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How to improve your job prospects

Once you finish studying, the natural next step is to begin looking for work. Even if you choose to relax for a few months or take a year off to travel the world and see the sights, it’s likely that at some point you’ll feel the urge to settle down and begin job hunting.

Although some graduates will find work within weeks of course completion, the reality is that some fields of study have lower graduate employment rates than others and, likewise, that some graduates simply have different circumstances than others (perhaps they have an industry contact, previous work experience or they’ve sought out professional accreditation).

It could also be that job opportunities in your field are scarce where you live.

Whatever the reason, don’t despair if you don’t find a job the minute you graduate.

In this section we cover:

  • Improving your graduate job prospects
  • Job search tips

Improving your graduate job prospects

Work experience

Unfortunately, a qualification isn’t always enough to enter your dream job. Even jobs that are described as being entry level or that are at the lower end of the pay scale may require previous work experience.

Completing work experience shows employers that you’re passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to land a job in your field. It can also help you narrow down your employment options. As a journalism student, for example, you may find that an internship helps you choose between specialisations (such as television or radio) or between working for a small publication or a large company. Work experience is also helpful for students of generalist degrees such as arts or business, as it can direct them to the field or industry in which they may like to work.

Although finding work experience (even on an unpaid basis) can be difficult, the effort of finding a position is well worth it.

Further study

Another way to improve your job prospects is to complete further study— it may be that you choose to enter university study at the conclusion of a vocational course or enter a postgraduate program once you have completed an undergraduate degree. Some students choose to undertake further study straight away (perhaps following a bachelor degree with a masters program), while others take a break (either to take some time away from study or to get some work experience in their field).

Although there’s no guarantee that further study will land you a job the minute you graduate, there is a good chance that it will help you stand out to employers and significantly improve your prospects.

When researching courses, make sure that you are looking out for those that offer credit for previous study. You may find that some institutions will allow you to shorten your course based on previous study you have completed — this is usually known as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) or advanced standing.

Job search tips

Finding work is a natural step once you've completed your course, but it's not always an easy process. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to land a job in your field. The following are a few tips to keep in mind when you begin searching for work.

Use your resume to your advantage

The quality of your résumé plays a huge part in your job search, as it is the very first thing potential employers see when you submit a job application. Try to remember that, while a résumé should offer a summary of your qualifications, skills and attitudes, it should be relevant and tailored to your job application. This means that you may need to make slight adjustments to your résumé depending on the job in question — emphasising specific skills or tertiary subjects completed, for example. The next thing to do is to ensure that your résumé is up to date, especially if you have simply made changes to an old copy or if you have recently acquired a new skill. It should include information about your current or most recent job, as well as your education (including qualifications that are still in progress). The last (and most important) thing to keep in mind is the presentation of your résumé, including spelling and grammar. A spelling mistake can be the difference between being called back and having your resume placed on the ‘no’ pile, so have a thorough read (printing it out and enlisting the help of a red pen usually helps) as does asking a friend or family member to help.

Consider your online profile

It’s important to remember that your potential employer may try to access information about you by conducting an online search. While this can certainly work in your favour (if you have a good online presence or can showcase work relevant to your field), it’s just as easy to give employers the wrong impression. If you know you have boozy photos splashed across social media or have friends who tend to share inappropriate content, ensure that you have a thorough look at your privacy settings and make the necessary adjustments. You should also look for ways to convey a positive online presence before you begin submitting applications, such as by having an up-to-date profile on sites such as LinkedIn or by putting together your own website that showcases exactly who you are.

Be realistic

Try to remember that your first job may not tick all the boxes, so don’t set your sights on finding the ‘perfect’ job. You may have to compromise (perhaps taking a job with lower pay than you’d like) or look for jobs that will act as a stepping stone to your dream job — completing freelance design work before taking on a full-time position in a design house, for example. If you’ve had a career change, you have to be prepared for the possibility that you may need to start from scratch — perhaps entering a low-paid entry-level role, even if you were employed at a more senior level previously.

In this section we cover: