- Why you should have a mentor at your graduate job
- 10 tips for the first day of your graduate job
- How to deal with anxiety at work
- How to make a good first impression at work
- Why you shouldn't settle for any graduate job
Career advice videos
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How to get a graduate job in a pandemic
We're proud to be sponsoring Graduate Fog to help bring you their latest booklet 'How to get a graduate job in a pandemic' by Tanya De Grunwald.
This has been a tough year for recent graduates, and as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to turn life upside down, the Class of 2020 faces the challenge of finding a graduate job against a backdrop of turmoil and uncertainty.
How should graduates navigate this ‘new normal’ and find good employers who are hiring? How can they gain experience when internships and part-time jobs are thin on the ground? Should they do a Master's degree just to avoid the job market for another year? And should graduates be laser-focused on which jobs they apply for – or is it better to take anything they can get?
All these questions – and many more – are answered in How to Get a Graduate Job in a Pandemic, the new book by Tanya de Grunwald, founder of careers blog Graduate Fog, and the Good + Fair Employers Club (a coalition of the UK’s best employers of young people).
Get a sneak peek of the e-book here:
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