You may be finding it difficult to find a graduate opportunity. If you can’t get a job related to your degree then it’s important to try and get some kind of work to keep yourself going and develop skills that will be valuable in any career.

But it’s also important to keep your hand in with activities related to your chosen field.

Many graduates have the impression that after leaving university, that’s it. Job done. But in order to stand out while looking for work you ideally need to keep tabs on what is happening in your industry, learn new skills, and continue with some kind of projects.

A lot of graduate job seekers don’t do this, and many do still get a graduate job. But it’s definitely a way to help you stand out from many others.

It’s particularly important in certain sectors. For example computing / IT, where there are opportunities available, but with a lot of competition.

(If you have been successful in securing a graduate job there will be a lot to learn, and you would be best to focus on that, as it will be specific to your job – unless you really enjoy learning and you want to do something additional in your own time.)

WHAT EMPLOYERS IDEALLY LIKE…

In many cases the most popular candidates with employers are those who not only got at least a 2:1 but also had some kind of relevant experience; for example a placement year or internship.  Most of these are already in work, and those who don’t have related experience can still secure a position, but really do need to stand out.

Which IT graduate do you think an employer will prefer:

  • Graduated a year ago, but has done nothing related to their degree since; not through work, or in their own time.
  • Graduated a year ago and continued to learn new technologies. Has a GitHub repository to show work. Practices coding for fun online.

It’s a real shame for those who miss out, as they did the hard work in gaining a degree; many a 2:1 or even a first, but as time goes on this becomes less relevant and it’s even more difficult to secure a graduate role.

WHAT YOU CAN DO…

There are plenty of things that can be done. Look online for free courses; or invest in ones with a cost if you can afford it.

This not only shows that you are continually learning and developing skills, it shows you have a genuine interest. Many job adverts will ask for someone who is keen to continually learn and develop, and unless you have carried on developing your skills after leaving university this may not be easy to justify. Particularly when up against others who have.

A similar approach can be taken to all other degrees, to varying extents.

For example, a Marketing graduate could offer voluntary services to a small business or society; maybe plan a marketing strategy, set up social media channels and write content. And track the results to see how effective the actions have been. This will look great on your CV (though for maximum effect I would also say that this is best done alongside your degree, particularly if you haven’t got any relevant experience through an internship or placement).

Design graduates can have a Behance account, or standard portfolio with examples of work; it can be updated with anything new that you do.

Or if you’re looking to get into Sustainability then enrolling on a BREEAM course can offer a huge advantage.

There is something that can be done for any degree or career type. Reading books or online material. Or perhaps joining a trade association or society. It all goes towards demonstrating interest and commitment.

Or, more generally it may be a particular piece of knowledge of skill, say Microsoft Excel, that you keep seeing in job adverts. If you don’t have this skill then it can be learned. Look for online courses etc. Or speak with your university careers team, as they will have advice. Even if you can use Excel, most people can get better.

TIME SPENT IS AN INVESTMENT…

If you are working full-time then it’s not easy to get time to develop new skills and apply for jobs. A lot can come down to time management: plan in some time each week and make sure you stick to it. Even a couple of hours a week can be productive.

This additional knowledge and experience is not in itself guaranteed to get you a job, but it will really help you to stand out.

But please do remember to add anything you have done to your CV.

Matthew Parry,
Director. SME Graduate Employment

Email: matthew@sme-graduates.co.uk Telephone: 0370 774 9500

SME Graduate Employment is a specialist student and graduate recruitment agency covering permanent jobs, placements, and internships across the UK. Most job types and business sectors are covered.

You can see student and graduate jobs advertised here Student and Graduate job vacancies (sme-graduates.co.uk) and read more blogs and advice to help develop your employability skills here University student and graduate employability advice and tips (sme-graduates.co.uk)

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