Career advice on entering the workforce after graduating
Career advice on entering the workforce after graduating
- · August 14 2023
- · 8 min read
Table of contents
Moving directly into the professional world from university can be daunting. Swapping the last few years of lectures, assignments, projects, and exams with late-night parties for a 9-5 career is a dramatic shift in lifestyle. As you're adjusting from student to work life, we've created 15 useful tips for directing and integrating them into their next stage of life.
Taking the perfect first step in your career can be scary, but there is no one right way of taking this step. Growth in your career will not come to you by just waiting around. Everyone finds their match differently, so don't worry if you've not immediately found a job after graduating. Especially since COVID, students find it ever more difficult to penetrate the workforce. Thankfully you're not the first or only person to go through this challenge. Most university graduates believe they need to have a job lined up immediately after receiving their diploma. In reality, however, this is unnecessary and can mislead people into opting for the wrong career path.
Starting your career is exciting, but knowing what to expect is important. For years, you have worked hard to build the expertise and skills that will support launching your career. All you have to do now is get out there and begin exploring what you've imagined. We're here to support you in your first steps and advise what you should do post-graduating at university.
We recommend students start job hunting before even graduating from university. You should already be searching for a job a couple of months before graduation. Searching while enrolled at university means you have less collateral damage assuming you get rejected. During this period, you're likely receiving student loans, help from a guardian, or working to provide for yourself. It means you don't have to worry about affording a roof over your head or depend on finding a job to afford your next meal. If you're not sure what type of job you are looking for, consider working for a start-up. No two days are ever the same and you'll have a chance to learn a great deal. Figure out your financial situation
Before you search for a job, focus on your current needs. Are you in a place where you can comfortably search for jobs without needing extra support? Or do you need to move back in with your parents for a while until you find a job? A common practice amongst recent graduates is to move back home for the duration of job hunting. Moving back may feel surreal or uncomfortable, but it's completely normal. Survival is not embarrassing! Anyone who makes you feel less than for this decision has no clue what the real world is like.
Consider working somewhere outside your expertise or interest for a short while. This option can be beneficial for multiple reasons. Assuming you are in need of immediate income after graduating, applying to vacancies outside your career goals can be a great way to provide security. This interim position can be anything from working as a waitress/waiter, barista or bartender to a receptionist, call centres or freelance work. Consider your financial stability a priority over 'landing your dream job' first. There is plenty of time to enter the big corporate workforce. Take care of yourself and your safety first before all else.
A second reason to pick up a different job is to take a breather from the constant responsibilities. A part-time job also has responsibilities, but not to the same extent as studying and a full-time job. Starting a part-time job allows time for self-development and settling in - whether a new home, surroundings or making new friends.
Many students feel the need to start working the moment they graduate immediately. The popular saying goes, 'Life is short!' but you have a lot of time to find and start working. Many people remain in the workforce from the start, not leaving time to explore themselves or the world around them. Go backpacking in a different continent, get a travel-work visa to Australia, take a skydiving course in Indonesia or work part-time in Berlin for the dance scene. There is so much to discover, so take advantage of your youth. Yes, life is short, go out and explore the world! No, you won't run out of time to enter the workforce. Taking up to a few years for self-development will not end your career.
Internship and traineeships
Candidates post-university are becoming more and more competitive these days. Students take on more placements, internships and side jobs during university to build a greater professional profile. Gaining additional professional experience may be a great way to help find a job.
The difference between internships and traineeships is fundamentally the pay and purpose. Internships are usually more targeted towards learning and are closely related to your study, whereas traineeships are more about learning for that specific position and working closely with a mentor. Some internships are paid, and some are not. Most traineeships pay more than internships but less than the actual amount your position would have been paid if it were a full-time position.
Doing either internship or traineeship allows you to hone your skills in a professional environment, which companies appreciate fresh graduates having. On the other hand, if you perform well during your internship or traineeship, and the company has an open position, you may be offered a contract to stay at the company full-time.
Create the perfect CV
Many graduates have great profiles but don't know how to show off their skills appropriately. CVs are the first document recruiters and employers review during the job application process. This document is a crucial deciding factor in whether or not you will receive an interview invite.
The power of networking
Sometimes, opportunities are right around the corner without us realising. Communicate to your professional and personal connections in real life and on social media that you are looking for a job. They may have an open position in their company or know someone looking for someone like you. Even if they don't have that level of power or connection, they might come across a job post that fits them perfectly. Extra eyes and ears are always a great resource.
Many universities and colleges have an alumni network that keeps older graduates in contact. Consider contacting alumni or your alumni network to see if there are any open positions at companies they work for or own. Alumni are more likely to hire someone with a familiar or similar background than a stranger.
Get on LinkedIn and use it to your advantage
LinkedIn is a platform that connects people around the world, like social media but for professionals. It is a great platform to explore jobs, build your profile and gain connections. Add all your co-workers from side jobs, internships and students from your university.
Once you've created your profile and built a network, explore LinkedIn's pool of professionals. There are a few approaches to connecting with people on LinkedIn strategically. Look into companies you want to work with and who work there. Send them a connection and tell them more about yourself. Feel free to cold-email people with your CV and interest in the company.
Another approach is to search for people in positions you aspire to work in. Connect with those individuals and express your admiration for them and interest. Ask them to be a mentor if they know of a position open that can help you jump-start your career.
Find a mentor
Finding a mentor can be a life-changing experience. Some professionals with years of experience would be happy to train you and share knowledge. Seeking and maintaining a relationship with a more established person than you is an important strategic advantage and vital for career progression. Each employee is responsible for managing their career.
Make yourself more aware of employees who have been at the company for longer or have an interesting career path. Your social circle might be more enjoyable at office parties, but try talking to colleagues outside your circle with more experience - they might be able to assist with your career.
Send in an open application
A little-known secret to the workforce is that some jobs don't even exist on job boards. Consider applying with an open application to a company. Some companies may not realise what they are missing until they see it in front of them. Other times, companies have open positions within a company without having publicised them yet. You never know the reason, so why not be early and send in your CV and cover letter?
We talk more about open applications on our blog.
Apply to the newest vacancies
This may seem obvious, but it's a step often forgotten. As we mentioned, it's good to be early to an application. This means they might see your CV and decide you're the right candidate for the job. Filter job vacancies with last posted within 24 hours and apply each day to a few of the interesting vacancies. This technique is applicable not only for your first job but for any job application later in life.
Patience will be your best friend. Applying for jobs can be a tiresome task. You're not only focussing on the actual application, but the stress of hearing back a positive response also takes from your mental energy. You may not receive good news in the first round, but do not let that discourage you. Everyone has had to face multiple rejections before landing their current career position. Keep trying your best, and continue applying to new vacancies.
Develop a routine and a professional approach
The versatility that accompanied your university timetable undoubtedly meant you had plenty of free time per week between lectures and tutorials. This meant that you had the flexibility of time to do things as and when you decided to. Springing off from this and into a scheduled weekly 40-hour job will take a lot of adjusting.
The value of timing should not be underestimated in the corporate realm. If you overlook punctuality at university, leave slightly earlier to get to work promptly and guarantee that you have a planner to document the information (date/location) of every briefing and deadline. Using the planner as well to maintain a count of every work obligation and take note of any new projects when they come your way. Finally, comply with the dress code that your employer wants you to wear. Look into the company culture to act and dress accordingly.
You don't stop learning beyond the classroom
After taking your last university exam, you may think that learning has indefinitely stopped, but it only continues when you join the workforce. There is expertise, skills, concepts, patterns, case studies and structures offline that will be relevant and appropriate to your degree. Still, there will also be an entire range of additional knowledge you need to pick up to be competent. Therefore, to get up to speed, continue to learn and read in and outside of office hours. One aspect that should not be undermined is how important it is to keep up with any significant changes in your industry. This knowledge will give you valuable perspectives to consider when delivering reports/presentations and possible future guidance in the industry.
In the current competitive market, you may even consider taking courses or getting a recognised certificate to show off further and hone your skills. Adding this component to your CV will make you shine brighter as a candidate. You may opt to write a skills-based CV or add courses and certifications section on your CV instead.
It will inevitably happen that we are put in tough roles and circumstances. You may, for example, find yourself working on a group project where not everyone pulls their weight. The appropriate response to this at the university will be to inform the professor, who, in effect, will award them a lower score. You will need to be supportive of the bigger picture in the workplace – because it could have a detrimental effect on morale and complicate any future tasks that could include working with those concerned.
In addition, you may be dissatisfied with your heavy workload or frustrated at a senior's lack of guidance, but ultimately you must learn to regulate your emotions. Alternatively, you'll learn to handle the negatives, implement innovative ideas, and positively shift perceptions.
It's all new! Ensure risks are taken, make mistakes and then learn from them. Every experience, regardless of how bad it may feel right now, will, in the future, be a beneficial learning opportunity for you.
Be proud of what you have done so far, no matter what it is. It can feel disappointing and disheartening to be rejected during the application process but know that there's a fit for you out there that will be excited to have you on the team.
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Updated August 14 2023
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