For any student approaching the end of university, finding a job is a daunting prospect, almost like one final exam in your degree. I have been facing this very challenge in the last few months, and this is an account of my journey towards the perfect graduate job.
I started early, choosing to apply for a number of graduate schemes. I reasoned that I may as well give it a go, although I knew that the schemes attracted a huge number of applications and that the marketing schemes often didn’t involve PR tasks. The chance to work within large businesses and gain experience in a marketing role would mean I could work my way into their press office department, so I applied for four: BT, Sky, Marks and Spencer, and Sainsburys.
It takes time
Applying for graduate schemes is a long process, with a number of application questions to complete before their personality, numerical and verbal tests. All of this takes place before they will consider you for an interview, which makes the process all the more difficult. The time taken to complete the application is a waste if you don’t really want to secure the position, so think carefully before starting your application.
Unfortunately, I failed to secure any interviews from the graduate schemes and although I was disappointed, I wasn’t worried – there were plenty more opportunities to get an entry-level position.
A couple of months before I finished my degree, I began looking for potential jobs which I could apply for. Employers are expecting you to have to give notice before you can start so choosing to apply a couple of months before I would be available matched up with other applicants who may have been moving jobs rather than seeking their first position.
From about 30 job applications, I gained six interviews. Securing an interview from one in five of your applications is a pretty positive statistic, so I was optimistic about my prospects. I think the scariest part of an interview is when your interviewer has a list of questions and sits making notes about you as you speak. This happened in the majority of my interviews, and was reminiscent of the time I took my driving test when you knew that the examiner making a note was a mark towards or against your success – very nerve-wracking to say the least!
It’s tough to be rejected
The worst thing about the whole job-hunting process was the rejection. I understood that I was not always going to be the right person for the job, in my interviewer’s eyes, even if I didn’t agree with their decision. But it’s still tough to hear. Being rejected from a job you have already secured in your mind is difficult and the feedback is not always helpful.
A couple of my rejections went along the lines of: “We thought you were great and you would have fitted in but we found someone with more relevant experience”. That’s hard because there’s nothing I could have done differently. Although I have a year’s PR experience, when it came down to it, the experience only seemed to help if it matched with the industry I was being interviewed for. The world of PR is competitive and employers have to separate you somehow but I wish that they would see that solid PR experience can translate to any industry if you have the enthusiasm to learn, especially at the beginning of your career.
The moral of the story is not to get disheartened and to embrace the constructive criticism to improve in your next interview.
I think the best advice someone has given me about an interview is that it is a chance for me to ask questions too. It may sound obvious, but it is important to research the background of the company, any recent PR activity they have carried out and any future events coming up which you could ask insightful questions about. An interest and knowledge about the company is key for your potential employer to understand how enthusiastic you are about the job.
This is a tip I will always use in my future career because it is a simple but effective way to impress your interviewer and something they will remember about you when they come to decide their perfect candidate.
Social media was extremely useful in my job hunt. There are a number of Twitter accounts with the sole purpose of providing a stream of PR job opportunities (see below).
It is also a great place to network. I used Twitter to ask agencies I liked the look of about potential employment and received positive feedback from this approach. It shows initiative to try something a little different.
Gemma Diaper, a Bournemouth PR graduate also used Twitter in her job hunt, commenting: “Using Twitter, I sent an e-version of my CV out to all my PR contacts, and they provided me with some great feedback – this was invaluable, as you can never be sure what people in the industry want from a CV.”
It’s best to go direct
One thing I would warn against (if you can help it) is recruitment agencies. To me, they were more hassle than help. I always found it easier and got more responses if I applied for jobs directly advertised by the employer, and at least that way, you can rest assured your CV is seen by someone working within the company.
Thankfully, I have found the perfect job, which is a step up from my previous experience and involves a number of responsibilities I am really excited about. Although the time between finishing my degree and finding a job was only about 6 weeks, it felt like a lot longer! Perhaps because the graduate scheme applications started in November.
There was nothing I could do after applying for a job except wait and hope that something came from it. As a person who likes to be busy and to have a plan, the uncertainty about where I was heading was sometimes hard to handle. For a while, I was worried I may have to compromise on what I was looking for and bide my time before seeking the perfect position.
James Hall, a PR graduate from Leeds Metropolitan University recommends waiting for that perfect job: “My advice to graduates still looking for a job would be not to give up! I think it is important for people to find the right job that suits them and one they truly feel they can do. Take some time out to really go over your options, don’t worry about what your friends or peers are doing, just go for what you think is best for you.”
My quest for a graduate job is complete, but for those still looking, patience, passion and persistence is key. Confidence in your ability will carry you well on your way to your dream job. I wish you every success in your search!
Resources for Graduate Schemes:
The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers (a guide book printed annually)