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Oct 17th

Job-hunting lessons from a graduate

This is a guest post from recent graduate, Oliver Perkins-Gibbons.

So, you’ve just finished your degree and you’re getting ready to take on the big wide world for the first time. You’re probably nervous about what the future holds but you’re also cautiously optimistic that everything is going to turn out alright. You’re not thinking about your student loans because you’ll never really see the money that goes towards paying it off anyway, and you’re eager to show everyone just what you can do after years of studying. There’s just one small thing in your way though – You need to find a job first.

Forget your dissertation, final projects or even writing your UCAS personal statement. This is quite possibly the most daunting task that you have faced in your twenty-odd years so far. You’re battling upstream with thousands of other fish, but only you’re hoping to be caught by the bears circling the riverbanks. This has always been the case for those leaving the safe bubble that is university. What has changed in recent years though is that there are a lot more fish to compete against, and the bears just don’t have the appetite for all of them. It is your job then to present yourself in such a way that the bears come wading through the water to snap you up.

The job market is tough at the moment. It really is. Nobody is pretending it isn’t. But that doesn’t make it any easier for those looking for work right now. Until very recently I was fighting against the current with the wave of other people, and I know as well as most just how soul destroying it can be at the best of times. In order to keep the money coming in and to keep myself sane, I spent a while working warehouse shifts at a Primark distribution centre – That’s not really what I expected having spent close to two decades in education. It took me six months to find a full-time job after uni, and to use another cheesy metaphor, it was a rollercoaster ride.

When I finished my course I left with a sense of expectation and hope, but after being disappointed time and time again in the job market, I was left broken, cynical and defeated. If I’m being generous, I would say that it was a humbling experience. If I’m being honest I would say that it was a horrible few months and I learned a lot of hard lessons during the time. Luckily a recruitment agency got in touch with me about a role, and I was able to convince their client to hire me. I really don’t know where I would be now if this didn’t happen.

Looking back on the time now, I would like to offer a few pieces of advice to those looking for jobs now or in the future:

You’re not too good for any job

It’s difficult to know exactly what you’re worth if you haven’t had a ‘proper’ job in a certain industry yet. The truth is though, that if you’re not earning any money and a company is offering to pay you to do anything then you say ‘yes’. You just cannot turn down a job when you’re unemployed unless you’ve got a very good reason to do so. You can still apply for other jobs more related to your dreams and aspirations whilst you are working. Having cash coming in can help with getting to job interviews, as well as keeping your skills sharp. Not only that, but you’re much more employable when you are working.

Keep looking for ways to boost your CV

One of the reasons that you haven’t been offered a job might be that there isn’t that ‘wow-factor’ in your CV to really set you apart from the rest of the crowd. Keep looking for opportunities to improve your experience. When I was unemployed I was able to get video editing work for a local company that made wedding videos. Despite adding to my CV, this also kept my skills sharp as well giving me confidence in the interview when that dreaded question “So, what have you done since you graduated?” comes.

Keep at it

I know it’s hard, especially when you receive that 1000th rejection email but you need to keep sending out applications and plugging away. You never know who might like your CV. Also, make sure that your CV is visible on all of the big job sites like Monster and CV-Library. Recruitment companies are constantly looking through those sites to match people to positions. It just adds another dimension to your job search.

Take a break

It might seem like this contradicts my previous point, but sometimes you just need time away from your computer. There is no point in applying for a job if you’re head isn’t in the game. Rather than send a poor application out because you’re fed up, take the weekend off from the job hunt, gather your thoughts and come back swinging. You’ll feel refreshed and better for it.

Good luck on your quest for employment, and I hope that some of these tips will help. I appreciate how hard it can be, and I know how it makes you feel when the only word you seem to hear is ‘no’. I also know how often you don’t hear anything back at all, and it really is disheartening, but keep going and treat each rejection as being one application closer to finding a job.

Oliver Perkins-Gibbons has recently graduated with a BA in Journalism from the University of Lincoln, and is currently up for consideration for both the MIND Media Award for Student Journalist of the Year, as well as the Royal Television Society Midlands award for Factual Film.

He leads the media team at the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, co-ordinating content with a number of national magazines. His long term aim is to make current affairs documentary films, focusing primarily on the hidden side of war in conflict zones.

Photo credit: jtze

Category: Graduate

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