10 tips on how to bag a graduate job

27 January 2011

Youth unemployment hit a record high of 1.02 million between July and September and one in five new graduates are struggling to find work within six months of finishing university, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Historically, student unemployment has always been at a higher level than the national average: for example at the start of the recession the unemployment rate for new graduates was around twice that of the UK as a whole (10.6% compared to 5.2%). And it has increased at a faster rate: by the end of the recession the rate for new graduates was 2.3 times higher.

But Brendan Barber, general secretary for the TUC, blames the government for the high numbers of young people out of work.

"The prime minister must stop the risk of losing a generation to unemployment and under achievement by guaranteeing a job or high quality training to every young person out of work for six months."

It's clear that finding a job is no easy task for graduates but what can you do to boost your chances? Read our top 10 tips below.

10 tips for securing a graduate position

1. Work experience shows you have commitment and is a good way to make contacts that will in turn hopefully let you know about vacancies. Ernst and Young says more than a third of places in its graduate intake have gone to applicants who have carried out internships at the firm so it's worth applying for one if you can afford it.

2. Taking part in extra curricular activities at university looks good on your CV, shows you're good at time management and teaches you skills that will be useful in the work place. There are a multitude of different societies you can join, from a sports team to the student newspaper.

3. Your CV is the first thing an employer will see and it needs to look professional and efficient. Don't list every job you've had since you were 16 but pick out specific ones and list the skills you've learnt from each. Keep your CV and covering letter short, make sure your spelling and grammar is correct and always get someone else to check it.

4. It's never too soon to start looking and contacting companies. If you know what you want to do, or the areas you're interested in, then do some research and find out what jobs are out there. Talk to everyone around you and learn from their experiences. The more contacts you have, the better chance you will have of getting a job when you graduate.

5. Make sure you're looking at graduate-entry jobs and be prepared that less than half of all graduates go straight into their chosen career.

6. If you get called for an interview, make sure you know everything you can about the company and prepare well before. It's helpful to write down 20 potential questions you think you might be asked and make sure you have a good answer for each. Also prepare some questions to ask the employer to show you're interested in the job.

7. First impressions are made within 30 seconds so look smart and presentable on the day of an interview. Bring extra copies of your CV and examples of your work to show the employer and make sure you maintain frequent eye contact and be confident and friendly.

8. Sometimes it might be necessary to go into further training, for example a postgraduate course, to find your dream job.

9. Careers fairs take place throughout the year and are a good arena for getting more information and meeting potential new employers. There are also several websites listing new graduate jobs, for example milkround.com, prospects.ac.uk and graduate-jobs.com, and for most you can set up alerts for any new vacancies listed.

10. Stay positive, the graduate job market is fiercely competitive and don't be too disheartened if you get rejected. You will find a job but it will take time, preparation and patience. A part-time job while you're looking for work will add to your skills set, as well as providing you with some extra cash, and there are other options to visit like volunteer work or teaching abroad which will all add an extra bow to your CV.

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