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Tips For New Graduates To Land Their First Job

Getting that first job is a critical step into future careers, but all too often it can be a real catch 22: all jobs seem to require experience, yet you need to get a job to gain that experience. It can leave you feeling very frustrated and wondering what to do next.

If that sounds like you, don’t worry – with our expert tips you will be able to find and secure that all important first job in no time.

Finding a job opportunity

When you are relatively inexperienced in job searching it can be hard to even find opportunities that might be relevant. It can pay to be a bit creative here; there are jobs available, it’s just a case of finding them (or even making them appear). Here are some suggestions:

  • Job adverts are probably the most obvious options – there are many websites that advertise jobs (indeed.com, monster.co.uk, reed.com etc.). This is good in that it lets you see the types of jobs that are out there, but often the competition can be particularly high when jobs are advertised in this way. Not all organisations advertise their opportunities, so if there’s an opportunity you’re particularly interested in, make a list of employers in that area and check their websites directly.
  • Graduate schemes are eternally popular for fresh graduates, but they’re not for everyone. Not only are they really competitive, a lot of people may find that the nature of the work might not suit them, that said there are many jobs available and it’s always worth taking a look at sites like www.prospects.ac.uk.
  • Internships/work experience are great for getting a foot in the door of your career – particularly if you want to work in the creative industries. However, these are often unpaid which can leave you with a dilemma – if you can afford to work for free then this can really open doors for you. Some organisations do pay interns so it is worth looking around for these.
  • Directly approaching employers can be surprisingly successful. If you want to work in a particular field, then it can be worth sending your CV and a covering letter to a number of organisations in that area. You can improve your chances of success by making sure the letter is addressed to a particular person, and following up with a phone call.
  • Use your network. Don’t be shy to ask people to give you a job or even introduce you to potential employers. It can be useful to draw a network diagram highlighting all of the people you/family/close friends know who might be able to help you. LinkedIn is also good for this.

Acing an assessment

Once you’ve got an invitation to a selection event/interview you’re halfway there – next you need to secure the position. If you’ve never had a (successful) interview in the past you need to spend some time preparing. Here are some useful suggestions:

Research the company. Make sure you know all about the company and the job; you need to be able to talk intelligently about this. Take a look at the organisation’s website, do a google search, talk to people who already work there. Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Why do you want this role?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Who do you see as our main competitors?

Package up your experience. You are going to need to talk about yourself and what you can bring to this role. If you haven’t had a job in the past then this can seem quite hard, but don’t worry, you will probably have plenty of relevant experiences to draw upon. The key here is to look for the specific competencies (or knowledge, skills and experience) the organisation is looking for; you’ll be able to find these in the job description or advert.

Let’s look at an example. Perhaps an organisation is looking for experience in ‘Planning and Organising’. Whilst you might not have experience of doing this in the workplace, you probably do have experience of doing this elsewhere. Maybe you had to complete a project or dissertation as part of your studies. How can you relate the things you did to achieve this to competency of ‘Planning and Organising’? Did you make a to do list? Add items to your calendar? Make a plan? These are all good indicators that you can do this so make sure you are really selling the experience you do have.

Practice, practice, practice. We get better at things when we practice and getting jobs is no exception. Get someone to do a mock interview with you so that you know what it feels like to be in that situation. Make sure they give you feedback so that you know how to improve the next time. Lots of careers services offer this for free, but if that isn’t available to you, ask friends or family. There are also organisations or individuals who offer mock interviews and you can find them on google.

Some jobs require you to complete psychometric tests of ability as well as an interview. These tests present you with a number of problems and ask you to solve them within a specified time period. They typically include Numerical, Verbal or Abstract Reasoning. These tests can be tricky and feel very different to things you might have done before, so sitting some practice papers and getting some advice about how to answer the questions is really important this guide is a good place to start.

Manage your impact. It is really important to make a good first impression in an interview, here are some ideas to help you do this:

  • Dress smartly and ensure you are well presented. Neat and tidy is what we’re aiming for here so keep hair styling and make up elegant, and wear clean, smart and ironed clothes. Polish your shoes.
  • Be polite and friendly. Make eye contact and smile. Shake the hand of the interviewer and look at them when you are talking.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the interview and have something light and healthy to eat before you go in, you need to make sure you have enough energy to perform well.

About the author:   Ed Mellett is an entrepreneur, careers professional and founder of practicereasoningtests.com. He is known for co-founding and launching the leading student and graduate careers website wikijob.co.uk. Now in its 11th year, wikijob attracts over 400,000 unique users per month and is a must-visit resource for students considering their careers post-university. Ed’s other interests include AI, neuroscience and psychology.