Being a new graduate can be an exciting and daunting time. As one chapter of life is closing, another is just beginning. But, in many ways, finding a post-grad position can be a job in itself. Making that transition from being a student to an employee is not an easy task. Here are 5 tips to help you find that first job out of uni.
Figure out your next move
Having a degree doesn't mean much if you don't know how you want to use it.
Start by looking at the big picture and having a think about your long-term career goals. There is a huge range of jobs and industries out there, so knowing the general direction you want to head can be a great help. While you don’t have to map our your entire career path, narrowing your search down to some degree is a good start.
A simple starting point is reflecting on the papers you took at university and any previous work experience you've had and ask yourself some tough questions, such as:
What did you enjoy? What didn't you enjoy? As someone new to the workforce, knowing what you don't like can often be easier to pinpoint than what you do.
What does paid work in this space look like on a daily basis?
What is the earning potential? If you're going to spend 40+ hours a week at work, you'll want to make sure you're spending your time in a financially productive, and ideally also meaningful, way.
Is there a significant need for this profession in New Zealand? (i.e. how easy is it to get a job in this space?)
What sort of growth opportunities exist along this path?
And frankly - would you want to do this every day?
Use your resources and talk to your lecturers and network to do your research. Careers New Zealand is a fantastic one-stop shop to weigh up your options.
While it may be unrealistic to score your "dream job" straight out of uni, it is not unreasonable to target jobs that are in your dream industry so you can be sure you're headed in the right direction..
Tailor your CV and cover letter for each application
As a recent grad, you're likely applying for a range of roles. A CV and cover letter should reflect who you are and why you are the best person for that role specifically, so casting a wide net with a generic CV will not be the most effective way to land a job in this instance. First impressions really do count - so ensuring your CV is tailored to suit the job you are applying for before you send it out is essential.
Read through the job description prior to submitting your application and make sure your CV hits the attributes/skills that the job requires.
If you need CV/career advice don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get friends and family to check your CV for you to ensure that every sentence makes sense.
Don't underestimate the value of soft skills
It is likely that the companies you are applying for are getting flooded with job applications. You want your best attributes to stand out, as these may set you apart from the rest. While you're editing your CV, don't skim over the "personal attributes" section. As a grad, you likely don't have much work experience, so who you are as a person and your ability to learn and grow into your future employer's expectations will be key.
Make sure your CV reflects your personality and growth potential, rather than your fixed accomplishments. There's nothing more disappointing than reading a generic, lackluster CV; it should paint a promising picture of what you bring to the table. Show your passion, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn all the time. If you don't have all the required skills and experience needed, a can-do attitude can be the thing that will score you the job.
Network, network, network
Connections in the new company or even wider industry that you're interested in can be a huge help; studies show that a referral can significantly increase your likelihood of landing the job!
Start with who you know - talk to your family, friends, neighbours, previous workmates, lecturers, and pick their brain. They might make intriguing suggestions of roles that you'd never considered before, or even make some valuable introductions.
Build a professional network by getting involved in the opportunities offered to you at your university. The networking events with people in your industry of choice and the face-to-face exposure you will get here can be extremely beneficial and will offer you endless new contacts. Don't be afraid to ask questions!
Prepare for each interview
This is your opportunity to sell yourself, so it is important you nail it. Here are some of my basic tips but I'd also recommend checking out this article by my colleague.
Have an elevator pitch. Your interviewer is going to want to know all about you. You want to be able to summarise who you are, your key skills, accomplishments, and aspirations clearly and coherently. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a huge asset. Don't be afraid to show off a bit; you need to make sure they know how great you are.
Practice answering "typical" interview questions ahead of time. Interviews can be a nerve-wracking process, so being ready for these makes the process easier and allows you the opportunity to formulate more meaningful responses. Practice with a friend or family member. This may feel strange, but it will help you massively on the day! A great tool for this is the 'STAR method', which structures interview answers around the situation, task, action, and result. Practice your responses in this format so you feel comfortable before walking into the interview.
Research the company. This is a great way to show that you're enthusiastic about the company and the opportunity, as well as proactive. Browse their website, stalk their social media, and gain a sense of what they are offering.
Have your own questions prepared. Interviews are a two-way street. While the interviewer will be determining if you will be a good fit for the company, you should be doing the same. Ensure you have a great understanding of the company's culture, their training and development plans, their career advancement opportunities. By having questions, you will show you have initiative and that you are taking the interview seriously.
While the job search can be a very overwhelming time, when you land that job you've been looking for it is extremely exciting and rewarding!
Take a deep breath, follow these steps, and you'll be on your way to starting your career!
Photo by Jeremiah Lawrence on Unsplash