If you are graduating this summer and worried about finding a job, don’t. Here are some of the best things you can do to prepare yourself.
All those lectures over. No more course assignments. Hanging out with your buddies in the student bar is a thing of the past. Now you’ve got to find a job.
Graduating can feel scary.
You may feel alone and worried about how to find that first graduate job.
Well, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take a deep breath and stop panicking over…
…what job you should do…
If you already know what type of job you want to do that’s a good start but if not, you shouldn’t be too concerned about that either. During the first few years after graduating most people don’t know what they want to do or, if they do, end up changing their minds about their career choices. Use this time to learn more about yourself and to explore your skills in a work environment. One of the most important distinctions between university life and working life is to understand that the latter is much more self-determined. There are no programme leaders to set agendas for you or to lead you by the hand. You must decide what you will learn and how far it will take you.
…not having the right skills…
Don’t worry over whether or not you have the skills to do that job right now. What’s more important is to know how and where you are going to acquire those skills. The journey to building the skills you need is just as important as getting them as it gets you in the right frame of mind to make the most of this important stage of your life and career. What I mean by this is that if you know you are on the journey to building your skills then you’ll recognise opportunities as they come up and know what to do with them when you see them. And, besides, you’ll enjoy the journey much better.
…how and where to build the sort of skills you need…
Find an internship position where you can begin to develop, grow and build up your work experience. Look for an internship position in a field or industry that holds some interest for you. Internships opportunities are much better than they used to be in the past and will at least pay you something around an entry level wage. Once you land your internship seek to learn all you can about:
- The company and how it ticks – what makes it stand out? Do you understand its branding, how it makes its money, what makes it different to its competitors?
- The different departments in the company – how do these department work and fit interdependently with each other? Where does your own department fit?
- Build networks – who is who and who does what? How does your own role help other people do their jobs well, and is there anything you can do (without stepping too far out of line) to improve that?
…about money or about not finding the type of internship you really want…
Counter this by finding a job. If you can’t find an internship in the area of your interest find any other job, full or part time, as long as you are working. I’m inclined to say find any job that helps you to build as many of the following skills as possible (and, by the way, these are skills you should also be looking to build during any internship):
- Communication skills (written or verbal but preferably both) – writing articles or reports, doing presentations and speaking to members of the public, colleagues, suppliers… anyone in a professional context.
- Business awareness – this also covers customer service skills and knowing how to be professional when working with clients, suppliers and colleagues. It also includes understanding and fitting in with the company’s culture.
- Resilience – staying on task no matter how hard things become and being determined to learn whatever skills you need to master in order to do your job well. You must be sensible however not to do anything that jeopardises your long-term health and wellbeing.
- Numeracy skills – yes, seeking out and using numbers, charts, statistics and other data for practical purposes, but also seeking opportunities develop your analytical, critical and creative thinking and skills. This includes good research skills.
- IT skills – you must know how to use software packages to help you do your job better. You’ll also need awareness of online tools (social media, online marketing skills and basic coding or website building skills).
- Entrepreneurship skills – an entrepreneur is resourceful, comes up with good workable ideas and knows how to motivate others to get on board to make those ideas work. Be a good leader.
- Problem solving skills – never throw your hands up in the air when facing a problem at work but look for ways to solve them. This may include getting help from other people, but you should always present your need for help with at least some ideas of your own on how to solve the problem you’re facing.
- Self-management – using your own initiative and managing your own time and work load are important skills if you want to get ahead in your graduate career. You must be a good organiser and planner.
- Teamwork – whatever job you do it is likely that it will involve working with other people so get your teamwork skills up to scratch. Teamwork is about doing whatever is required to get the team objective done. It’s not just about you.
…about what to do while waiting for any of the above to happen…
There are a few other things you can do to build your skills while you are looking for the right internship or job. You can:
- Volunteer – another great way to develop the skills you need for your graduate career is to volunteer. Volunteering can open doors to valuable opportunities to develop the experience you need, and you can offer as many or as few hours as you have free. Again, seek to grow in the direction of the areas listed above.
- Start a blog or online project / business – with WordPress it is easy to set up your own blog or website selling products online. This will give you the opportunity to develop many of the skills listed above and, who knows, you may even end up making lots of money or becoming famous! Ok, maybe not. But at least it will give you the opportunity to develop important skills in marketing, communication, customer service, problem solving, resilience and other important aptitudes you can list on your CV.
Remember, nothing happens by accident. You have to strategically create the opportunities you want to see in your life. Don’t spend the summer sitting on your laurels and bemoaning the fact that you can’t find the job you want. Keep yourself busy building valuable experience and confidence and the doors will open for you.