Breaking Grad

Every autumn, thousands of young (and sometimes not so young) people come to the job market looking to start their career. It’s been a long time (ouch) since I was in that position, and everything was very different back then.

The internet was more of an idea with potential back then, rather than the communications behemoth it is today. Job hunting was a very different animal.

Nowadays, one can access a smorgasbord of opportunities without getting out of bed. And sometimes, it shows.

As a recruiter, I get a lot of enquiries from people who have recently graduated. I have some sympathy here, and as a father whose children will be in a similar position in the next decade, I feel like I have a little responsibility to try and be helpful. I can be a fairly empathic creature at times.

So, here I am, with some unsolicited advice to people who may well not want to hear it. That’s okay, you can stop reading if you want.

If you’re still here, then I have a few tips that you might find useful.

Number one:

Get your CV done.

But, for crying out loud, take your time and do it properly. Tens of thousands of people graduate in this country every year and only a small proportion will highly be sought after.

The days of walking into a fantastic job just because you can put some letters after your name (if indeed such halcyon days ever existed) are gone. It’s really, really competitive out there, and those that succeed are the ones that will take looking for work seriously.

And that starts with your CV.

I took a phone call from someone a few weeks ago. Recent graduate, could she send me her CV? On the plus side, she was being pro-active. She wasn’t just sending her CV out; she was trying to engage with people. The downside? She had a degree in engineering, and she couldn’t spell the word engineering. It was a horrendous, obvious typo, and it leaped off the page at me. What does this say to me, as a recruiter?

What do you think?

Your CV is usually the first thing a hirer will see. And ask yourself a question:

How many chances do you get to make a first impression?

And if you can’t be diligent enough to put an error-free document in front of someone who you need to help you out, why should they take you seriously? A good CV takes some time to put together. There are plenty of templates around and plenty of websites giving advice.

There are plenty of “professional” CV writers out there too. Look, I am sure there are plenty of such people who do a perfectly good job, but, really? Why pay someone €100+ to do something that any self-respecting, intelligent human being can do?

Get Googling, and get your CV done. And then get someone to proofread it.

Once you have this, you need to start your job search.

Here’s my second tip:

Get organised.

Set up a spreadsheet. Set up a new email address, specifically for job hunting. Register with every job site you can find, and get alerts sent out. Apply for everything that looks as if it might be a good fit (and record it on the spreadsheet).

This isn’t easy to define. You need to accept that you might not find your ideal job, whatever you think that is. The problem that so many graduates have is that whilst they are well qualified, they lack experience. It’s a conundrum that isn’t easily solved.

So, get Googling again. A quick “graduate jobs” search will give you an embarrassment of riches to explore.

You might have to be a little pragmatic. You might have to apply for positions that aren’t a perfect fit but that tick a few boxes. There’s no point in applying for something that you think you would hate ; trust me, working in a job that you don’t want or like is a path to madness (can you feel my pain here when I say “trust me”? I found this out the hard way), but everyone must start somewhere.

The “graduate jobs” thing is really vital, here. I get applications from recent graduates for positions that demand years of experience. You’re wasting your time. And mine. Obviously, that last bit isn’t of a great concern to a job seeker, and I’m fine with that. A lot of what us recruiters do is wasted time. When we’re looking for a prince or a princess, we often must kiss a lot of frogs so that our clients don’t have to pucker up. It’s a part of the equation that us recruiters must be at peace with.

However, if you apply for jobs that you are obviously unqualified for, you’re probably going to get ignored. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be the case. But have a look out there – this isn’t an ideal world. When I first started i-Recruit, I was determined to give everyone who had applied for a job the courtesy of a reply, and for a while, I kept it up. I just don’t have the time though. More than half the people who apply for positions with me are extremely under-qualified. My clients pay me to provide them with experienced, qualified candidates. If they ask for five years’ experience and I send them someone with zero years’ experience, they will soon dispense with my services. And why wouldn’t they?

I want to be respectful to people who contact me, but I cannot justify throwing my good time after their bad time.

Take it from me – do not apply for jobs that you are unqualified for. It’s a road to nowhere.

The next piece of advice:

Be resilient and tenacious. Develop a thick skin.

It is competitive out there. Really competitive. And this means that recruiters and HR people can get overwhelmed with applications. And that means that some applicants will not necessarily be afforded the respect that they might reasonably expect.

Accept that some of your applications may disappear into the ether of the internet (the ethernet, perhaps?) and be at peace with it. It isn’t personal. You’re just a load of pixels at this stage.

Some jobs will be hugely over-subscribed, and that means that many applicants will not get much - if any – response. It can be a difficult lesson to learn, but (and this doesn’t just apply to graduates) the jobs market can be a cold, unforgiving beast. You might find the perfect role, and you might spend a long time on your application, and as you click on send, you might fantasise that your dream career has just started. And then you may never hear from the prospective employer again.

It. Isn’t. Personal.

Keep on keeping on. Keep looking. Keep applying. Keep the faith in yourself. To some degree, this is a numbers game. The more positions that you apply for, the greater the chance that you’ll find something suitable. There is obviously a quality/quantity part to this equation though. I’ve already suggested that you might not find your ideal job at this stage of your career, but even so, the decisions you make now, the jobs that you apply for will have a profound impact on your future career and with it your life.

Right, there’s one more part to the job seeking equation, but it’s too complex to deal with properly here. It’s a whole blog in itself, so I am going to be brief, and point you at Google once again.

At some point, you’ll be invited in to attend an interview. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It might be a one to one with an HR bod. Or a manager. Or it might be a selection day where you take a few tests and fill out a few forms. You won’t know until you get the call or the email.

You’ll need an interview outfit. I’m not going to offer any specific advice – sartorial suggestions are not my forte! – except to say it’s difficult to be too formal. Things aren’t at stuffy as they used to be, but you’re not going to make the wrong impression by being too smart. The opposite might be true if you’re too casual. We’re back to that first impression thing again.

Plan your day well. Plan to get there early.

Research the employer. Know as much about them as possible. Few things resonate as positively with an interviewer than an applicant who has taken the time to know the company that they have applied to work for.

Research interview techniques, and even do a bit of role playing before you go in. I know that sounds awful, but it doesn’t have to be. Rehearse answers to questions like “why do you want this job?”, “why do you think you’d be a good match for this job?” or “why do you want to work for XXXX?”.

Make plenty of eye contact. I mean, don’t lock eyes like you’re a serial killer with your interviewer, but don’t spend the interview staring at the desk or out of the window. When you shake hands, be firm and confident.

Google is your friend here! Spend some time looking up hints and tips.

Okay, the TLDR bit:

The jobs market is extremely competitive. You’re one of literally thousands of graduates looking to kick off a career. The people who spend a bit of time and get organised are the ones who will succeed. It may not be easy, and it may take a little time. You’ll get there, though. Have faith in yourself.

If you’ve made it this far, then thanks for sticking with me. I hope some of it proves useful.

Good luck! The next phase of your life is about to start. I wish you nothing but happiness.