One of the questions you ask me most on Facebook is “how can I work in the UK after graduating”.  I’m not going to pretend: if you need Tier 2 visa sponsorship, it’s not going to be easy.  But it’s not impossible either and here are 13 tips that will make it easier for you.

1.  Your CV says You’re a ‘Quick Learner’ but What About Your Degree Results?

If you were a company and you had a choice between two graduates, one with very good degree results and the other – well, doesn’t seem to have taken their studies too seriously.  Who would you pick? Get the point?    Especially when you’re fresh out of university and you don’t have much else to show on your CV – your degree can count a lot.

2.  Yes, You Do Have Time for a Campus Job

One thing that employers care more about than your degree is your work experience (well, most of the time anyway). Any work experience is better than no work experience.  So as they say ‘on your bike’ and get yourself a student job.

This doesn’t have to be in a related field as long as you can say how it’s helped you develop or improve your skills. For example: your ability to organise your time, take responsiblity for tasks, work  and communicate well with others, solve problems, or come up with ideas for doing things better.

3.  You Will Need Great References – But Are You Guaranteed to Get Them?

Another thing employers will look at are your references.  Think about who you’ll ask to be your referees – and start proving to them that you deserve glowing letters of recommendation from them.

At least one of them may be a lecturer. Lecturers love students who work hard and who are interested in learning.  If you attend their class, always participate, hand in your essays on time, and volunteer for things whenever you can – they’ll support you back with a great reference.

If do have a student job, a work reference can be very helpful as you could have one manager telling another manager that you ‘can do the job’.

4.  Don’t Send the Hiring Manager to Sleep With a List a Dates

My biggest tip for writing your CV is: focus on how you can make the information relevant and interesting to the company you’re applying to.  Just having a list of dates and achievements can make your CV really boring and won’t make you stand out from other applicants.

If you’re now thinking “but how…”, remember you don’t have to do this by yourself.  Book an appointment with a careers advisor at your university – RIGHT NOW.  That’s exactly what they’re there for, so don’t feel shy about it. Other students will be getting help, and guess who’ll be getting the interview?

5.  Don’t be the Applicant Who’s on Facebook but Not on LinkedIn

About a year ago I read an article that said, 93% of companies use LinkedIn when hiring.  OK, I have my doubts about this figure: 93% of ALL employers? Or in a specific country or sector? What does ‘when hiring’ mean: to look for candidates or to decide who to hire?

Anyway, the main point is this: employers use LinkedIn.  Make sure you do, too and that your profile confirms and supports what you say about yourself in your CV.

6.  Become Your Future Employer’s Biggest Fan – But Not Their Stalker

Who do you think is more likely to get an interview:  someone the employer knows or someone they’ve never heard of before?  Exactly. That’s one of the reasons you’ll often get the advice to ‘network’.  But what does that mean, where do you start, how do you do it?

Here’s what I would do: follow your target companies on Facebook, Twitter, G+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest – whichever platform that you use and that they use.  Like, comment, post questions – become a fan.  But do NOT mention you want to apply for a job and never ask about sponsorship.  It’s not the right place or time (yet).

7.  Search the Smart Way by Focusing on Companies in a Specific Area

“I want to work in the UK” – well, that’s a bit broad isn’t it?  Most of us look for a job in a specific city or region.  Yet again, as an international graduate you’ll be more flexible than most of us.

Still, it’s useful to narrow down your search geographically at first as you’ll be more focused when searching for jobs.  You may want to start with businesses located in the same region as your university.  Or, find out about ‘business clusters’ – concentrations of business in your industry or sector in a particular UK city or region.

8.   There’s No Point Applying if the Company Isn’t on the ‘Sponsor Register’

Not all companies in the UK can sponsor you for a Tier 2 visa.   Before they can sponsor anyone, companies have to apply for a sponsorship licence with the UK government and they have to meet quite a few requirements to get it and to keep it.  There are currently just under 30,000 companies that have gone through the process and that are on the Tier 2 (and Tier 5) sponsor register.

9.  They’ll Only Sponsor You if ‘You’re Worth It’

Of course there are so many benefits to a company hiring international graduates.  But, sponsoring you for a Tier 2 visa involves a lot of paperwork for the company.  And the job has to be at a specific level (graduate level) and they have to pay you at least £20,800 per year.

So a company will usually only sponsor you if you offer them something that they can’t get from someone who’s already settled in the UK.  So, my tip to you is CONVINCE the company that you’re ‘worth’ sponsoring for a Tier 2 visa. Read on.

10. Focus on Their Needs, Not Your Own

In your application or covering letter do not bring up that they will need to sponsor you – there’s probably a field for this in the application form.  As you’ll know by now, sponsoring a candidate is a big deal.  First you have to get them interested in you, then you can ask them to do something for you.

To get their interest,  come up with good reasons for why the company may be willing to sponsor you.  Research the company: what are their plans? What are their objectives? What kind of people do they need on their team to achieve their objectives? Only by thinking about the company’s ‘needs’ can you answer how your skills, knowledge and experience offer will add benefit and advantage to the company.

11. Start Early as It’ll Be Too Late When Your Student Visa Runs Out

Don’t wait until you finish your degree to start job hunting.  After your degree ends, you have 4 months to find a job – if you don’t, you have to leave.  After that you can apply for a work visa only from abroad.

I think, ideally, you should start looking at jobs in the summer break between your second and your third year if you’re an undergraduate.   If you’re a Masters student, start before you arrive in the UK.  Too early? No, it’s not.  Your third year / Masters will be very hectic – it’s really hard to job hunt while focusing on your final exams / dissertation.

I’m not saying apply for jobs, but start looking at what companies look for in their applicants. Start working on your CV, interview skills and so on. The more time you give yourself, the better your chances.

12. You’ll Need a CoS. No, that’s Nothing to Do with Dressing Up

You know about the CAS right but do you know about the CoS?  This is the Certificate of Sponsorship you will need from your employer if they offer you a job and are willing to sponsor you.

To get a Tier 2 visa you will need to earn 70 points under the UK’s points-based immigration system.  I’ve summarised in this infographic for you how you can get these points. You’re welcome.

How Many Points Do You Need for Tier 2 Visa and How to Get Them

13.  Just Hang In There, Even if You Get Lots of Rejections

Getting a rejection for a job is tough – and it’s twice as tough if your Tier 4 visa is about to run out and you need that job offer desperately.  But be ready: you could get (many) rejections and it could take some time before you get a job offer.

But don’t let the rejections discourage you.  Remember the saying ‘if at first you don’t succeed….’?  Just try again and again and again.  Take a step back and consider: are being rejected at application stage or after the interview?  Ask for feedback if the company will give it.  If you can, get some advice or even coaching on applying or interview techniques.

Final Tips

I remember when I graduated from my first degree how worried I was about finding a job. I think that’s something most of us go through.

Of course, it’s even more difficult if you need a Tier 2 visa to stay and work in the UK.  I’ve had friends who were told openely by hiring managers ‘do not bother applying’ – because they needed sponsorship.

But look at this way: there are nearly 30,000 companies on the sponsor register. This means they’re willing to sponsor international applicants.   Of course, you still have to prove yourself – and you must give them convincing reasons for why they should sponsor YOU.

Imagine yourself competing with local students for a job – what do you have that they can’t offer?  You don’t have to be better: but you do have to be DIFFERENT.  Think about what the company’s wants and needs are. What problems do they have they that you can help them solve? What objectives do they have that you can help them achieve? By thinking about the company first, you will greatly improve your chances of getting sponsorship.

Big thanks to Peter Jarvis from GetSet Education Consultancy and to Chau Do Thi Diem for suggesting that we create this post.

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