5 tips from a graduate on getting a job

This is a guest post by Jannike, a recently employed graduate from a digital marketing agency. Here she shares her experience and tips for finding your first job.

Securing a graduate job can be stressful. When you consider the sheer competition, combined with the lack of jobs in the first place, it can seem like an impossible task.

But where there’s a will there’s a way! Having bagged my first job, with digital marketing agency Hallam Internet, I have found through my own experience that there are simple (but often overlooked) ways to increase your chances of success.

Spread your net wide

Working in a digital marketing agency, I have to think about the keywords I use all the time. But considering what to search for was also crucial when I was looking for work, and it’s important to explore all the different phrases that might be used to describe your desired role.

To give you an idea, typing ‘marketing job’ is only going to give you a portion of the marketing jobs advertised online. Vary your search terms by researching all the different job titles that are relevant, and be creative.

For example, I found potential jobs by searching for ‘job’ combined with ‘SEO’, ‘PR’, ‘communications’, ‘copywriter’ and ‘content’ to name just a few. Not all job advertisers have the searcher in mind when creating advertisements, and thinking outside the box can open up lots of new avenues of opportunity.

Don’t rely on job sites

Despite sending hundreds of applications for jobs advertised on the most popular recruitment websites, and meeting or surpassing the requirements of the job descriptions, I never received a single response.

Why? Because everyone is applying for jobs this way, and you will often be up against hundreds of others with the same idea. Recruiters for these jobs are usually too busy to even let you know if you’ve been unsuccessful.

But it doesn’t have to be this hard. There are plenty of unadvertised roles out there, and you can find them by visiting the websites of local companies that specialise in your field, or even unrelated ones that might employ someone in your desired role.

Using my digital marketing example again, most companies employ marketers, whether or not the organisation itself has anything to do with marketing, so almost any company could be of interest.

Once you’ve identified a potential employer, check the website for a jobs page. I discovered my digital marketing job by searching for ‘digital marketing companies in Nottingham’. While it would have attracted applicants like bears to a honeypot on a popular recruitment website, doing just a little extra research into local companies and applying direct gave me an edge.

If there are no job opportunities listed on the site, don’t give up just yet. Send your CV to the relevant person, along with an email explaining why you would love to work with them, and what you could bring to the company; speculative CVs are often well received and if you impress, you could find yourself in a role that wasn’t even advertised.

Gain work experience

The best way to find out if a role is for you, and to gain some impressive know-how along the way, is to get work experience. Potential employers will also like that you can talk about your own experiences in the industry.

Many companies see work experience as a win-win situation; they’re desperate for an extra pair of hands, and you’re gagging for a foot in the door. Not only does it give you a CV centrepiece, but working with others in the industry is a great way to get contacts. If the company is impressed by your work, you might even be the first person they contact when a full time position becomes available.

I did some work experience with a small marketing agency in my home town during a summer holiday. At the end of my time there, they asked me if I would like to fill a position they were about to start advertising. I couldn’t take it up as I still had two years of university left, but I did some freelance work for them throughout the rest of my degree.

Learn the basics

Employers don’t usually expect you to be an expert before you begin your career. In fact, many companies like to take on candidates with no previous training in the job, so that they can teach them the in-house way of doing things.

However, some base knowledge of the industry can be impressive in applications and interviews. When I realised that most of the marketing jobs I would be aiming for were digitally based, I did some research.

Before applying to my current job at the digital marketing agency, the concept of SEO (search engine optimization) was hazy to me. By the time my interview came around, though, I was able to discuss some of the strategies I would implement in an SEO campaign. Just a few hours of research took me from shameful ignorance to the kind of theoretical understanding employers love.

It doesn’t have to be a graduate scheme

Many students nearing the end of their degree feel the only way to embark on their chosen career path is to get a place on a graduate scheme. But while they can offer an exciting introduction to the industry, these schemes are by no means the only option.

The fierce competition means that even outstanding candidates are often turned down, so don’t be disheartened if you aren’t chosen for a place. The application process is long and arduous, usually involving a medley of aptitude tests, from psychometric assessments to group exercises. This is all necessary to cut thousands of hopefuls down to just a handful of graduates, a kind of job lottery.

I really wanted to be a part of L’Oreal’s high profile campaigns, or Boots’ brand management, but so did thousands of other bright young people!

Job sites offer plenty of roles for graduates, but you can also find exciting and less competitive opportunities by researching companies, and approaching potential employers directly. While grad schemes give you little bits of experience in different areas of a massive organisation, a job can offer you more depth of experience in one particular area, and even more responsibility.

If you’re looking for your first job, Save the Graduate is here to help. Take a look at the jobs listed on our graduate job search engine. You’ll also find this job listed by Jannike’s employer Hallam Internet – a great first step on the ladder if you’re looking for a career in digital marketing.