Here’s the thing: you just don’t know what’s out there.

Megan Speet

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As we move swiftly into Christmas and say goodbye to 2019, there is one particular demographic out there who may find themselves thinking the exact same thing:

What in the world do I do now?

Ah yes, graduates. You’ve worked your proverbial tails off for the last three if not four years, you’ve enjoyed your final truly carefree summer, revelling in the freedom of having handed in your dissertation (and on time, no less). Now, you’re faced with the daunting reality that is the job market – a fabled place, a place where people go with high hopes and big dreams… Often to end up doing something completely unrelated to that which they’ve been studying thus far.

Something we as recruiters come up against, time and time again, is uni leavers who think they know what they want to do… But, in reality and practice, haven’t a clue. Here are some tips from us to help you get the most out of your job search – what to look out for, some big dos and don’ts, and some things to consider which you might not have thought about so far/just yet/at all.

Don’t pigeon-hole yourself.

I get it – you want to work in _____. And, we’re hiring in the _____ team, which doesn’t fit your exact job title specification.

That doesn’t mean that this role doesn’t have the potential to progress into that position, or that the company won’t be able to offer lateral/cross-function movement and job opportunities.

Just because a business isn’t hiring for the exact position you want right now, doesn’t mean that the job they ARE looking to fill won’t be a great stepping-stone. And who’s to say that one, two, five years down the line, you won’t be enjoying every second and thanking yourself for being open to other opportunities way back when?

If you’re not sold on the job, have concerns (real or perceived – see our next point) or simply can’t get excited about it based on the job description, it’s always worth taking that call and having that conversation anyway. You don’t know where it may take you, whether now or in future. Which leads me on to…

Forget what you think you know.

To be frank, as a graduate, you shouldn’t be assuming anything about a job at this point – for starters, different job titles mean entirely different things for different businesses (we once recruited for a business whose mid-level salespeople were ‘Sales Directors’ – case in point). You simply – in the majority of cases – don’t have enough real, commercial exposure to know what goes on behind the job spec.

So, I say this in the least condescending way and with the utmost deference to the education you have gotten, and the experience you’ve gained thus far:

Having studied business for four years doesn’t mean you know how business works.

Replace ‘business’ with ‘sector/industry/job function’ of your choice.

You should be eager to work things out for yourself – learning what ‘sales’ means, what a ‘marketing exec’ actually does, how long does a bookkeeper actually spend staring at a screen, what does ‘being out on the road’ really involve and so on… When you haven’t had a ‘proper’ job yet, it would be silly to write anything off based on what you’ve heard from someone else, or read on a hastily scribbled job description, or a mate who did it for a month and hated it.

Do not disregard a job based on how you perceive it, rather than having actually learned what it’s all about. And on that note…

Networking is key.

From the moment you seriously start job hunting, consider everyone a potential ‘lead’.

What I mean by that is, anyone you meet – from the bloke at the bar who you had great banter with to the woman on the train you gave up your seat for – could put you on to a job. They might be an employer themselves, or work for a business who’s hiring. They might know someone who’s looking to take on board a trainee; they could have simply just read about an amazing opportunity and pass you the details.

Network in every possible situation, make contacts, generate leads. Have a copy of your CV ready and waiting in drafts so that, should the opportunity arise, you can say, “Absolutely, yeah, I’ll drop it over right now – what email’s best to get you on?”
Be proactive with it, and don’t be afraid to tell people that you’re job searching – you never know who could be listening. Which largely coincides with our final, but possibly most important, point…

Put the ego aside.

There is no shame in being called a ‘trainee’. There’s no shame in accepting an ‘entry-level’ job – because, as a graduate, that’s where you’re coming in. And, as you grow and learn and your career progresses, you’ll soon understand that there’s no better way to learn a business than from the bottom up.

Put your ego aside and understand that you can learn from every bit of experience you gain, where it’s where you saw yourself or not. Be open to accepting a little less money if the experience gained will make up for it; forget about the job title. This first job is important, and you’ll learn from it regardless of the practicalities.

You’ll get to where you want to be, but you’ve got to earn it.

The world is your oyster, kids, and we can’t wait to see where you end up.