Grit is one skill you must develop if you want a graduate level job

There’s one skill you must develop if you want a graduate level job, especially when all doors appear to be closing in your pursuit of your ideal career. This one skill is considered more important than your level of intelligence, education or social circles. And it will help you whether you’re starting out as a new graduate looking for your first job or as a second-jobber looking to move up the career ladder.

That one skill is grit.

When it comes to success grit is considered to be more important than your level of intelligence, education or social circles. When employers are asked about the soft skills they most desire in prospective candidates, grit is always named among them. They may not call it grit. They may call it something like resilience, determination, focus, perseverance, persistence or drive but it all amounts to one and the same, grit.

Grit is a great predictor of how you will perform

When an employer is considering whether to give you the job or not proof of grit will help him decide. Grit is a better predictor of how you will perform than any of the other soft skills you might possess. It shows an employer what you are likely to do when sales are tough, clients need to be won over, customers need appeasing and colleagues aren’t pulling their weight. It also shows employers how you will deal with your own disappointments, shortcomings and failures.

How grit can help you in a job interview

Grit will help you move beyond what you may have considered a limitation and discover new skills you never knew you had. For this reason, it will give you great stories to illustrate your responses to job interview questions because majority of the questions you get asked have to do with grit, directly or indirectly.

These include questions about your ability to meet deadlines; questions about times when you have dealt with failures or setbacks; questions about dealing with difficult people; questions about your strengths and weaknesses… grit will produce the material you need to respond.

So, what is grit?

There are few people who have made a great success of their lives without grit because grit is the ability to go on when what you really want to do is give up. Such feelings come to us all. When they do grit is the ability to encourage yourself, to stay focused and on track, and to take needed action.

True grit will work for you when all you have is a dream, a goal or a vision.

How to develop and use grit

Firstly, train yourself to look at difficulties as your allies in order to strengthen your resistance to failure. Your brain will then automatically start to look for ways to solve the problems you face rather than seek to equip you to run away from them.

Next, have a definite focus. For our purposes, that goal is to get that first graduate job or to take the next step in your graduate career. If you want a career as a data analyst, you need to be looking for an entry level graduate position as an analyst. There is no point focusing on jobs that aren’t going to move you in the direction you want.

Ask yourself why you want the type of job or career you are seeking. If you aren’t sufficiently motivated to achieve your goal, then exerting grit is a waste of willpower you could be using elsewhere.

Finally, you need to ensure that your goal is aligned with your strengths, enthusiasm and interests – that way you will possess a strong enough why to stay on track when things aren’t going the way you would like.

Grit is a very useful skill that will help you achieve that graduate level position you need to move forward in your ideal career. And the good news is anyone can develop it.

A small company could be the ladder to a larger firm

Many graduates have their hearts so firmly set on working for a larger company that they miss the smaller opportunities right under their noses.

Graduates looking for that first step on the career ladder risk delaying their career progress when they refuse to consider working for a small or medium sized company (SME). Most graduates want to work for a large company and as such can find it takes a lot longer to get that first job. If you’re a highflying graduate looking for your first job, don’t overlook the advantages to be found at smaller companies.

Of course, you have heard of large companies like HSBC, Sainsbury’s and Google but most graduates have never come across smaller firms such as TPP UK, Periscopix and Checkatrade (each of which are on the UK’s Best 100 Small Companies List). Yet these companies are part of the large group of SMEs that make up 99% of UK businesses. Many of them can and do offer great prospects for graduates looking to take that first step on the career ladder.

A smaller company can offer just as much or even more job satisfaction than a larger company. Consider 24-year-old Tessa Grafen, a clinical systems analyst and Arabic language graduate who works for clinical software provider TPP. After just four weeks at the company she found herself travelling to the Middle East where she relished the opportunity to use her skills. She says she gets to do a lot of meetings on her own and that many of ‘my friends [in other firms] never get to do anything unsupervised’.

Widening your vision could help you beat competition

The problem with setting your sights on working for a large company alone is that you could be denying yourself the opportunity to get started on your ideal career much sooner. You could be also denying yourself the opportunity to progress on the job much more quickly. Think about it. Everyone is looking for a position at a larger company. That means the competition is stronger and the employer has a greater number of prospective candidates to choose from.

Now I am in no way seeking to dampen the spirit of competition or even the optimism you may have that you are the best person for the job. That’s great. I am merely suggesting you consider SMEs as part of your job search strategy, especially if you find you are applying to larger companies and getting nowhere. If large corporations make up just 1% of UK businesses, then it stands to reason that the opportunities for finding a job substantially increases if you consider SMEs as part of your career management plan.

Career ladders have to begin somewhere, so why not at a smaller firm?

The time you spend waiting to land the perfect job at a top company could be used gaining valuable skills at a smaller company where at least you will gain the extra experience and confidence you need – and often much more quickly too – to attract the attention of recruiters at a larger firm.

And you never know, you might find yourself in a position like Tessa Grafen and like it so much you change your mind about working for a top firm after all.

How to choose a great small company to work for

So how can you find out more about the best SMEs to work for in the UK or abroad? As I like to tell graduates, do your research. Here are a few websites to get you started.

If you want a top job you need to understand diversity

Diversity is just as much about out-of-the-box thinking as it is about different cultures

In our last blog we talked about the workplace being more culturally diverse due to globalisation and migration. Of course, this applies to university life too, and to life in general. Diversity at work or at university can offer many exciting opportunities and benefits as different talents, skills, ways of working and outlooks are available to us. It’s good to be aware of and to be able discuss diversity when you’re attending a job interview – especially if you want to work for a global organisation.

What does it mean to understand diversity? Well, you should also be aware that our country of origin fundamentally affects the way we think, our attitudes and our behaviours. So we must take care to ensure we don’t misunderstand each other when working as part of multicultural team, and we must ensure we work within an ethos of mutual respect.

Obviously, if employers don’t promote a climate of respect at work, then productivity, the quality of work and happiness will all decrease. We need to feel appreciated and understood at work to be happy. So we need to be clear about what we mean by showing ‘respect’ for each other.

Trying to understand diversity – it can be complicated!

This is a complicated issue because ‘respect’ for one culture can mean something different for another. Therefore, we need to have some knowledge of each other’s cultural backgrounds for ‘respect’ to work, or we may take offence at something someone does when in fact it wasn’t meant to be offensive at all.

One example comes to mind: patting a child on the head and saying ‘Well done’ in the UK is quite a friendly thing to do. But if you come from Thailand, for example, then patting a child on the head is seen as being extremely rude and insulting as it’s like touching a child’s soul. So disrespect isn’t always deliberate, and actions can be misinterpreted.

Tips for making the most of diversity

It’s therefore vital that you play your part in nurturing an ethos of respect in the workplace or at university, and this is only possible by putting into place some simple steps:

  1. Try to get to know your colleagues’ cultural backgrounds and try to find out more about these. Promote an environment of learning and discovery to encourage mutual respect.
  2. Encourage others to be tolerant of and sensitive towards each other’s beliefs and attitudes.
  3. Try to compile a list of cultural behaviours that might be deemed offensive to others in your team (like patting someone on the head, as mentioned above).
  4. With your colleagues, put together a charter that pinpoints how you’re going to show respect for each other – and review it from time to time.
  5. Make sure your future employer creates opportunities for people not only to express their views but to listen to the views of others.

Diversity and out-of-the-box thinking

Of course, diversity isn’t just about race and culture. Diversity can be about personality too. All of us know someone who’s completely whacky, eccentric and an original thinker – someone who makes life more interesting and worthwhile.

Originality is to be welcomed and appreciated, but sadly this isn’t always the case. We only have to look at our secondary schools to see that if children stand out in any way, they can easily become targets for bullies. If children are seen to be too tall, too short, too shy, too eccentric or if their hairstyle is deemed to be inappropriate, then their lives may become very difficult at school as it is during the teenage years that, socially, it’s important to be seen to ‘fit in’.

But it’s those very qualities of originality and individuality that can bring so much freshness to the workplace. Every organisation needs their creative, innovative thinkers. So promoting an ethos of respect and tolerance – and, more than this, a genuine admiration for individuality and diversity – is essential at work or at university, not just because we all come from different backgrounds, different countries and different cultures but because we’re all unique and extraordinary in our own right.

What qualities or talents do you possess that make you unique? Make sure you explain to your future employer what you can add to the diversity of his/her team.

How to talk about inclusivity at a job interview

You may have heard employers talking about inclusivity in the workplace but what does it mean in practical terms for you as a new job-seeker?

Inclusivity is all about breaking down barriers and promoting communication so it makes sense to ensure you know a thing or two about it – especially if you have your sights set on working for a top or global employer.
When a policy of inclusivity works well, employees feel they’re being treated with dignity and respect. Moreover, their talents and skills are being appreciated and utilised. It goes without saying that if inclusivity is being taken seriously in the workplace, then the workforce feels happier and more fulfilled.
Of course, full-time workers can spend over 40 hours per week at work and this often means that more waking hours are spent at work than at home, so it’s vital that workers feel contented and productive at work, and that they can enjoy meaningful working relationships. To this end, an ethos of inclusivity is essential; it can create a win-win situation for both employers and employees. A policy of inclusivity can attract new talent to businesses, it can keep hold of outstanding and hardworking staff, and it can create a more pleasant working environment.

Talking about inclusivity at a job interview

Employers, particularly those who operate on a global scale, understand this very well and so work hard to create an atmosphere of inclusivity. They also seek new employees who can add something to this mix. So, if you’re attending a job interview at a potential employer’s office, how will you recognise if an ethos of inclusivity is being promoted?

Here are a few things to consider:
1. You will probably receive a warm welcome by the receptionist and other members of staff.
2. There will be a pleasant atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration in the building.
3. The firm will have policies in place that cover issues like working conditions, equality and human rights, dignity at work, employee welfare and fair recruitment practices; and it wouldn’t be inappropriate for you to ask your interviewer about their inclusivity policies.
4. Ideally, the workforce should be representative of the local community in terms of race, sex, religion and culture.
5. There should be systems in place to encourage employee development and progress, including performance-management procedures. Again, you could ask about staff-development reviews at your interview.
6. You will notice that employees don’t tend to be segregated or stuck in strict hierarchies or cliques, so workers can communicate easily with managers and directors and have their opinions heard. In large organisations, employee networks and forums can be a good idea and often work well.
7. Of course, inclusivity will also mean that the firm has in place strict procedures for handling any issues to do with discrimination, harassment and bullying at work.

Employees want to feel included

These days, promoting an ethos of inclusivity may be harder than you think. In an uncertain economic climate, which involves staff cutbacks and austerity measures, morale in the workplace can be low. Organisations and their employees are under increasing pressure due to budget cuts, pay freezes and job losses. But despite these factors, workers still expect recognition and respect at work. They wish to be noticed and appreciated for what they do – and in the current economic climate, this seems more important than ever.
Another matter to consider is the rise in globalisation and migration. This has resulted in organisations being more culturally diverse, and diversity can be of great benefit to a firm (as we will discuss next time). These days we must remember that working as part of a team will probably entail working with people of different ages, sexes, nationalities, religions and cultures. Some team members’ beliefs and ways of working may be very dissimilar to your own. So an ethos of inclusivity is paramount.
Studies have shown that our country of origin fundamentally affects the way we think, our attitudes and our behaviours. So although we must take care to ensure we don’t misunderstand each other, these are exciting times and we have much to learn from each other. Diversity will be our next topic of discussion.

8 Top tips for breaking the ice at an interview

The first few moments of an interview can be unnerving. However, it needn’t be with these top tips on how to break the ice in an interview.

The key to winning at interviews is to enjoy them.

Melting an icy atmosphere, will help by making you feel more relaxed and able to perform at your best.

Here are my top tips for breaking the ice at an interview.

Tip 1: Change the way you think about the interviewer

You may be surprised to know it starts with the way you think about the interviewer. The interviewer sitting in front of you is just a person. He/she is not an alien, he/she is not God and he/she is not out to destroy you.

He is simply trying to find out if you are the best person for the job, if you really want it for the right reasons and if you will fit in. That’s the first place you need to start when it comes to tips for breaking the ice at an interview.

Tip 2: Change the way you think about yourself

Know that you can do this job better than anyone else. If you only think you can then you may not come across as very convincing to the interviewer. You also need to think in terms of giving rather than just taking.

What do you have to give, to bring to the role? Keep that in mind. Have lots of evidence to back up why this job provides the perfect opportunity for you to give back.

Don’t get caught up with thinking that if you don’t get this job there will never be another like it.

Whilst it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity avoid giving off an air of desperation. The industry has enough space for you.

Tip 3: Create an elevator pitch

My next tip for breaking the ice at an interview is: develop a short statement that can be used in response to questions such as ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘Describe yourself’.

The pitch should describe your key interests and skills, how you got here, and where you want to be five years from now. It should be relevant to the job and last no longer than the time it takes to travel one floor in an elevator. If it helps practise in a real one.

Tip 4: Get an inkling about the questions you’re likely to be asked

Most interview situations can be faced quite confidently if you take a little time to think about what you might be asked beforehand so do your research to find out what type of questions tend to come up at similar interviews.

Granted, you may find hundreds, but you will usually see that they are simply variations of the same questions posed in different ways.

Tip 5: Tell great stories

In relation to Tip 4, you are not going to enjoy the interview if you sit there worried about whether you will remember your rehearsed answers to the interview questions you’ve come across during your research!

Key tip for knowing how to break the ice in an interview: Try to think in terms of stories to tell rather than word-for-word answers to give. This will help your responses to come across much more relaxed. This is one of the most useful tips for breaking the ice at an interview.

Tip 6: Never tell lies on your CV

Lots of candidates get found out at the interview stage because employers discover that claims on their CVs aren’t true. If you know you were not single-handedly responsible for producing that piece of work or increasing turnover for your department don’t claim it was so.

That way you won’t have to sit through an icy interview fearing specific questions.

Here are 4 tips on how to write a winning graduate CV.

Tip 7: Research the company and its competitors

This is one of the most important tips for breaking the ice at an interview. Lack of research is the reason many stumble during an interview.

It’s never a good idea to turn up to an interview without in-depth knowledge of the company.

This clearly shows that you really aren’t that interested in the job at all. Research the company and its competitors and you will never run out of great things to say.

Tip 8: Strengthen your weak areas

You may have weak areas on your CV, such as gaps in your employment history or no qualifications in an area that is considered desirable for the industry you want to work in.

Think beforehand how you will deal with questions about these weaker areas and stick to them.

Talk about them in a way that brings out your desire to learn, solve a problem, develop or plan your career direction. For example, failure often brings new opportunities so whenever you talk about yours remember to also include what you learned from it.

If you tend to get particularly nervous in interview settings, check out our post on how to get rid of interview nerves.

Here at Graduate Coach, we offer interview coaching sessions. If you are in the middle of a job search or have an interview coming up, book some interview coaching.

How to break the ice in an interview: summary

how to break the ice in an interview

We hope you enjoyed our post on how to break the ice in an interview.

Take action: Use these handy tips for breaking the ice at an interview. This will help to make your next interview an enjoyable rather than a dreaded occasion.

Knowing how to break the ice in an interview will help you to stand a greater chance of getting the job. You’ll look like you want to be there!

Interviewers will generally try to make candidates feel at ease. This is because they know that in a calm state you’ll be able to articulate your answers clearer.

After all, they want to get an accurate picture of who you are and what you can bring to the company.

Therefore, the interviewer may initiate some small talk or even ask icebreaker questions during the job interview. This will help with building rapport.

All the best for your next interview!