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Jobs & Careers

How to get a graduate job

Tired of writing detailed, heartfelt cover letters to potential employers who reply with... nothing? We feel your pain. But this guide can help you get the graduate job you want (and deserve!).

Confused man applying for jobs

Credit: forestgraphic (foreground left), Luis Molinero (background) – Shutterstock

The graduate job market isn't easy, and you won't be alone in wondering how to stand out from the crowd.

But, if you're searching for your dream graduate job, have faith. With some small changes to the way you approach applications, you could be living it up in your ideal office before you know it.

The right job is out there waiting for you, and we've compiled some tips to help you get there.

Did you know that taking a gap year can actually help you get a job? It might sound too good to be true, but travelling actually makes you more employable.

11 tips to find the perfect graduate job

Here are the best ways to get your ideal job as a graduate:

  1. Appear professional on social media

    Woman on laptop with social media likes and loves

    Credit: Flamingo Images, Pinone Pantone, Avector – Shutterstock

    The first thing you should be doing as a student or graduate job searcher is making sure you have a professional online presence.

    We're not suggesting you post photos of yourself wearing work clothes all the time (or ever), and you definitely don't need to tweet solely about work. But it's essential to present yourself as respectful, trustworthy and employable on social media to convince recruiters to hire you.

    For in-depth advice about this, check out our guides to getting a job using Twitter, LinkedIn or social media in general.

  2. Upload your CV to job sites

    Dwight from the Office CV

    Credit: NBC

    Job sites aren't just used by people hoping to find a job – employers and recruiters often search through them when looking for potential candidates too.

    There's a chance that a future employer could come across your CV on a job site and realise you're the ideal candidate for them. It's too good an opportunity to miss.

    Creating a profile and uploading your CV will probably take around 15–30 minutes, but it's worth it.

    It goes without saying, but you should also be uploading your CV to your LinkedIn profile too – you wouldn't believe how many employers use LinkedIn to snoop on potential candidates!

  3. Use graduate recruitment agencies

    rachel friends get a job

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    It's definitely worth looking into recruitment agencies when you're trying to get a job after uni.

    There are thousands of recruitment agencies all over the UK, and many of them specialise in graduate jobs.

    These agencies get paid a commission for filling a company's vacancy, meaning they're great to have on your side – they want you to get a job almost as much as you do.

    But, while there are pros to using a recruitment agency to land your first job, there are also a few cons that you should be aware of before using them. Our guide to using recruitment agencies will fill you in on everything you need to know to get the most out of their services.

  4. Tailor every application for the role

    Tailored suit

    Credit: Africa Studio – Shutterstock

    Most jobs will require you to submit a covering letter and tailored CV when you apply. It might be tempting to just dish out the same documents for each job, but please never do this.

    It might seem like a total headache to tailor every application you send out but, if you don't, recruiters will be able to tell (trust us).

    Ultimately, aim for quality over quantity when filling out graduate job applications. It's not a good use of your time to apply for 100 jobs if none of your applications are actually focused on the role you're applying for.

    It's not just about telling potential employers all about you – it's also equally important to tell them why you are perfect for this specific role at this particular company.

    The key to getting called for a job interview is to tailor your cover letter and CV to the job in hand, so read the job spec in loads of detail before applying.

    Bonus tip: You don't have to create an entirely new CV each time. When saving your previous efforts, choose a file name that identifies which role the CV is for – then, when you start a new application, you can add to the info that's already there to fit the new job spec.

  5. Ask connections about job opportunities

    colleagues networking with coffee

    Sometimes, it's not about what you know, but who you know. Whether it's fair or not is another question, but thousands of job vacancies are filled each year through word of mouth alone.

    If you know someone who works for a company you're interested in, get them to recommend you; if you know someone who works in an industry you're interested in, ask them to put you in touch with the right person.

    Many companies now offer a bonus to employees if they put someone forward for a position and they are recruited, so you could even earn your connection a little extra cash.

    How to make new work connections

    If you don't have many connections in your chosen industry, there are loads of ways to make new contacts.

    Do some research into companies you'd like to work for and create a list of the relevant contacts by searching on LinkedIn. You can then reach out to them personally by email to introduce yourself and ask about vacancies.

    Social media is a great way to connect with important people, so do your research into who's who and reach out (after making your online presence look more professional, of course).

  6. Make yourself more employable

    Will Ferrell Anchorman

    Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

    Easier said than done, right? This might sound like the most annoying tip ever, but it's much more actionable than you'd think.

    With a huge number of graduates entering the job market with top grades each year, it's hard to stand out with your degree alone.

    Finding new ways to make yourself more employable is just as important, like doing voluntary work, gaining work experience or getting a free online qualification in an area related to your chosen career.

    Starting your own blog or website is also a great way to show you're a self-starter, and can even contribute to offering a broader picture of who you are to potential employers. And, better yet – you could even make money from the website if you're savvy...

  7. Research companies before applying for jobs

    Woman holding paper with research

    Credit: Pemberley Digital

    To really impress a potential employer, it's vital to show them that you have a genuine interest in the company.

    Whether it's at the early stages of a job application or when you're through to the interview stage, doing thorough research about the job and business is sure to help you get a job.

    Not only this, but after spending a good hour or so reading up on a company, the work they do and the role you're applying for, we can guarantee that your covering letter will be much easier to tailor – and is much more likely to stand out.

    If you do make it to the next stage, we have a few great interview prep tips for you, and a list of some of the most commonly-asked interview questions for you to prepare answers for in advance.

  8. Be confident the graduate job is right for you

    Devil Wears Prada I love my job

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Good graduate jobs can seem few and far between sometimes, so you might be tempted to apply for as many opportunities as you can find just because they say 'graduate' in the spec – even if you're not remotely interested in the job.

    This is not a good idea. Remember, you spend around 80% of your life at work, so signing yourself up to do something you know you won't enjoy is just asking to be miserable.

    That's not to say you shouldn't be open to something new and unrelated to your degree, though. Just make sure it's something you can see yourself doing – and (ideally!) enjoying.

  9. Apply to startup companies

    Start screen on windows computer

    Credit: Windows

    Smaller startup companies are too often overlooked by job seekers. They might not be big enough to fund graduate schemes, but they can offer some pretty incredible job opportunities.

    While it's brilliant if you do land yourself a grad scheme at a national or international company, the competition for entry-level jobs at smaller companies is usually much lower. This is because startup companies aren't generally the first options graduates think of when looking for jobs.

    The hands-on experience you can get working in a startup business is invaluable – you could even find yourself with much more responsibility than you would get at a larger company.

    In turn, by working for a small company, you could end up leapfrogging into a more senior position much earlier on in your career than you might expect.

  10. Broaden your options when applying for jobs

    woman on laptop

    Credit: astarot – Shutterstock

    We know we just said that you shouldn't take a job unless it's a right fit for you (and we still stand by that), but it's worth thinking carefully about whether the jobs you've been looking at so far are actually, hand-on-heart, right for you.

    If you're not overly fussed about relocating, perhaps consider broadening your job search to the whole of the UK instead of just those in your patch. You could even look for opportunities abroad and apply for jobs like teaching English as a foreign language.

    It's worth thinking about whether there are jobs you'd be interested in that aren't directly related to your degree. It's really common for graduates to end up in roles that are very different from the jobs they'd expected to apply for as a student.

    But this is all part of the fun (or near enough) of job searching.

    To get you thinking, we've put together a list of brilliant careers you can start with any degree at all. And if you want to dip your toe into a different sector before committing, we've got a guide to online courses that will allow you to do just that.

  11. Stay motivated while job searching

    baby celebrating success meme

    Source: KnowYourMeme

    This might seem easier said than done, but however tough your job hunt feels, don't give up! You've got this.

    As much as we'd all love to stumble into our dream job straight after uni, job hunting takes time.

    It's a good idea to keep yourself occupied with relevant activities like freelance projects to stay motivated and earn some cash before you start working full-time. For inspiration, have some suggestions of easy freelance gigs to do on Fiverr.

    Set yourself a target of a few hours and a certain number of applications each day to stay focused. You could think of job searching as a job in itself, working from 9am until 5pm to apply for graduate roles, and then keeping evenings and weekends free.

    That way, once you've got through your target number of applications for the week, you can relax knowing you're doing all you can and making progress.

    If you get job rejections, take all the positives you can from each one – learn what does and doesn't work in your applications, make changes accordingly and keep improving until you land your ideal graduate role. Good luck!

Not sure how much to expect for your first paycheck? Check out our guide to the average graduate salaries in the UK.

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