Tim Rigby is a Technical Recruiter at Smart Moves Recruitment and has guided several graduates through the application process to getting their first job.
After he graduated from uni, Tim says he had three different jobs in the space of 6 months and, as a result, he’s learnt a lot about what’s good in a job and what’s not. As he puts it, “I’ve made the mistakes, so you don’t have to.”
In this article, Tim draws on his experiences, and recruitment expertise, to give you the career advice your lecturers might have forgotten to tell you.
So, you’ve graduated? Congratulations! Only half a century until you can retire… wait, no, that doesn’t sound good.
You’re probably wondering what to do next – how to make your next 50 years in the world of work good, and as enjoyable as the past three were.
I asked some of my friends (all five of them, actually) what they wish they’d known when they first graduated.
Network, network, network
The first response I got was interesting – Serena said, despite how much she hates networking, she’s realised how important it is. With MeetUp, LinkedIn and Twitter literally at your fingertips, the easiest way to get an idea of a company’s personality, staff and culture is to network.
There’s no excuse not to – you can get good advice, referrals and, ideally, a job out of it.
Started from the bottom now we’re… well, we’re still at the bottom, but we’re working on it
“Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom – having a degree doesn’t entitle you to anything,” was another recommendation.
I should clarify: a degree is probably the best qualification you can have. Really. It teaches you independence, self-motivation, and just makes you an all-round better person. These qualities make you very, very valuable to employers.
But you don’t yet know a lot about the working world, so give it a bit of time.
One thing a degree does entitle you to, though, is a graduate scheme. So, if you decide to take part in the long-winded application process and manage to get the job – make the most of it.
A good grad scheme will give you exposure to various departments and roles, and the chance to understand exactly what each area entails before you decide which to specialise in.
You’ll be exposed to some fantastic minds in your sector – ask questions, learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to challenge authority. I mean, don’t go winging chairs out of windows or anything, just don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. As long as you do it politely, you (almost) definitely won’t get sacked, unless the person you work for has a serious ego problem. In which case, you made the wrong career choice. Go back to Old Kent Road. Do not pass ‘Go’. Do not collect £200.
Squeeze the value out of that £27,000+ you spent
Chances are, you’re still in contact with your favourite lecturer or supervisor. My other friend (I think we’re on number 4 now?) suggests you ask them for their advice. They know you and they know what you’re good at.
If you’re not in touch with anyone who can help you out from your university, that’s fine. They’ll probably just tell you to pursue the area you did best in and, in the long-run, pursuing something solely because you’re good at it is unlikely to make you happy.
Choose something you enjoyed learning about. Being really successful isn’t just about being good at what you do; it’s about having a fascination with your chosen industry, and the creativity and determination to find ways to do it better than anyone else.
Of course you’re not 100% sure what you want to do. No one is. Starting your search with things that excite you and that you enjoy is the way to figure it out.
Taking an interest gets you halfway there
You’ve done all the above steps and you’re still not getting anywhere? That’s fine, my fifth friend has some advice too.
Keep up with your chosen industry. You’re smart, you know what you want to do – so, read up on it. Your networking efforts are no use if you have nothing to talk about.
When I finished my degree, I didn’t want to do any more reading – I’d been reading for the past three years. So, I got into podcasts. You can get topical news on any subject you can think of.
And lastly, how do you prepare for your first ever interview for a ‘proper’ job?
In my experience, the following are absolutely key:
- Learn how to answer the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question. Spoiler alert: they’re not interested in your pet, birth, or childhood.
- Research the company. Please, please, please do this. It’s inexcusable to turn up to an interview without knowledge of the company.
- Think of your key achievements at uni. Then, practise talking about what you learnt from these things and how the skills you gained are transferable to the role you’re interviewing for.
- Ask intelligent questions. Plenty of them. As much to find out if this company is right for you as anything else. More than ever, interviews are becoming a two-way process. Learn as much as you can.
Or, go and see a recruiter near you. It’s free, and we’re generally pretty good with the interview process.
Most importantly: relax. You haven’t found anything yet? That’s fine, companies don’t just hire in September. Network, keep up to speed with your sector and it’ll all be fine. Honest.
Any questions about any of this, send me a message or give me a call. I’ll redirect you to one of my five friends… or possibly just put on a voice to sound like a different person. Because I made all those friends up.