I was initially inspired to write this by my eldest niece, who is currently working her way through the rainbow of emotions that seamlessly accompany the final year of an undergraduate degree. Luckily, I can still say (JUST) that the end of university wasn’t a total lifetime ago for me either, although I can hardly count it as a recent memory.
It’s all fine and dandy when you’re working your way through your years at university, whether you’ve opted for 3, 4 or perhaps 7 years of higher education, but what happens when the party's over and what can you do in advance to improve your prospects when that time comes? Some universities offer a lot of guidance where careers are concerned, but unfortunately some do not. I wish I’d had someone there to advise me. So what can you do?
An internship or placement year
If your course offers you the option to break your on-campus learning for a year in industry, DO IT. Some industries won’t even consider entry-level candidates post-graduation who haven’t done one, and the experience itself generally sets you up for the best start on the career ladder. Not only does it look great on your CV - making you a more favourable prospect - but it truly prepares you for the real working world, far more than if you neglected to undertake one at all. Leaving university can be a pretty overwhelming experience, so it’s important you’ve done everything you can to make the experience a positive one.
Write your CV
Once your dissertation is in, what are you really doing? After sleeping for four days straight and probably a few celebratory nights out, you're likely to have far too much time on your hands. Put that time to good use. Don't be lazy with your new found freedom. If you don’t have the faintest idea of where to start, there are lots of resources at your disposal. Check out the careers advice service at your university and speak to a member of staff in there. They are there to help you, so use them. You’re paying enough! You can also find a lot of information through a simple online search. Check out the CV writing guides on OnlyMarketingJobs.com if you’re struggling for a starting point.
Make sure you can actually use Microsoft Office
It sounds ridiculous in this day and age to even suggest that one could not be proficient in Microsoft Office, but brush up on your computer skills regardless. Spend some time on your Office applications and get familiar with them. This is particularly important if you’ve been on a creative course that hasn’t required as much time spent on the computer. Getting Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint, Excel) as a skill on your CV may sound a bit obvious, but it really is vital and you need to know how to navigate this software with ease.
Update your LinkedIn profile
Being a student, you aren’t likely to appreciate the significance of this social network and what it can actually do for your employment prospects. The truth is, the impact can be huge. Having a profile can only be a bonus for you, providing you’ve completed it to a high standard. Employers will often look up their candidates on social media pre-interview, and LinkedIn is possibly the first place they'll check. It can also make applying to jobs a lot easier as many application processes allow you to simply apply with your LinkedIn profile.
Seek advice from people in the know
When I was searching for my first role post-graduation I got in touch with my cousin, a HR professional at a large hotel chain. She, in turn put me in touch with a recruiter who gave me heaps of advice on how to interview, from answering the questions to how to dress and interview room etiquette. It really helped me out when it came to the real thing which, for me, was a daunting assessment day. I wasn’t nervous at all because I felt as prepared as I could be!
Practice your interview questions
You never know what you’re going to get asked in an interview situation but a little preparation never hurt anybody. If you're sat on your parent's sofa twiddling your thumbs for days on end, why not spend that time researching the most common questions and answering them?
Don’t be lazy
This might be something you’ve become accustomed to during your years at university. Tesco in your pyjamas may seem normal to you, but to the viewing public this can be an incredibly distressing experience, made worse by the smell of ‘I don’t know how to use the washing machine’. Don’t just sit there and think that when you leave university you’re going to get flooded with decent offers of employment. Chances are, you’re going to be shocked at how difficult and at times frustrating the job search can be. Particularly for a recent graduate who isn’t well rehearsed. Be proactive, cover all the necessary bases and know what you’re aiming for. Even if you don’t really know what you want to do, it’s important that you can recognise a good opportunity from a bad one and always consider the progression of a role before you take it.
When I left university, my LinkedIn profile was shocking and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’d taken on a design degree which was incredibly vocational. The fact that I decided the industry wasn’t for me limited me massively, but I eventually found a way forward and I've even managed to carry my design skills through to my current career pathway. It did, however, take 2 years for me to realise what it was I should be doing with my career. Advice: it doesn’t happen overnight for most so don’t get too disheartened. Have a look at the entry-level marketing jobs on our website and note down what employers are looking for in entry-level candidates. By the time July comes round you will feel a million times more confident.