10 top tips for finding a career after university

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21.01.2015

Getting a degree doesn’t necessarily mean a career will follow.

As a 22-year-old graduate, I’ve been guilty of a most common mistake. In a time where over 40% of working adults are degree-educated, I wrongly assumed a career would simply fall out of the sky and into my lap.

“I’ve got a degree! Obviously I’ll get a decent job eventually.”

Except it doesn’t quite work like that.

It’s not just me; after nearly 20 years of education, a lot of university graduates – perhaps rightfully – feel as if they’re owed a decent job on a decent wage. Hours spent fine tuning essays in the library and sticking to all those clustered deadlines had to count for something, right?

In a bygone time, perhaps that was the case. In the early eighties, fresh from university, my dad – unemployed at the time – walked into a bank and landed a mortgage; it was just assumed he’d be able to afford the repayments because of his degree.

Granted; he did a degree in Engineering – a solid choice – and I elected to study English Literature – not so solid. Also, the house cost a grand total of £17,000 – I know, sickening isn’t it?

Thirty years, one education inflation later and now I’d get laughed out of the bank if I walked in waving a fancy piece of paper around.

So how do you find that job you’ve been priming yourself for all those years?

From a happy new Manifestee, who’s finally fallen on his feet, here’s a ten-step guide to opening the gate to your career-path…

1.    Pick a path and run with it

Start at the beginning. Try and work out what you would like to do. For some people, this part is very simple; students of Law and Medicine have clear career paths outlined well in advance of graduation. For others, leaving university can bring a lot of uncertainty.

What next? Foolishly, I hadn’t got a plan at this point either; which brings me to my first tip – pick a path and run with it. You’re young! If you follow your nose down an alleyway you later realise you don’t like the smell of, there’s still plenty of time to turn around.

2.    Find a casual job

You’ve heard it a million times – “employers would rather hire somebody who’s already got a job than somebody who hasn’t”.

It’s true; being in work – whether it’s at Microsoft or McDonalds – is undoubtedly the better option. Applying to jobs when you’ve already got a job will make your interviewer see you as a person in demand with a good work ethic.

3.    Network till your net works no more

“It’s not what you know but who you know”

Without diminishing the importance of what you know, it can really aid your job hunt to spread the word. Using social media and websites like LinkedIn can really make a difference. You never know whose brother might be a cameraman at the BBC, whose mum might run a record label or whose cousin might work in a fashion studio.

4.   Search high and low

a)  Look everywhere

Exclusively searching the web for hours on end, applying for the odd speculative job – which you’re fully aware you haven’t got the experience for – isn’t the best idea. Research your local area and try to find a few companies you’d love to work for, then write to them speculatively – what have you got to lose?

b): Moneys

Be realistic, but don’t rule yourself out; a big salary doesn’t always mean the job is out of reach. On the flipside; if your applications are falling on deaf ears, it might be time to bite the bullet and invest some time in yourself, your CV and your job prospects; roll on point number five…

5.    Work for free

Unpaid work has developed a certain stigma amongst young people – it’s understandable; I’ve heard of six-month internships that end in a handshake and a half-decent reference. There are those unscrupulous companies that run off intern-labour; be especially wary of places where the interns outnumber the paid staff!

For me, my options were clear: work in a coffee shop for the foreseeable future, or sacrifice three months for the chance of a genuine career – it was a no-brainer!

By Cameron Taylor