It’s time. Graduation’s over, your most organised friends are starting their graduate schemes on Monday, and you’re still left wondering where on earth to start.
Well, you’re in luck. With almost 80% of the top graduate employers offering graduate jobs in London, the capital is the place to be if you want to land your first entry-level role. What’s more, there’s thousands of small businesses and start-ups in London looking to bolster their team with talented young people too.
With that in mind, here’s our guide to landing your dream role in the capital.
1) What should you do?
If you really don’t know where to start with the career hunt, you’re not alone. Many people leave university without much idea of what they want to do, or a concept of how their skills can be applied to a job.
The job-hunting process begins with educating yourself about the options. Talk to as many people as possible about their careers and you’ll find jobs exist in areas you never even knew about. Use the Holy Grail that is Google to find out about as many different jobs as you can. Many of them won’t be for you, but with each realisation, you’ll get closer to the kind of sector or job that you are passionate about.
Also, don’t forget that you’re not committing to a career for the next 45 (or maybe even 55) years of your life. When you’re young, you have the opportunity to test drive different careers and if you don’t like them, well, that’s just one more item off the dream job checklist. Think about your passions and don’t be afraid to pursue them while you’re young; it might not be so easy to chase your dream job when you’re all grown up.
2) We need to talk about your CV…
Now that you have some idea of the kind of job you want to do, you need to think about your CV.
The most difficult thing to grasp with a CV is that there is no chance that anyone will give it the same level of scrutiny that you do. A good CV can take hours of work, and constant revision. By contrast, studies suggest that the average hiring manager spends only 6 seconds looking at each one. When you think about the stack of CVs they’ll be facing, it’s easy to understand why.
This doesn’t mean all hope is lost, we’re talking about very experienced people here, who can quickly work out if someone is right to be considered for the role. However, you need to make the information as accessible as possible and cut out anything that might get you immediately thrown in the bin.
Think of it like CV real estate. The stuff at the top is really valuable, as it’s where people will immediately be drawn to. There’s nothing wrong per say with including a personal statement, but it should only give context to your experience, summing up your degree and what you’re looking for. Lengthy prose about how motivated and innovative you are is unlikely to be much use.
Try to keep describe your experience in terms of your achievements and skills, not responsibilities, and keep the format clear, with headings and enough white space to make the good stuff stand out. The more the reader can take in in those precious 6 seconds, the better.
As for what to exclude? It’s been found that in the UK CVs with photos are thrown on the ‘no’ pile 88% of the time, while any spelling or grammar errors will be the end of the process for you too. Google yourself and see what you can do to clean up your online image as well. Most hiring managers will do exactly the same thing…
3) Take the initiative
One thing that will always stand out on a graduate CV is someone who has taken their career into their own hands.
Whether this is setting up a blog to show your writing ability, building your own website or even starting up your own small company, any kind of proactive approach is likely to go down well with a whole range of employers.
It’s a particularly good approach if you feel like your CV has a bit too much blank space. This way, you make your own experience.
4) Small and perfectly formed
Much of the clamour for positions before graduation surrounds landing a spot on a graduate scheme with the big graduate employers. Yet, while these schemes can be an amazing way of learning the ropes and progressing up the ladder, they’re not for everyone. So don’t worry if you’ve missed the boat!
One thing many graduates fail to consider is the attractiveness of small business or start-ups. In fact, as an inexperienced graduate, working somewhere like this might just be the best thing for your career.
For one, you’ll assume control quickly; graduates on a training scheme may find that it takes years before they start making any real decisions, while at a start-up you may find yourself in charge of budgets and advising on strategy almost immediately.
What’s more, the diverse and often in-at-the-deep-end style of training you’ll receive at a start-up can actually be much better preparation if you ever want to go it alone and set up your own business in the future. No matter what you go on to do, it’s also likely to stand you in good stead for the rest of your career.
5) Quantity and Quality
Next it’s time to look at your approach to your job hunt. Yes you may need to fire off a number of applications before you get a response, but applying a scattergun style is unlikely to work. It may feel like you’re increasing your chances, but copy and pasting applications is not going to allow you to represent yourself as well as you deserve.
Don’t be afraid to stand out either. Let your personality come across in your application, or maybe even consider filming a video CV or video cover letter. It works for us!
Having said that, do be aware that it’s all good practice and applying to lots of different jobs will help you when that perfect role comes along. You need to stay resilient too, and use any rejection as a chance to learn and improve. Make sure you also organise some fun things to do around your time job-hunting, so you don’t burn out or start suffering from cabin fever.
Once you’ve identified the right companies for you, it’s time to do some research. Whether it’s your application or the interview, tailoring the process to the company is crucial to impressing them. They’ll want to know that you’ve actively engaged with them and understand how they operate, as well as understand what they’re looking for in a candidate.
Start with their website, social media and see if they have a company blog. All of this will give you a good idea of how the company operates, as well as exactly what they do and the kind of culture that they might have. After this you should be able to easily and concisely describe what the company does, and the chances are that they’ll ask you to do this at some point.
From here, consider looking at any news stories relating to the company, and reviews left by employees on websites like Glassdoor to get an in depth insight into what the company is actually like beyond the image they are trying to project.
7) The Big Day
OK, so you’ve landed the dream job interview and you’ve researched the company to death. It’s time to show them what you’ve got!
Preparation is again key here. Take a look at the information you have on the role and see what kind of skills and competencies they expect from their ideal candidate. The chances are that they’re going to ask you to tell them a time that you displayed some of these skills so it’s worth having a good example to demonstrate all of them.
Don’t forget to rehearse some standard questions too, and pay attention to your body language. Many studies have shown that retaining eye contact is essential to building trust, and a relaxed, upright posture is most effective to help you look approachable and confident. Presenting yourself well requires you to be dressed well and appropriately for the company vibe. If they’re a start-up where the founder wears t-shirts and flip-flops aim to dress a bit more formally, but steer clear of a full suit and tie.
Other than that, just be yourself. Cultural fit is one of the biggest buzzwords in recruitment nowadays and it means that ensuring that a candidate fits into their company environment is a number one priority for interviewers. So don’t be afraid of showing your personality; a buzzword-toting, uptight graduate is unlikely to be the person that the company is going to want to hire.
Final piece of advice? For goodness sake, don’t be late.
If you are interesting in making a start in your career, we’re here to help too! With over 200 live graduate jobs in London, let us connect you with the job of your dreams.