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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Finding a Job After University // Tips & Advice

Image: Source // Edited 

There's no doubt that finishing uni is both an exciting and rewarding time - but it's also a worrying one.  I always knew it was going to be the beginning of a tough few weeks or months of job-hunting for me but I don't think I was quite prepared for just how much it would take it out of me on an emotional level.  I'm sure we've all had a little moan and a grumble about our jobs from time to time, but honestly - when you're out of work and struggling to find anything to even apply for let alone bagging yourself an interview, you really do realise just how much having a job effects your emotional wellbeing.  I don't think I'll ever take it for granted quite so much again - in the space of a few weeks I was plagued with self-doubt and worry...it sounds dramatic but if you've been there, i'm sure you'll know the feeling. It's so unbelievably frustrating. 

I know it's probably the wrong time to publish this post but if you've graduated earlier last year and are still struggling, hopefully this might help somewhat. Getting my foot on the career ladder was most certainly one of the most stressful things I've ever had to do but I persevered and got there in the end.  I definitely made a few mistakes along the way - i'm by no means i'm saying I regret them because things have turned out exactly how I wanted them to - but I thought it might be of some use to share my experiences and exactly what I learnt along the way. I know it might seem easy to reel off a tonne of tips and advice now that I'm settled in a job, but after trying to help a fellow graduate of mine find a job recently I've spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my own journey and what worked for me... Here's a few things to remember if you're struggling to find work after finishing your degree.

1. Remember that nothing happens in an instant.
Did you know that on average it takes a graduate up to 9 months to get a job in their chosen field?  My tutors warned me it could take this long but I think I just assumed it would be a lot quicker than it was and I simply waved it off thinking 'surely it can't be that hard?'. Well - it is. Reality hit me like a brick in the face as soon as I left and all in all, it took me 5 months to get my foot on the ladder. Admittedly, I could have accepted something much earlier than this but I was a bit of a dare-devil and waited for something perfect to come up. Risky move - but just bare in mind that a job offer is not going to fall into your lap the moment you get that degree.  

2. Strike whilst the iron is hot...
Yes it's slightly daunting and nobody relishes the thought of job-hunting, but to give yourself the best chance possible it's best to start as soon as you can and bite the bullet.  The more you wait around the harder it's going to be - both in terms of your own motivation and also in what employers will think should you ever start applying for jobs in your field. I graduated in July and began job hunting straight after a holiday in August - I had a couple of weeks off to relax and then got straight on the case.  

3. Use social media to your advantage.
I actually got my job via LinkedIn. So many people ignore it and it's such a wasted opportunity if you do.  I made sure i kept it updated on a regular basis and I searched their job pages weekly. My advice is to keep your profile as open as possible - have it set so other professionals can see you when you've viewed theirs.  I got lucky with this - I had prepared a list of companies I'd like to work for and began looking through LinkedIn to find relevant contact names and numbers/emails etc.  A few days later, I had a message from one of the profiles I'd viewed and it turns out they were starting to think about looking for a new graphic designer.  Less than a week later I was sat in the interview and I got offered the job the next day. This was all because I'd done a bit of research, been a little bit nosey and got myself noticed by the relevant person. You never know what's going to happen so get on it and start networking.  I also used Twitter & Facebook to promote myself and my work (i set up professional pages and never used my personal one) - a lot of companies will sometimes turn to social media before they start spending time and money advertising to fill a position.

4. Take every opportunity that comes your way.
Follow up every email or offer of an interview you get - even if you don't feel as if you're too fussed about the job. Apply for placements, apply for temporary work and if you're a fellow creative like me, consider searching for freelance projects to keep you going.  I was kept busy for a good couple of months through placements and freelance work and I'm so glad that I did this - it really did round off my CV and it's attractive to employers if they can see you've kept yourself in the loop whilst you're out of full-time work. 

5. Try and stay positive.
It's hard - and believe me I know how much you seriously want to throttle any person that tells you to 'just stay positive' but it really is true. Do whatever it takes to keep your spirits up - for me, it meant spending one heck of a lot of time around my friends (thanks Fran - I know you'll read this) - I'm not saying I didn't have any teary moments (believe me, there were many of those...) but try not to wallow in the frustration. Every day is a new day and try not to take it too personally if you do get knocked back.  Allow yourself to have a few down days but never let the feeling of disappointment stop you from continuing to try - it also goes without saying but don't go into interviews with a defeatist attitude either.  Postive thoughts - always.

6. Trust your gut instinct but don't be too fussy
I was maybe a little too fussy. Some would say this was my biggest downfall and I most certainly got a few gasps when I told folk I'd turned down job offers - but all in all, I'm glad I stuck to my guns - it was just a risky move to make. I turned down a few opportunities but by doing so, I came out much better off for it - I got an amazing freelance opportunity and ended up getting the job I really wanted for the sake of an extra 3 months or so.  That being said, 3 months is a long time when you're unemployed and there were many times I wished I'd just taken opportunities when they came.  My advice would be to weigh up the pros and cons properly - you've spent 3 or 4 years working towards this and at the end of the day, you need to feel comfortable and happy with whatever it is you decide to do -  you don't want to spend all that time studying and end up in a job you simply don't enjoy but be aware that you might have to take something you're not entirely in love with to begin with. Which brings me on to my next point...

7. Know that your 'dream job' probably doesn't even exist
Oh but wouldn't it be lovely if it did?  I spent far too much time dreaming of my 'perfect' job and was wayyy to narrow in my search in the beginning.  I actually changed my mind about what my 'dream' job would be during my search after going to different interviews, completing placements and discovering more about the industry - so keep in mind that what you think is the right thing for you, might turn out not to be. Widen your search, keep an open mind and don't focus on 'the perfect job'... more often than not, it just doesn't exist and you're only narrowing your own chances by being too focused on having everything 'just so'.

8. Make the job-hunt into a job itself...
I got up early every week day and spent time searching job sites, newspapers and LinkedIn - making notes, crafting CVs and making check lists/plans. I rarely had a day where I did absolutely nothing and I made sure I treated the job-hunt seriously. My career path of choice is notoriously difficult to get into and there were weeks and weeks where there was next to nothing to apply for - but get into a routine, stay ahead and you'll find you uncover a few things to keep you going.  I signed up to all the job sites and agencies there was and I constantly updated my CV and professional networking sites.

9. Tailor your CV and covering letter for each job.
I have an entire folder full of different versions of CV's on my laptop - I always tweaked it for each company. Really study what they're looking for in the job advertisement and take time to research what sort of company they are and what sort of 'personality' or approach to work they have.  I changed certain key words and played up certain skills or attributes for each one.  This also goes for your covering letter.  I made myself a batch of about 4 or 5 templates and edited whichever one I thought was most suitable - I don't think I ever sent out the same covering letter or introductory email twice.   It's easy to forget just how many people are applying for the same job that you're applying for.  The moment you slip into the habit of churning out CVs and covering letters without really putting much thought or 'heart' into it at all is when you're going to lose out.  

10.  The importance of placements...
I'm not sure if this is the same for everybody but in my field of work - having a number of placements on your CV proves to be so valuable and mine provided me with some amazing opportunities such as further paid work.  I built a number of them up over 3 years but if you're struggling to find full-time work, now is a great time to apply for internships and fill some of the gaps in your CV. I'd done a number of internships and placements at creative companies before I finished uni, and not only did this make getting my job a lot easier, but I also had a very good insight into how these companies go about employing staff and I picked up a tonne of good tips and tricks.  Having a few placements under your belt is always good so ask around.

11. Contact companies even if they aren't hiring & get on people's radar...
Like i said, the company I work for weren't advertising for a new designer when I stumbled upon the job - I just got lucky and viewed their profile on the day they were starting to consider hiring a new member of staff.  Ring people, email people, take a few chances and use your initiative.  If you send, say, 50 emails out to companies you might like to work for - even if they aren't advertising - you never know your luck do you? At best, they'll have your name and CV on file should they start looking for someone new in the near future - and your initiative and confidence to introduce yourself will stand you in jolly good stead.   At the end of the day it's the law of averages.  Apply for more jobs, and your chances of getting one are going to be higher. I actually scheduled a meeting with a company who weren't even hiring just to introduce myself and get on their radar.  You never know where things are going to lead.

12. Include your blog on your CV.
OK - so this won't be relevant to everybody but I did find that having my blog helped me to stand out against other graduates when applying for jobs and it certainly helped me get my current one. Bare in mind I'm in the creative industry so things like photography, web layout and branding, as well as 'creative' writing, social media communications, PR and general hobbies are often of an interest to companies within this field. On the whole, it just shows you can be dedicated to something and that you use your spare time creatively and positively (and don't spend the entire time down t' pub...) If you're serious about your blog and it's a personal success for you, don't hide it! It won't get you the job but it will certainly help you to stand out against the competition. 

13. It's not what you know it's who you know
Oh how true this is.  I got a good bit of help/advice from my university tutor and I've kept in touch with them since graduating - it's always good to stay in contact with people who've helped you along the way. If something comes up and they get to know about it - they might give you a heads up. Past graduates are also good to keep in touch with - I stayed good friends with a couple of people who had graduated a year or so before I did and I often dropped them an email or text for some advice on things.

So there we have it, just a few little tips and advice for when it comes to finding work after you finish your degree - I'm aware that some of these points are probably more relevant to my field of work but I'm pretty sure it's a similar story for most.  Trust me when I say I know exactly how you're feeling if you're still struggling to find work but I promise that you'll get there in the end if you persevere... Please don't give up. Just know that the situation you're in will not be forever. Things have a habit of working themselves out...


Have you got any tips for finding a job after finishing university? How long did it take you to find work after you finished your degree?


40 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post! Its come at a perfect time for me :)

    Emily x
    www.emandthem.co.uk

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  2. I 100% agree with how hard it is to find a job once you finish uni.. Many employers seem to expect students to have a tonne of experience, which is so difficult when you've been concentrating on studying for 3+ years.
    But I agree - you just have to try to stay positive & keep trying. I also agree with using LinkedIn - lots of employers tend to look at it.

    Great post!

    xx

    Small&Blonde ♥

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  3. Great tips, all I would add is that NOT getting a graduate job, or getting a job MILES outside of your studied filed is NOT a bad thing. I struggled with this for such a long time, I got asked all the time why I didn't have a job that matched my studies and it really got me down. I've got over it now, I enjoy my job but at the same time don't regret studying what I did!


    Sarah :)
    Saloca in Wonderland

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  4. Just had my last ever lecture at uni so this post is so relevant.. I'm so scared, but these tips will definitely help! Thank you xx

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  5. This is one of my fears once I graduate next year! Thank you so much for these tips. x

    nueyork.blogspot.com

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  6. I graduated two years ago and still haven't managed to get a graduate job. I did a creative degree as well and it is a difficult industry to get into. I've gotten far too comfortable in my current job, even though it isn't making me happy and isn't what I want to do in the long run. This post has definitely given me a boost and a kick up the bum to get applying for things again, so thank you! x

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  7. Fab advice. I'm about to graduate and just got accepted onto a really great graduate scheme - so I'm feeling pretty thankful! But all of these tips definitely applied to my job search.

    G x
    foxonthehunt.com

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  8. these are such great tips, i really struggled trying to find a job for after i graduate!

    Rachel // Style Soup

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  9. Great tips! My career path is much different to yours but I can say these tips will still be really helpful! xx
    alicekatex ♥

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  10. I haven't even got to the university stage yet but I completely agree with the last point! X

    Taylor Swift style steel on the blog-
    hailandharmony.blogspot.ie
    // BLOGLOVIN

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  11. This is some really good advice, I'm in my second year of uni and I am also on a Graphic Design course so these tips apply directly to me! I don't even have a clue of what type of job I want so god knows what's going to happen to me next year! x

    Gemma Louise | Just Little Things

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  12. This post was so helpful, I am graduating this year so I definitely be keeping all of these tips in mind
    xx
    http://diamondsandtulips.blogspot.com.au

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  13. These are great tips, thanks :)

    Kirsty | www.kirsty.ws

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  14. I finish next year and I'm super scared for that!! thanks for the tips :)

    https://aspoonfulofnature.wordpress.com/

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  15. This is really excellent advice. I found leaving university one of the hardest things I've ever done and it has taken me a long time to get into the sort of role I wanted - people need to be prepared to battle on to get there! x

    The perks of being a hipster- 20 things you think when planning a wedding!

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  16. These were lovely tips and I just finished so these will totally help and I included my blog in my cv as I'm applying for a fashion editor job.

    Jackie | fashionxfairytale | bloglovin' |

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  17. Really helpful post! I won't be graduating for a few years, but definitely looking for placements etc now x
    http://cocoamay.blogspot.co.uk

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  18. Very nice post and inspiring blog! :) Keep up the great work, I’m a fan!

    xo Ana ♥

    http://www.omgyousassqueen.blogspot.co.at

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  19. Being unemployed is the worst, there just doesn't seem to be any jobs out there! And then as soon as you have a job there seems to be loads around! Really helpful post and I hope it helps so many people!

    Meme xx

    New post:
    'Bath Life'
    http://thedayinthelifeofmexoxo.blogspot.co.uk/

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  20. Such a spot on post! I am still struggling after graduating last year but still don't know what I want to do as a career! :(
    Must keep positive

    kathrynscupcakes.blogspot.co.uk xx

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  21. This post was so inspiring. I'm finishing uni in summer and having my blog in my CV helped me getting my current job, I'd definitely recommend that too.

    xx Cheryl

    SwissBeautyTalk

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. I'm currently unemployed and it's definitely frustrating sometimes. I didn't go to uni, but I can appreciate how hard it is to find work after graduating.

    I love your style of writing, by the way.

    Tara x

    http://www.beewritesx.blogspot.com

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  24. I really do not know where I am going wrong then as most of these things I do. I graduated 2 years ago now and the only job I've managed to get is a 6 month placement abroad which was amazing and in my field but the fact that the only jobs I've ever managed to get have been casual/short term really does make me think that there's something wrong with me. I'm now giving myself 2 months to find at least a part time job. If by then I'm still unemployed I really do not know what I'll do. I turn 24 this year. It's ridiculous.

    fleurdanielle.blogspot.co.uk

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  25. Love your post! I'm searching for a job for 5 months now, it's really hard and challenging to deal with everything. This post was very good for people like me that struggle with this field of their life.

    hushhush990.blogspot.com

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  26. Very helpful post! Thank you I'm definitely going to try to update my Linkedin account!

    xoxo
    http://blizzard-girl.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-spring-makeup-menu.html

    ReplyDelete
  27. This was a really helpful post, I'm about to finish my third year of uni and its definitely difficult to start something new.

    http://xxchloescloset.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/my-mac-lipstick-collection.html

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  28. These are excellent tips and it's really reassuring to hear your experience. I'm about to graduate so I'm already on the job hunt and it's looking difficult, but these tips have helped :) I joined LinkedIn from this post!

    The Makeup Directory

    ReplyDelete
  29. I hate how the world seems to make you feel like a failure for not having a high-paying grad job straight out of uni :( thank you for the tips xx

    Magpie Jasmine | Zoeva Brush Set Giveaway

    ReplyDelete
  30. Great post! I can relate to so many of these!
    It is really hard to get a job after uni and I struggled due to not doing a placement year. Thankfully it was my blog that enabled me to get a job! LinkedIn was also a great help!
    Jennie Emma
    xxx

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  31. Such a great post! I'm graduating this June and am so worried about finding a job as a Photographer my area is such a niche market too! but this has helped inspire me to work harder and look for more job opportunities thank you

    Kat xx

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  32. Thank you so much for those awesome tips ! Could you also write a post about " Beginner Tips To Start A Blog " or something like that ? I would really appreciate that to get some advices from a great blogger like you ! :)

    xoxo, Mi

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  33. Fabbbulous tips!!! GOOD luck with everything!
    kisses
    xoThe Beckerman Girls

    www.BeckermanBlog.com

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  34. I graduated uni in July 2013 and I'm still looking for a graduate job in the media. I've been open to anything. I've done over 15 work placements/internships without any luck so I'm just working in retail at the moment :( I also freelance for a website, unpaid of course.

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  35. I wish I read this a couple months ago! I have still yet to find a job, and only recently found a way to relax about it (easier said than done!) I found that having a hobby really helped take my mind off job searching and money - it was all I could think of 24/7 and it really stressed me out more than I first thought. My hobby was actually blogging! I wish I started searching for jobs sooner because the waiting is the hardest most annoying part! But it will all work out for us all have faith! 😆👌

    ReplyDelete
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I always read all of my lovely comments. Make sure you check back as i often reply but if you do have a specific question and want a quicker response then please do email me over at birds.words@yahoo.co.uk or tweet me (@Beth_BirdsWords). Thank you for all your support! x