How to get a graduate job with no experience

So, you’ve bagged yourself a degree, and now you want to land yourself a graduate job. The only thing is, you have no experience. Don’t worry, because in this post, we will tell you how to get a graduate job with no experience.

1: Reflect on your time at university 

You may actually have a lot more experience than you think!

Perhaps you feel as though you do not have any relevant work experience to the types of graduate job that you’d like to apply for.

However, you will have gained some transferable skills from taking part in other activities that will be valuable to employers.

Here are some activities you may have taken part in during your time at university:

  • Work shadowing

some universities have work shadowing schemes that allow students to shadow members of staff in different departments or arrange for students to take part in work shadowing experiences with local businesses. Maybe you arranged to shadow a professional in a work environment.

  • Volunteering

have you taken part in any volunteering activities at, or outside of university? Volunteering can help you to develop a wide variety of skills.

Furthermore, as you start your job search you may realise that a lot of the companies that you are interested in may encourage employees to volunteer for a few days every year. If a company has a culture that promotes giving back to the local community, your volunteering experience may be impressive to potential employers.

  • Leadership roles within university societies

Have you held any leadership positions within a society at your university?

It can be extremely difficult to balance running a society with your academics. Doing so requires time management and organisational skills which are relevant skills to all graduate roles.

Even if you wasn’t the president or vice president of a society, any role you took that helped to run the society will be relevant.

  • Sports

There are lots of opportunities to take part in sports at university.

Most sports require developing teamwork skills which will be relevant for all graduate jobs or graduate schemes that you apply for.

  • Maintaining a part-time job

Did you have a part-time job whilst you were studying? if so, you will have gained relevant experiences that will prove to be valuable for your graduate position.

  • Course-related experiences

University courses are designed to help students to develop skills that will be useful for the workplace.

Your course probably required you to take part in group assignments, presentations, essays and reports and more.

If you took part in an activity as part of your course that helped you to develop some specific skills, that can also count as experience.

Key takeaway

Don’t dismiss any previous experience that you have gained just because you may feel that it is not relevant.

Recruiters will understand that for their graduate and entry-level positions, candidates may not have a lot of experience that is directly related to the role. However, they will be interested in what skills you have gained and developed from the experiences you do have.

Remember, your unique combination of experiences is what makes you stand out from the crowd!

Conduct a Skills Audit

Now that you have reflected on your time at university, it’s time to conduct a skills audit.

Write down all of the skills that you have gained from the activities you took part in during university.

No matter what types of graduate jobs you apply for, all graduate recruiters will look for the following 6 skills:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Organisation and planning
  • Problem-solving
  • Professionalism
  • Using your own initiative

For each of the skills listed above, draw upon the experiences gained at university to demonstrate that you have those skills.

This exercise will be helpful when it comes to filling out job applications and preparing for interviews.

After conducting an audit of your skills, identify what your career typology is.

All graduate jobs can be categorised into three groups:

  • Communicators
  • Knowledge architects
  • Specialists

Check out our post on CV-Library called How to discover your career path for more information on career typologies and identifying which of the three career typologies you belong to.

Once you have identified your career typology, you’ll be able to easily create a shortlist of jobs with job descriptions suited to your skills and interests.

Key takeaway

Employers will be looking for evidence that graduates are able to solve problems, communicate, work as a team organise themselves, act professional and use their own initiative. Even if you do not have any formal work experience, you should be able to demonstrate that you have those 6 key skills.

Improve your CV

Once you have a better understanding of your experiences, skills and career typology, you can start working on your CV.

By this point, it won’t be a case of writing a CV with no experience.

All of the activities that you listed in step one can all be added to your CV.

The key is to write an achievement-based CV.

We have put together a wide range of resources on how to write an achievement-based CV

There’s a whole section on it in The Student Book which contains everything you need to know to get the job you really want.

We also collaborated with Chris Pennington from Your CV Consultant which outlines 4 tips on writing a winning graduate CV.

Applications and interviews

Now that you have your CV ready and you have narrowed down a list of suitable careers, you can start sending your applications.

Whilst sending out your applications keep a spreadsheet containing a list of the companies you have applied to and any feedback that you get.

The application process for graduate jobs usually involves:

  • submitting an online form
  • completing online tests i.e psychometric tests
  • a telephone or video interview
  • an assessment centre with group tasks and a face to face interview

Graduate job interviews might seem daunting if you feel as though you haven’t got any work experience that is directly relevant to the role. However, as we discovered in step 1, you will have gained experiences during your time at university that employers will be very interested in.

Being able to perform highly in interviews is a lifelong skill.

Here at Graduate Coach, we have been helping students and graduates to prepare for interviews for over a decade now. We offer one to one interview coaching and we have an online interview course called Nail that interview.

Build and maintain your network

When it comes to knowing how to get a graduate job with “no experience” networking will come in very handy.

First of all, ensure that your social media profiles are fully optimised, especially your LinkedIn profile.

Keep an eye out for networking events hosted by the companies you are interested in. Also, find out if there are any upcoming graduate career fairs.

Attending career fairs will give you the opportunity to meet graduate recruiters in person.

Be sure to dress to impress and be able to confidently articulate who you are and what you are looking for.

How to get a graduate job with no experience

Get help

If you have read this post and are still unsure of how to get a graduate job with no experience, get in touch with us!

We are here to help!

We offer a wide range of services designed to help students, graduates and career changers to turn their degrees into careers.

So far our coaching and careers advice has helped over 500 people! Check out our successes!

How to get a graduate job with no experience: Summary

We hope you have found this post on how to get a graduate job with no experience valuable!

The chances are, even though you may feel as though you do not have any work experience, you probably have! Remember, at this stage in your career, it’s not necessarily about having a ton of highly relevant experience.

Graduate recruiters will be looking for the skills that you have gained from the experiences you do have. Even if these experiences have been gained from extracurricular activities.

Graduating this summer and worried about finding a job? Read this.

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.
employability skills include business awareness, communication, entrepreneurship, IT skills, numeracy, problem solving, resilience, self-management, teamwork

…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.

Press

A degree is no longer enough – Aspect County

Young people graduate into a different world from that of twenty or thirty years ago when their parents went to university. The student population has doubled since 1992 and last year UCAS reported that a record number, almost half, were accepted into university. The problem is what happens when they leave. With 78% of students now achieving a 1st or 2:1, competition for graduate level employment is rife. Which is why, according to official data by the Office of National Statistics, almost half (47%) of graduates were in non-graduate jobs two years later.
Read Article

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Why your non-academic experience is your most valuable asset

Got a degree? Great. But it’s your non-academic experience potential employers are after.

Penguin’s decision to scrap the requirement for a degree reminds us just how high non-academic experience ranks when looking for that first graduate job.

In scrapping this requirement, the publishing house joins PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst and Young, and Deloitte, who have each changed their recruitment policies over the past year so that those who apply no longer need a certain A-level grade or grade of degree.

Deloitte and Ernst and Young have even stopped recording certain information on their job application forms so that recruiters have no idea where candidates went to school or university.

This is quite a statement given that these companies are among the biggest single recruiters of graduates each year.

But why this trend in graduate recruitment? Because employers are beginning to realise that academic achievement, noble as it may be, measures only one type of intelligence.

A degree doesn’t demonstrate business awareness

A degree was once considered the gold standard in measurement for skill and talent but employers now realise that all it measures is the ability to think.

Of course, if you want to become a physicist or to follow a teaching or medical career then a degree is still a fine thing to do.

Other than that it doesn’t form the mainstay of the set of skills required to get a job. It cannot tell an employer very much about a person’s resilience, interpersonal skills or teamwork abilities. And it certainly cannot demonstrate practical business awareness.

The skills developed through academic life are so very different from those needed in work life.

As Penguin acknowledges, if it wants to survive into the future then it must make publishing more inclusive, it must make room for people from different backgrounds who can appeal to readers everywhere.

That means people with demonstrable cultural awareness, creativity and entrepreneurial skills.

What does this mean for you if you’re at university and/or about to graduate?

It means you need to evidence lots of skills other than academic achievement. This is what graduates ought to have been doing all along – and certainly must do now. You must work on your non-academic achievements.

The starting line has shifted. Graduate starting salaries have become very competitive rising to as high as £41k for some positions.

Last year there were a record number of paid internships on offer, over 13,000. For many graduates, the recruitment ladder is difficult to step on.

In fact, the most recent Highfliers research reported a repeated warning from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during a recruiter’s selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer from a graduate programme.

Many employers now offer work experience to graduates in their first year at university.

How to strengthen your non-academic experience

adults volunteering to gain non-academic experience

If you want to strengthen your non-academic experience, you need to start doing work experience from day one.

Employers want to know about the skills and attributes gained from non-academic pursuits.

Here are some examples of non-academic achievements:

  • Internships
  • Travelling
  • Volunteer work
  • Extra-curricular activities – such as being the president or part of the committee of a society on campus
  • hobbies and interests – such as playing a musical instrument or playing being a part of a sports team
  • Starting your own business

I once heard a recruiter explaining how she screens candidates. She doesn’t look at where they went to school or university but where they went on holiday.

It is important that you include your extracurricular activities in your job applications.

Now, what this all means is that your graduate CV must look very different. It must reflect your out-of-uni, non-academic achievements first, those that show what you’ve been doing aside from studying.

You must now begin to place equal, if not greater emphasis on building a rounded set of skills and abilities as early as possible. It’s about exposing yourself to those opportunities that will truly develop and enhance what you have to offer.

Furthermore, you need to be prepared to talk about your examples of non-academic achievements and be able to elaborate on the transferable skills you have gained from them in job interviews as you may be asked to: “tell me about your extracurricular activities and interests”.

Here at Graduate Coach, we have reviewed hundreds of CVs from students and recent graduates.

A lot of people who have come to us for help often believe that they do not have any examples of non-academic experience or achievements.

However, once we provide some 1-2-1 coaching we usually discover how they can draw out transferable skills from their extra-curricular activities and non-academic achievements that are related to the jobs they are applying for.

If you need some help with the following, contact us on: +44 (0)207 014 9547 or via email on: gethelp@graduatecoach.co.uk

  • writing an achievements-based CV
  • Applying for graduate jobs
  • Training for interviews

Related Resources

  1. Read this blog post on how to use your work experience to help you to get the job you really want.
  2. Watch this video on how to differentiate yourself from other candidates to hear directly from a graduate recruiter why it is so important to have non-academic experience.

Book a FREE 15-minute career coaching call with Chris Davies, the founder of Graduate Coach, who has 8+ years of experience helping hundreds of students and graduates to get the job of their dreams!