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Jobs & Careers

11 tips to find the perfect graduate job

Tired of writing detailed, heartfelt cover letters to potential employers who reply with... nothing? We feel your pain – but these tips can help you get the graduate job you want (and deserve!).

Confused man applying for jobs

Credit: forestgraphic (foreground left), Luis Molinero (background) – Shutterstock

There was very good news in October 2018 that graduate unemployment rates were the lowest they had been in 39 years. But, alas, there's still a huge amount of competition out there and it's not necessarily plain sailing.

If you're searching for your dream graduate job, have faith. With a few tweaks to your approach to applications, you could be living it up in your ideal office before you know it.

The right job is out there waiting for you, and we've compiled some tips to help you get there.

Did you know that taking a gap year can actually help you get a job? It might sound too good to be true, but our guide explains why travelling makes you more employable.

How to find a graduate job

These top tips can help you get your perfect graduate job quickly.

  1. Appear professional on social media

    social media at uni

    Credit: Walt Disney Studios

    The first thing you should be doing as a student or graduate job searcher is making sure you have a professional online presence.

    We don't mean you have to post photos of yourself wearing a suit and tie online, and you definitely don't need to tweet solely about work. But it's essential to present yourself as respectful, trustworthy and employable on social media to convince recruiters to hire you.

    In fact, we think this point is so important that we've written a whole guide on making yourself look more professional online.

    For advice on getting a job using Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media site, check out more of our guides to finding graduate jobs.

  2. Upload your CV to job sites

    Dwight from the Office CV

    Credit: NBC

    It's not only job seekers who use job sites – employers and recruiters often search through them when looking for potential candidates too.

    There's a chance that a future employer could come across your CV on a job site and realise you're the ideal candidate for them. It's too good an opportunity to miss.

    Creating a profile and uploading your CV will probably take around 15–30 minutes, but it's worth it.

    It goes without saying, but you should also be uploading your CV to your LinkedIn profile too – you wouldn't believe how many employers use LinkedIn to snoop on potential candidates!

  3. Contact recruiters about job vacancies

    rachel friends get a job

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    There are thousands of recruitment agencies all over the UK, and many of them specialise in graduate recruitment.

    These agencies are paid commission for filling a company's vacancy, meaning they're great to have on your side – they want you to get a job almost as much as you do.

    Whilst there are pros to using a recruitment agency to land your first job, there are definitely a few cons to mention too. Our guide to using recruitment agencies will fill you in on everything you need to know to get the most out of their services.

  4. Tailor every application for the role

    Tailored suit

    Credit: Africa Studio – Shutterstock

    Most jobs will require you to submit a covering letter and tailored CV when you apply. It might be tempting to just dish out the same documents for each job, but please never do this.

    It might seem like a total headache to tailor every application you send out but, if you don't, recruiters will be able to tell (trust us). It's really worth spending a bit longer on each application to make sure it's right.

    It's not just about telling potential employers all about you – it's also equally important to tell them why you are perfect for this specific role at this particular company. The key to getting called for an interview is to tailor your cover letter and CV to the job in hand, so study that job spec long and hard.

    This doesn't mean you have to create an entirely new CV each time, though. When saving your previous efforts, choose a file name that identifies which role the CV's for – then, when you start a new application, you can add to the info that's already there to fit the new job spec.

Did you get a 2:2 degree at university? Check out the top graduate employers who accept 2:2s (including Sky and MI5!), as well as these successful people who got the grade (or lower) at uni.
  1. Ask connections about job opportunities

    colleagues networking with coffee

    Sometimes, it's not about what you know, but who you know. Whether it's fair or not is another question, but thousands of job vacancies are filled each year through word of mouth alone.

    If you know someone who works for a company you're interested in, get them to recommend you; if you know someone who works in an industry you're interested in, ask them to put you in touch with the right person.

    Many companies now offer a bonus to employees if they put someone forward for a position and they are recruited, so you could even earn your connection a little extra cash.

    How to make new work connections

    If you don't have many connections in your chosen industry, there are loads of ways to make new contacts.

    Do some research into companies you'd like to work for and create a list of the relevant contacts by searching on LinkedIn. You can then reach out to them personally by email to introduce yourself and ask about vacancies.

    Social media is a great way to connect with important people, so do your research into who's who and reach out (after making your online presence look more professional, of course).

  2. Make yourself more employable

    Will Ferrell Anchorman

    Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

    Easier said than done, right? This might sound like the most annoying tip ever, but it's way more actionable than you think.

    With a huge number of graduates entering the job market with top grades each year, it's hard to stand out with your degree alone.

    Finding new ways to make yourself more employable is just as important, like volunteering, doing some work experience or getting a free online qualification in an area related to your chosen career.

    Starting your own blog or website is also a great way to show you're a self-starter, and can even contribute to offering a broader picture of who you are to potential employers. And, better yet – you could even make some money from the website if you're savvy...

  3. Research companies before applying for jobs

    Woman holding paper with research

    Credit: Pemberley Digital

    The way to really blow a potential employer away is by showing them you have a genuine interest in the company. Whether it's for an application or when you're through to the interview stage, knowing your stuff is sure to impress.

    Not only this, but after spending a good hour or so reading up on a company, the work they do and the role you're applying for, we can guarantee that your covering letter will be much easier to tailor – and is much more likely to impress.

    If you do make it to the next stage, here are a few great interview prep tips for you, and a list of some of the most commonly-asked interview questions for you to practice with.

  4. Make sure the job is right for you

    Devil Wears Prada I love my job

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Good graduate jobs can seem few and far between sometimes, so you might be tempted to apply for as many opportunities as you can find just because they say 'graduate' in the spec – even if you're not remotely interested in the job.

    This is not a good idea – remember you spend around 80% of your life at work, so signing yourself up to something you know you won't enjoy is just asking to be miserable.

    That's not to say you shouldn't be open to something new and unrelated to your degree, though. Just make sure it's something you can see yourself doing – and (ideally!) enjoying.

There are loads of smarter ways to find a job that you've probably never thought of – have a read through them for some job-searching inspo.
  1. Apply to startup companies

    Start screen on windows computer

    Credit: Windows

    Smaller startup companies are too often overlooked by job seekers. They might not be big enough to fund graduate schemes, but they can offer some pretty incredible job opportunities.

    Whilst it's brilliant if you do land yourself a grad scheme at a national or international company, often the competition for entry-level jobs at smaller companies is lower because it's not the first option graduates think of.

    The experience you can get working hands-on in a startup business is invaluable – you could even find yourself with way more responsibility than you would get at a larger company. In turn, you could end up leapfrogging into a more senior position much earlier on in your career than you expected.

  2. Broaden your horizons

    Woman with phone by city view

    Credit: skyNext – Shutterstock

    We know we just said that you shouldn't take a job unless it's a right fit for you (and we still stand by that), but it's worth thinking carefully about whether the jobs you've been looking at so far are actually, hand-on-heart right for you.

    If you're not overly fussed about relocating, perhaps consider broadening your job search to the whole of the UK instead of just those in your patch. You could even look for opportunities abroad and apply for jobs like teaching English as a foreign language.

    It's worth thinking about whether there are jobs you'd be interested in that aren't directly related to your degree. It's really common for graduates to end up in roles that are nothing like what they expected they'd be doing when they started uni, but this is all part of the fun (or near enough) of job searching.

    To get you thinking, we've put together eight awesome and well-paid careers you can get into with any degree at all. And if you want to start by dipping your toe into a different sector, we've got a guide to online courses that will allow you to do just that.

  3. Stay motivated while job searching

    baby celebrating success meme

    Source: KnowYourMeme

    This might seem easier said than done, but however tough your job hunt feels, don't give up! You've got this.

    As much as we'd all love to stumble into our dream job straight after uni, job hunting takes time, and you need to keep yourself occupied with relevant activities like freelance projects to keep you motivated.

    Set yourself a target of a few hours and a certain number of applications each day to stay focused. You could think of job searching as a job in itself, setting aside work hours to apply for jobs, and giving yourself evenings and weekends off.

    That way, once you've got through your applications for the day/week, you can relax knowing you're doing all you can and making progress.

    If you get job rejections, take all the positives you can from each one – learn what does and doesn't work in your applications, make changes accordingly and keep improving until you land your ideal graduate role.

Struggling to stay motivated with your job search? Check out our guide to being productive to find out how to get more done in less time.

Not sure how much to expect for your first paycheck? Our guide to the average graduate salaries in the UK can help.

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