It’s hard to know what employers want when you’re entering the graduate employment market. Is it previous work experience? Do you need a specific skill set? Is it who you know, not what you know? If these are the types of questions you’re asking, work your way through our tips before you begin applying for work.
- Know your skills: The key to landing a job in your field is knowing your skills and being able to apply them on the job. Listing them on your résumé is not enough — you need to back up your claims and be ready to use examples during your interview. If you refer to having a ‘hard skill’ such as experience using a particular computer program, you will need to describe your skill level and projects you’ve worked on. If you refer to a particular ‘soft skill’, such as your strong work ethic or ability to work in a team, be sure to illustrate how you’ve developed these skills. Perhaps your part-time restaurant job helped you develop teamwork skills or your involvement in a student group on campus taught you about commitment and leadership.
- Discuss relevant work experience: There’s no doubting that work experience is one of the most highly valued attributes among graduates. This is especially the case in highly competitive fields where work can be difficult to come by (communications, for instance). Gaining work experience shows employers that you are committed to the industry and have gone out of your way to improve your chances before applying for work. It also shows that you are entering the field with more than just theoretical knowledge gained through years of study — you have taken time out to see what it’s like to do the job and tested the waters to find your niche. For example, work experience might have helped you decide whether to use your marketing degree for events or digital marketing.
- Prepare for your interview: Interviews vary greatly in their style and format, but there are some common questions you can expect to face almost each time you meet with a potential employer. You might be asked why you applied for the job, what you like about the company and what unique quality you would bring to the role if selected. You will also generally be asked to talk about your ability to work in a team, handle stress and resolve conflict. These are just the basics — you never know what question an employer might throw your way! Before attending your first interview, our tip is to practise with a friend or family member.
- Demonstrate that you are passionate about your field: Even if you have the required degree and internships under your belt, these will mean a lot less if you can’t show your interviewer that you are genuinely passionate about a career in the field. Talk about what led you to study your course, why you believe you’re a good fit for the industry and what has drawn you to the particular role. You might also think about these points before submitting job applications — after all, there’s little use in applying for a role if it’s not suited to you. Remember that your body language conveys a lot too, so if you appear uninterested or slouch in your seat, you’re unlikely to receive a second interview or job offer.
- Be willing to make sacrifices: This is a bitter pill to swallow for many graduates, but the reality is that you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices. It could be that you have dreams of taking up a job in a high-rise tower in the CBD, but instead find work with a smaller employer in the suburbs. Or perhaps you need to take the long way to your preferred position, starting out in a lower-level role before advancing up the corporate ladder. Do not despair — the graduate employment market can be tough and it may take a while to get your big break. In some fields, you might need to take the freelance route, undertake further work experience or study, or even consider relocating to a regional area where jobs may be more readily available. If you are truly passionate about a career in the field, making a sacrifice as a fresh graduate is surely worth it in the long run.