Studying is a beautiful experience. You get to explore ideas you’re interested in, meet new people and live in an intoxicating bubble of challenge and learning. Then, graduation approaches. It’s something you’ve worked hard for and you’ve been quietly excited about. You’re waiting for that day to finally arrive… and when it does, you’re a bit stumped. What next?
There are a million different tips out there on how to go about applying for work as a graduate. But, there’s another side to this process that’s often overlooked – the emotional side. Job searching requires confidence and it can be a crazy emotional roller coaster that challenges your deepest sense of self. So, to try and help a little, we at Kaplan Business School have compiled a step-by-step guide to starting out in your career and being OK in the world while you’re doing it.
1. Take a Breather, Celebrate, and Write a Little Plan
You’ve just achieved something big. You started a course and stuck it out to the end despite all the stress and the hurdles. Take a moment to celebrate, relax and feel good about it. Celebrating victories is essential to developing motivation and a sense of self-worth. Taking stock of your achievements will set you up to start the job search with confidence.
While you’re celebrating on a beach with a mojito, take a moment to get out a little notebook and write up a little plan. Start by looking at your financial situation. Keep in mind that it may take months to find work, and plan for it to take longer than you anticipate. You may need to think about getting something part time to fill your pockets while you look for a career job. Compile a checklist of the things you’ll need to do, and figure out a timeline that fits your budget. Finish up by writing yourself a little mantra to refer to when you’re feeling flat. Something along the lines of, ‘It won’t be easy, but I know I’ll get there.’
Write yourself a little mantra to refer to when you’re feeling flat. Something along the lines of, ‘It won’t be easy, but I know I’ll get there.’
2. Shape your Own Expectations and Do Your Research
The job-hunting world is harsh. By adjusting your expectations and learning acceptance, you’ll go through the experience with less stress. Don’t expect that you will get the job you want every time you apply, but don’t be cynical or upset about it either. Understand that it’s not personal, and remember that there will always be something else coming up. There are different fits for different people. As a side note, starting out with limited work experience is difficult. You’ll be at an advantage if you’ve already completed placements, internships or some part time work in your field. If you haven’t, start now.
The second point here may seem obvious, but the reality is a little murky. What roles are the right fit for you? Obviously, it’s crazy to apply for senior positions as a graduate, but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you want based on job descriptions. Plus, you don’t want to cast the net too wide. Narrowing your job search down to some specific roles more suited to you is essential because you simply won’t have time to apply for everything.
This is where research comes in handy. Do some Googling on the main players in your industry operating in your area. Look at their employee pages. Chat with your professors and teachers, talk to anyone you know who is working in jobs you’d like. Ask about roles, tasks and skills, and how they got the job. You can eliminate career paths that don’t sound appealing and shift your focus to a few that you know you want.
3. The Search Begins: Build Your Story and Ask For Help
So, you’ve got a plan, you’ve narrowed down some roles suited to your skill set, and you feel emotionally prepared for the best or the worst. You’re ready to go; there are just two things you need; a resume/cover letter combination to submit and some jobs to apply for.
First up, you’ll probably develop several different CVs over the course of your job searching. You need to tailor your CV and your cover letter to the specific roles you’re applying for. This is important. Graduates often make the mistake of CV-bombing the internet and throwing a generic cover letter at a range of roles. This is a no-no. Employers can spot a generic application a mile away. It’s about really looking at the role, picking up on the main words and responding to the job description with a human story. Discuss any particular interest you have in something relating to the role. Build your own story of why you have the potential, the passion and the training to take on the job. Make it real and make it human.
The searching itself often takes place mostly online, but it’s important to ask for help in exploring other avenues. Job searching websites can be fantastic, but they can also be competitive. Networks and connections are vital, and you may be more connected than you think. Have you asked your teachers for a reference or some introductions? Have you approached your careers service? The Careers Central service at KBS offers placements, advice and network opportunities; other schools may have similar services. What about your ex-supervisor from that placement you did, maybe they know someone else in the industry? Look at all avenues, and don’t be too shy to ask for help from the networks around you.
4. It’s Not Working, and I Feel Like a Loser, what do I do?
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Take a deep breath. So, you’ve been looking for a few months, you’ve been for multiple interviews and have not had any success. You’re feeling down about yourself, and you don’t know what else you can do. Don’t panic; something will eventually come up. Take this as a moment to reassess whether or not there’s something else you could be doing to help yourself. Check out this list of common job-searching mistakes. Think about gaining some experience through volunteering or unpaid internships while you look for paid work.
Keep in mind; the average graduate is looking for a job for six months! Be kind to yourself and be patient with the world. You’ve got a whole lifetime to develop your career, so a month or two here and there is no big deal. You may end up getting your dream job, and it turns out to be a nightmare, and that’s ok too; you can always change your path. Good luck!
At KBS, we take the future prospects of our graduates very seriously – that’s why we provide you with your personalised Careers Central service. Combining industry placement, and one-on-one career coaching, Careers Central has every aspect of the post-study job search covered. We provide advice on everything ranging from interview techniques to cover letter preparation. Last year, 265 out of 1273 students were successfully placed via our Careers Central program. Contact your Careers Officer on campus if you are a current KBS student to make an appointment.