With university students across the country now, or soon to be, taking their exams, many will be looking ahead for when they enter the job market. The hope that many graduates have is that they will be able to find a job that allows them to use their degree.
The number of overqualified graduates has been steadily increasing for a long time with the figure at 22% in 1992 and 34% in 2007.
Current figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that “London had the highest proportion of overeducated workers in the UK”. Graduates from an art and humanities background are the most likely to be under-utilising their education. This is despite the fact that UCAS reports that 78% of graduates now achieve a first or a 2:1. With more students going to university than ever before and getting higher grades, the issue of over qualification is only going to increase.
Negative Psychological Effect on Employees
So what does this mean for graduates who aren’t using their education to the best of their ability? A study published on the Metro explains how employees that are overqualified for their jobs are more likely to experience ‘psychological strain’. Workers who feel they aren’t using their qualifications can feel deprived and undervalued. This, in the long run, is detrimental to the workers’ mental wellbeing and can cause a decrease in overall productivity. Workers who spent time underemployed are also more likely to earn less than their peers, even after finding a job that fits their academic credentials. This is because they will have started much later.
Are University Degrees Still Worth It?
The answer is yes. The Department for Education published statistics which show that graduates are still paid 30% more, on average, than those who don’t have a degree. It’s also worth noting that most employers require a degree as a bare minimum when applying for a job. Not having a degree puts prospective job seekers at a much greater disadvantage.
The State of the Job Market
While a third of students are overqualified for their job, the good news is that the UK labour market is currently strong. The ONS reported that unemployment fell to a low of 3.9% between January and March this year. However, there are still many factors that could change that figure with the economic calendar on FXCM showing high volatility for the ILO Unemployment Rate. Much of this is partly due to the ambiguity over Brexit and its potential effects on the job market. Graduates need to be aware that the job market could change and get a lot worse in the near future. This is something they need to take into consideration when applying for jobs.
With record high student enrolment figures in universities this year, coupled with progressively competitive industries, this issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon. While it may make for hard reading, this is a reality that graduates have to face.
Leaving University can be an exciting but also daunting time. After studying hard and taking your exams, entering the job market can feel like a large leap into a new world.
During this time, many graduates panic and apply for multiple jobs without taking the time to first assess their skills and work out what graduate job roles are right for them.
Chris Davies from Graduate Coach always advises candidates to do two key things before writing their graduate CV.
The first thing is to identify your career typology, as graduate jobs can be categorised into the following 3 groups:
Specialist: This category includes roles within fields such as engineering, science and medicine. These graduates are hired for their core expertise within a particular area.
Knowledge Architect: This category includes roles within consultancy, logistics, marketing, finance etc. Graduates are employed in these roles due to their ability to interpret data and deliver insights from them.
Communicator: Graduate roles within this category include account managers, salespeople and hospitality.
➡️ Action point: from this list, identify which of the three categories describes you best.
#2: Complete a Skills Audit
you’ve identified what career typology suits you best you’ll be able to
identify suitable graduate roles.
With this knowledge, you can then perform a tailored skills audit.
➡️ Action point: Identify the job role that is suited to you. Then using job descriptions online compile all the skills and competencies you need to demonstrate in order to be successful in that role.
a table format, list out the required skills and competencies in one column,
and in the column next to it, using the STAR format, give an example of how you
have demonstrated that skill in the past.
The STAR format
Situation – What was the situation that you or your employer faced?
Task – What tasks were involved in that situation?
Action – What actions did you take?
Result – What were the results of those actions?
Your completed skills audit will provide a solid foundation for you to write your achievements-based graduate CV.
#3: Writing your Achievement-based CV
The next step is to write your graduate CV. Your CV must convince the employer that you should be given the job that you are applying for. Think of it like a sales pitch.
You’ll want to include:
A Personal Statement – this is the first section the interviewer will see. Use it to attract attention. In a few short sentences, tell the employer who you are, what you are looking for and what you can offer in return.
Key skills and achievements – Try using powerful opening action verbs to describe each achievement you have completed in relation to your roles, and more importantly University experience.
Then follow up with impressive results or outcomes so your achievements can be measured, An example could be ‘Successfully transformed’ or ‘Inspired fellow classmates’.
These openings can then form the start of a bullet point where you can go on to state what was achieved. Think about writing your University experience like you would a job role.
This style can really help when entering the job market and it also shows the reader you have thought through what is needed from the CV.
Academic achievements – in this section you’ll need to include your degree grade.
You can also include other achievements that you gained whilst at university. Many graduates omit achievements from activities such as volunteering, marketing for the student union or organising an event for a society or club.
Non-academic achievements – Once you have your University and College experience on page one of the CV, then add any employment experience you have.
This can include placements you may have undertaken and also part-time or summer jobs.
Again, highlight what skills and achievements you have made and pick ones that would help in the role applied for.
As your career develops your work history will eventually move to page one above your education; so remember to keep your CV updated and change its style as you become more experienced.
4: Review the structure and formatting of your CV
How your CV looks on paper is very important.
Ensure that the typeface (font) and the font that you are using is consistent throughout your CV.
Conventional typefaces such as Times New Roman or Arial are best when it comes to writing your CV. Avoid using informal fonts such as Comic Sans.
When it comes to font size, you’ll want your name at the top to be larger than the rest of the text so that it stands out. You may also use a slightly larger font size for headings. The remaining body text should all be the same size and no smaller than size 11.
Final Thoughts From Chris Pennington, Founder of Your CV consultant
Once you have completed the steps above, review your finished CV. Then review it again!
It’s really important there are no spelling or grammatical errors as that can lessen the impact of the document.
You should now have a well designed, thought-provoking, and professional looking CV that showcases your skills and shows how you can benefit the company and role applied for.
If this is done correctly it can really help you stand out from the crowd and your University peers.
Your CV can then give you the edge so you can get those important interviews and all your University experience will have added depth to your history.
It may also have given you an advantage over more experienced applicants making YOU the ideal candidate for the role!
About Chris Pennington
Your CV Consultant was founded by Chris Pennington who has had a successful 15-year career within Financial Solutions Management and as a Personal Insolvency Specialist. Within this time he has built up experience within CV Assessment, Recruitment, Interviewing Candidates, and Career Coaching.
Nail That Interview Online Course
Once you have a winning CV, the next stage will be ‘the interview’. A CV is all about getting a candidate to this part of the process. Not everyone though is a natural or experienced at them. Interviews can be improved by practice. However, sometimes that is not enough. Your CV Consultant have therefore teamed up with Graduate Coach. Using their expertise, they offer a ‘Nail That Interview‘ course. We believe this course can make all the difference in getting offered the job you are looking for. Module 1 – I CAN do the job – contains the Graduate Coach Skills Audit and the 9 Employability Skills.
Most of the parents we speak to believe that if their son or daughter gets a 1st or 2:1 from a good university, then it will guarantee a graduate job after University.
Sadly this is no longer the case.
With 78% of students now achieving a 1st or 2:1 with honours, a good grade no longer helps you stand out from the crowd. Many students work hard on their studies but neglect building the employability skills employers look for in graduates.
With 500,000 students graduating each year, how can you ensure your son/daughter gets ahead of the competition?
This article outlines how to help them land a great job, all is not lost!
Over the past 9 years, the team here at Graduate Coach have helped students and graduates to transform their degrees into careers. We’ve helped 400+ people to land opportunities at great companies such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Google, Facebook, Walt Disney, Amazon The NHS, and many more.
How to help your son / daughter get a graduate job
1) Encourage them to get work experience
Why is work experience so essential to career success?
There are far too many graduates competing for too few graduate jobs. Some vacancies receive over 100 applications. For roles at Blue Chip companies, it can be well over 500.
As a result, employers only consider employing Graduates who can hit the ground running from day one. To hit the ground running you need extensive, demonstrable work or work-related experience.
85% of graduate employers automatically reject candidates with no work experience
91% of employers believe work experience is more important than a degree.
Work experience is vital for two reasons;
It teaches graduates vital employability skills
It helps graduates understand what they WANT to do as a career.
1.2) Employability skills
The infographic below shows you the nine key CBI employability skills that employers look for in Graduates.
You must encourage your son or daughter to acquire these life skills via work, volunteering, any other form of experience. Anything that enables them to demonstrate to employers that they are work ready.
But what happens if they have already graduated and don’t have these skills?
Essentially, they need to acquire these skills via a graduate level internship or any other form of employability/work skill acquisition. It’s quite acceptable to do a short stint as an intern after University.
1.3) What the Graduate WANTS to do
Graduate employers’ biggest frustration is that most Graduates do not know what they want.
How many of us went into a job blindly at the start of our career, only to realise that it didn’t suit us at all?
Years can be wasted, confidence lost, potential earnings lowered – the negative impact on our well being of working in the wrong job can be astounding. We have seen examples of these symptoms time and time again in the Graduates we coach.
The more work experience that a student/graduate has, the better they understand their preferences and values and thus; what their ideal career is.
They can, therefore, be clear with employers about their wants and desires for their career. The employer can have confidence that the graduate will put 100% into the role and are likely to commit to the job and stay for a number of years.
This is a huge area that most people overlook.
For these reasons, work experience is vital for your son and daughter.
2) How else can you help?
Encourage your son or daughter to find work experience that is related to their areas of interest and passions.
Consider your network, who could help them in these areas?
Encourage your son or daughter to activate and build their own network, former teachers, lecturers, re-contacting old acquaintances.
Contacting companies with a carefully prepared cover letter which highlights the skills they will bring to the company.
3) Hire a graduate coach
As your son or daughter grew up, they will have undertaken extracurricular activities such as learning a musical instrument or playing a sport. To help them learn the violin, you’d get them a music teacher, to excel as a tennis player, you would hire a tennis coach. More recently, to learn to drive, your son or daughter will have utilised a driving instructor.
Graduate coaching is no different.
To land their dream graduate job, it makes sense to get them a graduate coach to help write excellent CVs, perform well in interviews, navigate their early career and more.
We are the UK’s leading Graduate Coaching company. Please schedule a call with our Head Coach and founder, Chris Davies at a convenient time for you.
Graduate Coach: What We Do
We help Graduates who struggle to secure a graduate-level job. We have seen countless examples of Graduates who have failed a couple of job applications and as a result, are now working in bars and coffee shops. This is a tragic waste of talent and ability.
Our mission is to help Graduates find the jobs that their education deserves.
We help Graduates to understand their unique strengths, skills and values and to select graduate job types that suit them best.
We also help guide students who are currently at university to build a career plan to increase their chances of securing a Graduate level job after graduation.
We offer a wide range of services to suit every budget from ebooks to 1-2-1 career coaching sessions. We invite you to check out our website for more information.
Our mission is to help as many students and graduates as possible. No matter what your son or daughter’s situation is, we are here to help.
Check out, and share our blog with your son or daughter. We share careers advice specifically tailored to students and graduates.
Encourage your son or daughter to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more tips on interviews and other career advice.
Our founder and Head Graduate Coach Chris has published 2 books. The Student Book is designed to tell your son or daughter everything they need to know to get a job. The Graduate Book helps Graduates to thrive in their career.
So how can you boost your chances of landing an internship?
➡️Editor’s comments: Gemma Melhuish, The Director of Human Resources at Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity has collaborated with Graduate Coach, the UK’s No.1 Graduate Coaching Company, to share top tips including; -how to get an internship -how to maximise your chances of converting your internship into a graduate position.
Without further ado, let’s get started. 🤗
So Why Choose Rainbow Trust? 🌈
Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity supports over 2,500 families with a seriously ill child. With eight care teams across England and a Head Office in Surrey, the charity is proud of its varied and successful internship programme. It offers unpaid work placement opportunities to students and recent graduates, which offer an introduction to a particular field of work, supports learning and enhances employability.
Opportunities at Rainbow Trust
Interns are as important to Rainbow Trust as a member of staff or regular volunteers. We provide work placements in all areas of work both front line in our care teams, working with our Family Support Workers, who support families with a seriously ill child and in our Head Office in all support functions. These range from opportunities in: -PR -HR -Fundraising -Engagement -Finance
The internships typically last three months with interns working at least three days a week.
We are open to supporting interns in all aspects of what we do. 😃
Converting your internship at Rainbow Trust into a graduate role
If you’re looking to get into a graduate programme at Rainbow Trust my advice would be to: -Work hard -Be open to try new things 💯 -Don’t be afraid- Everyone at Rainbow Trust is always willing to help where they can. -When applying, show passion in your area of expertise and Rainbow Trust as an organisation.
➡️Key Employer Insight: You will have a varied skill set from University or College, identify how these are transferable to the role you are applying for and what you can offer and how you stand out.We will be looking for professionals who show versatility and capacity for growth. Rainbow Trust will work with you and will support you to be the best you can be.
➡️Graduate Coach’s comments: For even more tips and advice on how to thrive in the workplace, check out The Graduate Book, written by head Graduate Coach, Chris Davies. 😎
Benefits of interning with Rainbow Trust
It can sometimes be difficult to see the immediate benefit of working in an unpaid role. However, the long-term gain can be the difference between gaining paid employment in your “perfect” role, pipping your competitor to the post! 💪
Your internship will give you a competitive advantage in terms of; gaining experience, developing skills, making connections, strengthening your CV’s and learning about a particular field or the Charity sector more widely.
One of our previous interns Max joined Rainbow Trust as part of the digital team after his second year of university. His experience with us clearly outlines some of the tangible benefits you can get interning at Rainbow Trust.
“Working an unpaid internship as a twenty year old was always going to be a challenge, and sometimes it was tough. However, when you hear the feedback from families saying “your work is invaluable” and “we wouldn’t have been able to cope without you” it feels very worthwhile and gives you an immense sense of pride to know that you are making the lives of families with a seriously ill child, easier. I know that Rainbow Trust will continue to grow and help more families across the country who need their support, as their work is truly remarkable. The experience I have gained from working at Rainbow Trust has given me invaluable experience, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I can now go into interviews knowing that I have the transferable skills employers are looking for.”
Sophia was an intern working with our PR Team:
“As my internship was in the PR department, I wanted to develop my writing skills and begin a portfolio of work that I could showcase to potential employers. This worked a treat! My supportive team helped and encouraged me the whole way and I was delighted when I received coverage from lots of different publications.”
How do you apply?
If you’re interested in developing your skills with us at Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity and interning at a fantastic Charity, please see our current internships here.
➡️Editor’s comments: That’s all folks! Thanks for reading this blog post. Do let us know if you decide to apply for an internship at Rainbow Trust, and we’ll be more than happy to review your CV!
The UK graduate market is competitive, standing out as an attractive graduate to employers has never been so important.
As a graduate, you’ll have;
A degree 🎓
A decent bunch of A-Levels, or similar 📝
and (hopefully) some work experience. 👔
So how can you stand out from the crowd? 🤔
➡️Editor’s comments: AmandaAkien, Senior Marketing Manager at Randstad, (the largest recruitment agency in the world) has collaborated with Graduate Coach, the UK’s No.1 Graduate Coaching Company, to outline to students and recent graduates five key areas that can help to make your graduate job applications a success!
So let’s get started! 😀
#1: Express your passion for the industry, company and role
Put as much attention to detail into your applications as you do your Instagram account! 💯
It doesn’t matter if your CV is printed on the finest Conqueror paper or if the job you are applying for was your childhood dream; if you’re not able to explain your passion for the job and the organisation, you don’t stand a chance.
➡️Employer Insight:Graduate recruiters are experts in identifying motivation and are looking for candidates with real desire to get the job and work for the organisation.
➡️Graduate Coach’s comments: To be able to confidently articulate why you are the perfect fit for the job, first you need to ensure that the job is aligned with your skills, interests and ambitions.
Here at Graduate Coach, we conduct a ‘skills audit’ to help students and recent graduates identify what type of role is best suited to them.
Caption:Chris Davies, the founder of Graduate Coach conducting a 1-2-1 coaching session with a recent graduate. Find out more about Chris here
Based on the results of the skills audit, we then determine if you are:
A knowledge Architect.
Based upon the results we then advise candidates on the types of role that is best suited to them.
Then we provide comprehensive interview coaching so that the candidate stands the best chance of nailing the interview!
#2: Conduct adequate research
Whether you spent a week or a year researching for your dissertation, graduate employers expect candidates to be good at research. 🤓 They’ll also expect you to spend a significant amount of time researching the organisation (not just reading the website) and the roles available.
You need to look at:
The key issues the industry is facing and what that might mean for the organisation.
Who the competitors are and how do they beat the competition!
If you don’t know what’s happening in the industry, you’re at a disadvantage. ➡️Action Point: Read relevant articles/blogs from key industry experts on LinkedIn. The more you build your knowledge on these issues, the more chance you have of a successful application.
➡️Graduate Coach’s Comments: According to CV library, candidates spend 36 minutes on average preparing for an interview. This is simply not enough time. We find taking a strategic approach to interview prep is most effective. Take a look at our interview preparation documents
#3: Take your time with each grad scheme application
Graduate applications can be tiresome especially with a busy social life and plenty of assignment deadlines.😴 However, do not rush your applications.
Treat each one like a final year assessment. Pay attention to spelling and grammar as well as writing the best answers and personal statements you can.
➡️Employer Insight: Put the time in and you might only need to submit a couple of applications as opposed to dozens.
➡️Graduate Coach’s Comments: Once you have completed a skills audit and have identified which roles suit you, you’ll find it easier to compile a shortlist of companies you wish to apply for.
Then you’ll need to create an achievement based CV. One that demonstrates to the employer that you would thrive in the position. Here you’ll find a comprehensive guide to creating a strong graduate CV.
#4 Know what the graduate recruiters are looking for
Obtaining that all important graduate role (you know, the one that will be the envy of classmates and will put a smile on your parent’s faces for the next three months 😜), is not just about your qualifications or whether you get a 1st, a 2:1 or a 2:2.
It is about the other skills and characteristics you have developed throughout your studies, work experience, voluntary work, or hobbies and how you’ll apply those attributes to thrive in your graduate role. 😀
The application procedures of major graduate employers will cover:
Personality profile or aptitude tests
➡️Employer Insight: Be prepared with detailed examples of competencies such as ‘teamwork’ or ‘problem-solving’ on an application form or during an interview.
➡️Graduate Coach’s Comments: Students and graduates that work with us tend to be worried about the types of interview questions they’ll be asked and fear not being able to answer them on the spot. Therefore, we put together an essential guide to interview questions! It gives model answers to 40+ graduate interview questions. Email us to request a free copy of the guide!
#5 Brush up your commercial awareness skills
Whichever sector your graduate job falls under, graduate employers like graduates who are commercially aware.
This is an insight into how organisations operate, what is happening in the business world and the impact this could have on their business and industry.
➡️Employer Insight: leverage your linguistic skills! A second language can be useful for global organisations especially if you would like to work internationally in the future. 🌍
➡️Graduate Coach’s comments: When preparing answers to the interview questions you are most likely to be asked, demonstrate your level of commercial awareness by referencing facts and figures about the company or industry.
➡️Editor’s comments: That’s all folks! Thanks for reading this blog post. We really hope you’ll be able to apply these insights to your graduate applications!
Before you go…. 🤗 Randstad has a number of graduate-level vacancies on their website so check those out if you are looking for your dream graduate job.
They also recruit on behalf of a number of graduate employers including Ford and Ford Credit:
Ford: Current graduate roles available include: marketing, sales and IT coming soon.
Ford Credit: has current roles in business, finance and IT.
If you are a career-driven student or recent graduate who wants to land the graduate job of your dreams, check out Chris Davies’ (the founder of Graduate Coach) eBooks on Amazon.
And last but not least…
Share this post with all your friends on Twitter (because sharing is caring!😍)
No-one aims to win at sports, master a musical instrument or learn to drive a car without first getting some kind of coaching or mentoring, do they?
Then why do so many graduates not think the same when it comes to building their equally important graduate careers?
A career or graduate coach may seem alien to some but in actual fact you will have enjoyed exactly this kind of help from the moment you started school (if not sooner). You will have called these people teachers and tutors, but these are the people who coached you to get you where you are today.
Now that they have done their part, what about the rest of the way? Surely you need the same type of support to help you get ahead in your career – at least if you expect to land a graduate level job.
Career coaching helps you to prepare for what’s ahead
Coaching is about getting somewhere or achieving something. Someone who has been there, or somewhere similar, is in a very good position to show you how. They can point out the fast lanes to take and pitfalls to avoid. A graduate coach or mentor can help you set smart career goals and keep you accountable to them. They will help you do the work required to move your career forward.
Coaching, whether it’s for sports, business, singing, health or fitness, is especially important wherever achieving your goal means facing competition or resistance (whether external or internal). When that resistance comes, as it will do when going for a graduate level job, your graduate coach will be there to keep you motivated, focused and on track. A coach or mentor can act as a cheerleader to cheer you along the way.
Career coaching – a common misconception
According to Richard Branson one of the main reasons why people don’t seek out a coach or mentor is because they think it is a sign of weakness. This is a common misconception. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength not weakness. It shows wisdom and good self-awareness. You understand that no successful person, no matter who they are, gets to the top of their game on their own. The person who thinks they can is in for an unnecessarily long and bumpy ride.
Graduate coaching brings out your strengths
A graduate coach will help you to bring out your strengths. For a start, a coach can give you useful feedback and critique. They can help a graduate realise skills they never knew they had. Take Mark, a graduate we coached recently. He wanted a career as an accountant and, after many failed interviews, came to us for help. Through working with us he realised that he much preferred digital marketing as the career suited him better. Pretty soon Mark landed his first interview, got the job and has since been promoted. Mark is in fact typical of the many graduates who come to us with one career idea in mind and end up with something that suits them far better. Coaching can open your eyes to a better job for you.
Not only can a coach open your eyes to latent skills, they can also help you understand what areas to work on. You cannot develop your skills all at once. There will be skills that need to be developed first before you can work on others. It’s all about learning the right things at the right time so you’re always growing.
What should you look for in a graduate coach?
In my book, The Graduate Book, finding a coach or mentor is the twelve key to success for anyone who wants to do well in their career. In that book I share some advice on what to look for in a coach, and where to find one.
If you want to find a graduate coach look out for the following:
Someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. A person that’s too nice or too soft will not help you grow.
Someone you respect, admire and hold in high esteem. This is likely to be someone accomplished in their field, who you can look up to.
Someone who inspires you. This person should make you feel encouraged and energised. After a session you should feel ready and inspired to act on your goals.
Someone who has gone before you. This will likely be someone who is older than you, at least in your early career. We tend to refer to a coach as someone who has already achieved some mastery in the same thing you want to do, and a mentor as anyone who has the life skills to guide you in your own life.
Someone who can communicate clearly. You need a coach or mentor who can explain what they mean in simple language you can understand, who isn’t long winded but gets to the point to tell you want you need to know and do.
Someone who believes in you. This person should be able to see your gifts and talents, even if you can’t, so they can point them out to you. They should be someone who roots for you and is committed to seeing you through to the end goal. Another person’s belief, expectation and confidence in you will create a miraculous field of energy that will help you to also believe and have confidence in yourself.
How to find a graduate coach
To find a coach you must first know what you want to achieve. There must be a goal and objective before you can ask anyone to help you – otherwise how will they know how to help?
Next, look around you for people who inspire you. Who do you admire and look up to? These can be teachers or lecturers; bosses at places where you’ve done paid or unpaid work; neighbours or family friends; or speakers you’ve met at career fairs, societies, clubs, networking events and other events you’ve attended.
Don’t overlook people you’ve met online – but do be wise. For example, choose someone you have taken the time to get to know. Observe them for a while. Follow and listen to what they have to say. Research them thoroughly. What do they stand for? Are they consistent? Do they have good morals, such as integrity, honesty, reliability and respect for others? These may be old-fashioned but they still work!
Finally, get in touch with them and ask for the help you need!
If you’ve been inspired by the whole idea of finding a graduate coach why not speak to us? We offer a range of support to help you become the best version of yourself you can be, including courses, workshops, one-to-one coaching and, of course, two very great books to help you find and get ahead in your graduate career.
Most people wait until they have a job interview lined up before they begin to seriously prepare for the job, but the really successful make sure they are always prepared. These are the people who, rather than wait for some gatekeeper to open up a career opportunity for them, open up the career opportunity for themselves by ensuring they prepare themselves well ahead for the career they want. In fact, this is what makes the rest call them ‘lucky’. It’s not luck at all but the art of being prepared.
Four years before giving her inspiring talk at a local TEDx event in London British born Zain Asher, an anchor at CNN, was working as a receptionist for a production company in California.
Her dream was to get promoted and become a broadcast journalist; instead she found herself serving water, teas and coffees to external candidates interviewing for the job she wished was hers. No matter how hard Zain worked, how late she stayed, how many weekends she sacrificed, she could never move up: “No,” her bosses would say, “you don’t have the right experience.”
In fact, not only didn’t Zain have the experience to become a broadcast journalist, she also had the wrong accent: Oxford English inflections like hers did not work well on local US television news.
So, how did this young woman, who was told no multiple times and made to eat humble pie serving tea to those who turned up for the job she so desperately wanted, change things for herself?
She became a master preparer. And in preparing herself ahead Zain got the career she wanted.
How Zain become a master preparer
Zain took annual leave from her production job and hired her flat mate to film her reporting on stories in her local area. She made a showreel. She practised for the role. She then sent her reel to a television channel and waited. And waited. No answer – after all, broadcast journalism is one of those roles where competition is high. It attracts thousands of people with bags more experience than someone like Zain.
Yet she was not deterred. Zain moved to New York to be closer the TV station and continued to email and to call them. Eventually she was called in for an interview and, well, they loved what she did so much they hired her on the spot.
Learning the art of preparation
Zain says that she learnt the art of preparation from her brother, the multi-award-winning actor Chiwetel Ejiofor CBE (Othello, 2008, 12 Years a Slave, 2013, Sherlock Gnomes, 2018).
As a child Chiwetel would often lock himself in his room for hours on end, studying Shakespeare and preparing for roles that – most importantly – he had not even been casted for. Indeed, often he didn’t even have an audition. Yet, no matter how many times he had to go over his lines, he committed himself to the task of being prepared – just in case something came up. Then, when it did, he was ready.
As a graduate trying to win yourself a graduate level job in what is arguably the most competitive graduate recruitment environment ever, you must do the same. It may sound like lots of work but hey, that’s the price you have to pay if you want to become the best you can and win the role you dream of.
The employer’s perspective
You need to look at things from the employer’s perspective. A graduate recruiter wants to employ the best person for the job in the shortest time possible. Every step of the recruitment process, from the moment you send in your application for the job to the moment you enter the job interview room, that employer is looking for ways to eliminate you from their shortlist. It makes their job easier. So, one slip up and it’s easily over.
But imagine you’re auditioning for a role. You learn all your lines, practising everything down to the body language and even tone of voice. By the time you walk into room you are the character in that movie. It’s the same with job interviews. You become the person doing the job. When the employer ‘auditions’ you he/she doesn’t have to work hard to imagine you doing the job. You’ve made the task easier for them. It will be as though you are that person doing that job already.
This is the advantage of being prepared. You’re less likely to stumble over interview answers. You will know the job inside out. You will have insights that help you come up with great questions to ask. You will know the industry, company and its competitors inside out. Most importantly, you will be a natural, confident and ready for the opportunity.
How to become a master preparer and increase your job ‘luck’
Here are a few tips to take away:
Find out what you need to do to get the job you want – what skills, experience and aptitudes does a person need?
Study the experts in the field – what makes them great, successful and different?
Practise relentlessly – taking on part time and voluntary positions, doing work experience and internships, freelancing and even practising mock interviews with a supportive friend, are all ways to get ready for the real thing.
Don’t give up even when you’ve heard nothing back – realise that getting recruited, especially in competitive fields, can take time.
Do not take no for an answer – how much do you want that career or job? Badly? Well, don’t let others decide for you!
Find a specialism – Zain got her business news anchor job at CNN by spending weekends in the library studying business. One weekend she’d focus on stocks, the next bonds, the next derivatives and so forth. Eventually she met an executive who ran the business unit at CNN – and guess what? Yes, he was looking for a news reporter! He gave Zain just two weeks to prepare for a screen-test, but she knew she’d been preparing for months.
There you go, Would-be Successful Graduate. Become a master preparer and increase the chances of what most graduates call ‘good luck’ happening in your life. Don’t wait for the career opportunity or job to come your way before you start to prepare.
“What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.”
Benjamin Franklin Fairless
I came across the above quote while researching information on the topic of opportunity and it struck a chord with me as it perfectly aligns with what I believe. I am convinced that many of the opportunities for success that come our way are totally down to us. We attract or repel opportunity like a magnet depending on the way we see and respond to events.
If you carefully study the four essential ingredients for successful achievement listed above you will notice that each requires the kind of mind that looks for and creates opportunity. Choosing a career, giving it your best and becoming a member of the team are all dependent on having a positive mindset toward opportunity.
Let’s look at each one.
Choose a career you love
Why would anyone not want to get paid doing the type of work they love? Yet not everyone who wants to, does. Pursuing a career you love takes time and effort, especially if it’s in a competitive field. An opportunistic mindset can help, for example, if you’re just starting out in your career and lack the experience you need to get the job you want. How about taking a job where you can build transferable skills? Or seeking out work experience, voluntary work or even freelance work? Find ways to be ready at the door when the job opportunity eventually knocks.
Give it your best
If you want to get ahead you need to be the type of person that sees even setbacks, delays and failures as an opportunity to give your best. Where those around you see problems you must look for possibilities and then be prepared to put in the hard work to get the result you want. Don’t do just enough to get by as this may shut the door to career progression. Always focus on what you CAN do and have to offer. Then give things your best, even if the situation looks dire.
A neglected opportunity is lost forever, and past omissions can never be supplied by future diligence. Therefore, work while it is called day.
Use your time wisely and don’t despise the day of small things. Many people overlook the chance to take ordinary events and turn them into something great. For example, you may be surprised at what can happen if you choose to go the extra mile for a customer, surprise a colleague with information they needed, or share ideas at a meeting that you’d usually had kept to yourself. You may become just the person to take on new tasks and responsibilities.
Be a member of the team
Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’
Team-players make projects happen and therefore this is an essential skill for anyone who aspires to be successful. Colleagues, clients, service users, customers, managers and suppliers will all draw on your team-play skills. Team-playing skills will also help you to fit into a workplace culture even if you are largely working alone. Whichever way you look at it, becoming a good team-player requires a mindset that looks for and responds to opportunities to work well with others so you can achieve that shared goal.
To become a team-player you must be the sort of person who seeks the opportunity to help others. If you do that you will inadvertently be creating opportunities for others to do the same for you.
So, what type of person gets ahead? The type of person who seeks and creates opportunity rather than expect others to create it for them. These are the type of employees employers look for. You might describe them as entrepreneurial, risk-takers, team-players, resilient folk. By seeking out opportunity they minimise the chances of career failure.
Skills and certificates are never enough to maximise your potential and be successful in your career. You also need to know how to behave in a business environment.
Your attitude is just as significant as your skills and abilities. This is why business etiquette is now a crucial part of building a successful career. For fresh graduates, this may sound awkward. Most believe their skills and qualifications are all they need to be absolutely successful at work and that character plays only a small part.
Regardless of how good you are at what you do, you could miss out on a lot of opportunities and promotions if you ignore office etiquette. Interestingly, most office and business etiquettes are simply ethics of civilised social conduct.
So, whether you’re visiting a business environment for a job interview, or you’ve just landed a job, here are practical tips on how to behave in a business environment:
Don’t use slang while communicating
Whether you’re speaking or writing in a business environment, avoid slang in all your communication. Some slang that you find amusing could be offensive to others, while some or even all of your colleagues may not know the meaning of your slang.
Don’t treat customers or clients like old friends
While you should be friendly and approachable to customers and clients you should not become over familiar with them so that you drop your professional guard. Be careful what you say and how you treat your colleagues in front of them. Remember, the reason why the customer (and client) is always right is because they pay your wages.
Don’t interrupt others
Don’t interrupt while someone else is speaking or making a presentation. If you have any comment, observations, or even questions to ask, wait for the appropriate time to do so. Interrupting others can make you seem like a rude person, even if you’re not.
Don’t try to make others look bad
If you notice debris littering the floor of your work environment, don’t ignore it and then go ahead to tell your boss that the office needs cleaning! Rather, pick up the debris yourself. Do positive things for the sake of having a better work environment. Don’t do or say things that will make others look bad and make you look good.
Don’t try to teach people how to do their job
Except it’s your responsibility to do so, don’t try to teach people how to do their job. And if you have to for whatever reason, be as careful as possible. You may think you’re trying to help a colleague, but may end up offending whoever you’re trying to help.
Never speak badly of other employees
Regardless of what you think or assume, people gossip in almost every business environments. This is why employers appreciate employees who speak well of other good workers. If you have nothing good to say about a particular employee, you should keep your opinion or observations to yourself. What you said about a colleague should never be the reason why there’s conflict in your workplace.
Share the credit for an outstanding performance
In a business environment, no one likes a colleague who takes all the credit. Regardless of the amount of time and effort you’ve invested to achieve what you did, acknowledge the contribution of your colleagues that were involved. This is one easy way to boost your reputation.
Do not get involved in religious or political conversations
One of the easiest ways to get into heated arguments in a business environment is to be involved in political and religious conversations. You should consider keeping your religious and political views to yourself at least while you’re in a business environment, unless someone asks you directly. Sometimes, voicing your opinion on current events may also cause heated arguments.
As awkward as it seems, more often, an employee with the right business etiquette is better appreciated that a skilled one without the right attitude. So give yourself an edge, complement your skills and abilities with the right workplace attitude. In whatever you do, learn to respect others, it works like magic.