Career building

When you are at university having the time of your life and socialising, job searching may not be on your mind – who cares, you have all the time in the world, right? Unfortunately this is not true: the earlier you apply, the better your chances of being successful. So here are some ways you can think outside of the box and land the job you want.

Networking

Find out where the networking events are and what you want to get out of them. Have a notepad and pen handy to write any notes down. What you will find at these events is that you will usually get a name badge or sticker – use this to write down what you’re looking for and wear it during the event. So something like “looking for runner jobs”, “freelance journalists”, or “recruiting make-up artists”. Because everyone is there to network, business cards are essential – a quick chat and then you can exchange your contact details.

Who do you want to speak to? If there is someone specific, make the effort and research their work. There will be a list of who will be attending but remember that you will not have time to speak to everyone in the room and expect questions. If there are no networking events then why not set one up?

Industry

If you are dreaming about working in a creative industry, the jobs and internships are rarely advertised. Try to get your foot in the door by keeping up with industry news so when your time comes you will already be on the ball. Employers do not want to spoon feed you and leadership is a skills lacking among graduates.

As the saying goes: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This is partly true as if people around the industry know you then opportunities will more likely start happening for you. That’s not to say take a back seat and ask for a job online because you feel you deserve it. Instead, back your work up. If you are going into advertising, journalism, photography or film making then expect a potential employer – even for internships – to request a portfolio. This could be easily accomplished via a blog that you update regularly; make it clear but keep it professional. Remember, the internet is for everyone unless you make it password protected.

Graduates first jobs

Work experience / internships

Find out who you want to work for, and once you have your opportunity ask questions: people love to talk about themselves so go ahead and ask them how they made it. Be careful how you ask though – saying anything like “guess you were lucky” or “it’s a lot harder for me” comes across as being very negative.

Show enthusiasm on tasks: nothing is worse then looking like you don’t want to be there.

An employer once said to me on an internship that 20% is work and 80% is chemistry with your colleagues. This company relied on a lot of team work and working in a pressured environment – would you be able to do that?

If you do not enjoy your work experience then do not let this hold you back. You may realise it is not for you but you could use your transferable skills. If you really enjoyed it, personalise a thank you card (leave your number or business card inside – cheeky I know) and ask about any opportunities. I did this and was asked back for another project and then was able to maintain and increase my contacts.

Jobs / application forms

Start applying as early as you can. This will increase your chances rather than leaving you panicking and handing in last-minute applications. Read job specifications as these are often overlooked; answer them accordingly. Send in speculative letters as most jobs are not advertised.

Research the company and point out why you want to work for them. Have they been established for a long period of time? Mention this in your covering letter (don’t keep reusing a template). But do not lie to employers either, because they will see right through this and not be impressed.

Students and graduates are finding it harder to get jobs as competition is fierce, so it’s now more important than ever to highlight the work you have done. Graduating with a 2:1 degree is becoming the norm and although it is a good degree it will not differentiate you from other applications. The question will no longer be whether you have work experience, it will be how much.

This article was written by Shehla Ali on behalf of Vistaprint.