Completing your degree is an amazing achievement. But if you have mixed feelings about this moment in your life—or you don’t know what to do next—don’t worry, we’ve all been there. In this post, I’ll share with you 10 tips on how to kickstart your graduate career.
Allow yourself a break—you deserve it!
Being anxious about the next steps just after you’ve graduated is normal. Only the lucky ones among us finish university knowing exactly what we’re going to do and have a ninja plan for getting there.
My advice would be not to rush into things.
Allow yourself a short break, especially if you’re feeling worn out after all the hard work in the past months.
I’m not saying get your backpack ready and travel around the world for a few months (though, great if you can afford that). But take a couple of weeks to relax and forget about the next 40 years of your life. Go on holiday, or just stay home and read novels or binge-watch an entire season of your favourite TV series.
Don’t feel bad about it, just do it already!
What is it that you can do? And who will pay you to do it?
This is a typical sentence uttered by
many most all graduates:
“Where can I apply for job?”
Start by understanding what you want to do and who will pay you for doing it.
Take a few hours, days or even weeks to consider what ‘value’ you have to offer – and which types of employers need graduates like you on their team.
If you don’t know what value you will add to an organisation, how can you convince any hiring manager to make you an offer to join their team? Think about your skills, abilities, experience and ambitions. Then do your homework to identify the companies that need graduates with your profile.
Your course description will no doubt tell you about the important ‘transferable skills’ you will have gained. But don’t limit yourself to these. If you need any additional experience, use the time after your graduation to get this experience with an internship or a summer job.
You’ll get rejections but you do stay motivated
When you apply for a job and you don’t even hear back with a ‘No, thanks’, it can be very hard to stay motivated. And not to start doubting yourself, your degree and the whole value of going to university.
But just bear this in mind: You’re a university graduate, you have your future ahead of you and you have a lot to offer to many employers out there. You are not unemployable. Sooner or later the right opportunity will come along. It may just take a little longer and it will be hard work, which is why you need a plan.
Look for an Internship
Everyone tells you an internship is a great opportunity to get work experience – and to get hired as companies value interns.
But here’s what I think of internships: The best ones are really hard to get, and the worst ones don’t give you any meaningful work experience.
My advice to you would be to select your internship carefully – don’t spend the precious weeks or months ahead doing an internship that won’t help you get hired. Don’t focus on the ‘short-term’ gains such as how much they will pay you or on the name or reputation of the company. What’s much more important are the skills, experience and references you will gain.
Start by identifying about 10 small companies in the sector that you want to work in. Call them – don’t email, call – to ask if they need an extra pair of hands during the summer months. Say you’re available for work as an intern. Don’t mention pay, and if they ask you if you want to get paid, say that’s something you could discuss together if they take you on as an intern.
Prepare your CV as well as, if they’re interested, they will ask you to send it, possibly together with a brief covering letter.
Take on a summer job
Many companies hire temporary staff to cover holiday periods. Let me convince you of the benefits of a summer job by telling you about my personal experience.
When I was an undergraduate, I got my first office job with a very small company. Their office administrator was going on holiday for two weeks and they needed someone to take calls from clients and do basic office work, like preparing invoices and filing. I’d applied through a recruitment agency.
That job benefited me in a number of ways. I got paid, I got a glowing reference and, at the end of the two weeks, the manager recommended me to another company in the same building. That company offered me a part-time job on an ongoing basis – I continued working there until I graduated from university. Another side benefit: I also learned a lot about working in an office environment – and working with British people.
Needless to say, the work experience helped me add something to my CV. Also, during job interviews, I could use my work experience to give specific examples to questions, for example about teamwork or personal achievements.
You could combine work with pleasure
Another thing you could consider, especially if you’re planning on taking a longer break, is getting some work experience while travelling. Rather than lying on the beach for a few months (like, honestly, who’d want that?), try to get some work experience while abroad.
Ideally, you’d find a short-term job related to the area you’re planning to enter afterwards. But this will, of course, depend on what the work opportunities are like in the country / countries you’re visiting. And what your visitor visa (if you need one) says about your right to work on a paid or voluntary basis during your stay.
If you have the right to work, my guess is voluntary work for a local charity or non-profit organisation would be your best bet. You may even manage to get a job using your language skills, like in a bar, hotel or tourist agency.
Or you could join a ‘working holiday’ programme before leaving, though I think you’d have to pay for this.
I personally would be impressed by a job applicant who had the guts and initiative to take on a job in a foreign country, no matter what that job was.
Improve your CV and interview skills
Your university offers careers advice and I hope you’ve been taking advantage of it. Drop in and ask about getting a mock interview, advice on your CV and help with writing an application or covering letter. Find out about other activities and events that could help you in your job search.
The one important tip I can give you is that you must, must, must adapt your CV for every job you apply for. If you have a ‘general’ CV to send to all companies – it won’t be directly relevant to any of them.
You could go back to university
Or, perhaps you’re thinking of doing what thousands of recent university graduates do every year: Stay at university for another qualification, such as a Masters.
Personally, I think there are many advantages to not doing your Masters straight after your undergraduate degree, although sometimes that may be the easiest or indeed the ‘must’ option. Whatever you do, don’t rush into another qualification. Make sure it’s going to help you get the job you’re after.
When making your decision about getting another degree, be clear about what you want to achieve and what the best way is for achieving it.
Also, remember: In some situations, a professional qualification may be a better option than an academic one (for example, for some roles like in accounting, marketing, project management). And you can do some of these qualifications online while working. Or you could get your employer to pay for them once you have a job and have proven you’d be ‘worth the investment’.
Create or update your Linked-In profile
You hang out on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Renren or VK – but do you know where recruiters hang out? On LinkedIn. So, if you’re not on that network yet or your profile is empty, make sure to make it your priority to have a LinkedIn profile that rocks.
Start adding information about yourself but don’t make it a boring list. Add your connections, too – anyone you’ve met during your time at university and are happy to keep in contact with. Join groups on LinkedIn that are linked to the sector / industry you want to work in. But don’t lurk, meaning don’t just watch what other people are posting. Be active and post considerate comments or questions.
Build your online presence
When you apply for a job, the manager looking at your CV will probably look you up online. Having an online presence of any kind is better than Google returning no results when people search for your name. I’ve mentioned that it’s important to be active on LinkedIn- but don’t limit yourself to it.
I’d recommend being active on Twitter and Instagram also but using these channels to post about things relating to the field you want to work in. If your Instagram wall is just full of selfies and holiday shots, it’s not going to support your claim that you’re ‘passionate’ about working in a specific area.
You don’t have to post often, just once or twice a day will do, but make sure you dedicate time to growing the number of your followers also.
Join a professional assocation
There is a professional association for almost every type of job or sector under the sun. You can search for them online or you could ask some of your professors or your careers advisor, they should know.
The simple benefit of joining a professional association is: You’ll dive deeper into what going on in the sector. They’ll have publications, conferences and other events that you could find very helpful.
Another big benefit is: You can put your membership on your CV – this shows you really are passionate and aren’t simply saying it. You also make contacts that – who knows – could lead to an interview or job offer.
If you’re feeling anxious or worried after having just graduated from university – it may help to know that almost everyone feels this way. After all, we choose to go to university to improve our future prospects – and now you may be wondering what to do with your next big step.
We recommend that you take your time and think about what is right for you. This is a good opportunity to enjoy a small break after all the hard work you’ve had to put in as a university student. Whatever you choose to do, don’t make your decision based on what’s sensible right now. Think about your longer term plans and how best you can achieve them.
Did you know that blogging can help your graduate career? Start a blog here today.
It’s free. It’s fun. It’s smart.