Once upon a time, graduates could take their pick of top jobs. But with a degree now considered the minimum qualification by many employers, and most people progressing to higher education, starting a career is more competitive than ever.
According to Cheryl Hill, national manager of business support at Mosaic Recruitment, the first thing graduate job seekers need to do is keep their career options open - your core knowledge and skills are likely to be suited to a range of jobs in today’s rapidly changing workplace.
“Take the time to evaluate your abilities, explore your career possibilities, and find out what you’re truly passionate about,” she says. “Then speak to your university career councillor or a recruitment agent to determine which career path and employers to pursue.”
When it comes to preparing a CV that stands out from the crowd, Hill recommends tailoring it to the job you’re applying for and emphasising your commitment, energy and enthusiasm.
“Details of part-time or casual jobs, extra curricular activities, and club or society memberships are all valuable achievements,” she says. “Don’t sell yourself short just because your professional experience is limited - give employers a well-rounded view of your talents by including all relevant experience to date.”
And for a head start in the CV stakes, try listing your volunteer history. “Committing your personal time to a cause you feel passionate about demonstrates your values, morals, and ethics,” says Hill. “It also shows your willingness to go that extra mile, which is something employers look for.”
These days, all employers want conscientious go-getters - so what you wear and how you present yourself is often as important as your grades. To this end, choose an outfit that’s appropriate for the job you’re interviewing for, and for maximum impact, pay attention to your facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
“Research the company you’re applying for, or better still, anticipate the questions you might be asked and practice your answers in mock job interviews with friends,” says Hill. “Also consider your strengths and weaknesses in advance, and prepare a list of questions to ask your prospective employer.”
Finally, don't forget that all job interviews are learning curves. Self-analysis can help you ace the next round and increase your chances of an offer, or if you're turned down after the job interview, constructive feedback can be your best friend.
“Professional rejection should never be taken personally,” says Hill. “After all, everyone's had to apply for their first job at some point.”