In any competition it helps to know what you are up against if you want to win. In the race to a good graduate level job it is no different.
Who are the graduates that are winning and what are they doing different to those struggling to get a foot on the career ladder?
The graduates who are most likely to fare best are those who spend time developing the skills and experience they need to differentiate themselves from other candidates.
This is true of even those graduates who study degrees in subjects specific to an industry, such as law, teaching or finance – they still spend time building a portfolio of employability skills that distinguishes them as different. Their aim is to make themselves more attractive to an employer.
Who are the graduates you are up against?
Employers are increasingly looking for people with new ideas, who think in different ways and can bring a fresh perspective to the company. The head of recruitment at the Bank of Scotland recently told the Times, ‘We don’t only want people who think and perform like an economist.’ A diverse workforce helps a company to serve its clients better.
Let’s break it down.
- You are up against graduates who started developing their work skills long before they graduated. The closer graduates are to graduation the more likely they are to limit their thinking and options, said a graduate head hunter from the US bank Merrill Lynch. The bank therefore targets graduates while still in their first year at university because they are less likely to limit their options and there is plenty of time to mould their thinking for the work environment.
- You are up against graduates who do internships. The graduates who get job offers before or soon after they leave university are those who do summer internship programmes. By giving up the ‘right’ to a summer break these graduates are showing that they are already thinking like an employee rather than a student. They don’t see themselves as losing out but gaining the key skills and head start they need. The simple act of doing a summer internship sends a good message to an employer about the sort of person you are.
- You are up against graduates who work while at university. Graduates who work while doing their degree stand a better chance of getting a job once they leave university. Of course this chance is increased if the graduate works in a role or industry related to the job they are trying to get but there are ways around this that we look at below. Once again, the fact that you have some experience of the working world says good things about the type of person you are.
- You are up against graduates who develop the right skills at work. The problem for most graduates is not that they have not worked while at university but that they have not developed the right set of skills to get them into the type of job they really want.
Graduates who fare best are those who understand exactly what these skills are, go out to get them and then sell those skills on their CV and at the interview.
These skills include the ability to think outside of the box, to communicate well, to work in a team and to use your initiative. They go hand in hand with an attitude that shows persistence, resilience and optimism.
The only way to show that you have these skills and abilities is to have had the opportunity to demonstrate them in a job, even if that job is not quite related to the job you are after.
If you are a graduate who does not fit into any of the groups above then you may find yourself upstaged by candidates who do.