Oh, The Places Your Graduate Career Can Go! What You Need to Know to Get Your Graduate Career Soaring



Congratulations on becoming a graduate.
Today is your day!
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

If you take a Dr Seuss approach to your career, I can assure you that it will be full of choices and wonderful opportunities. As a graduate, I can also appreciate that embarking on your career can be an exciting yet also a daunting and stressful experience.

It was around 20 years ago now that I completed my Bachelor of Arts – a wonderful degree that does not qualify you for any specific career path. It would have been helpful to know then what I know now about the world of work. During my career I have been involved in hiring graduates through graduate programs and for specific roles. From these experiences I have identified the core areas that graduates should focus on when looking to secure their first graduate position.
Don’t get stuck in the waiting room. Here is how to join the high fliers……..

As a graduate you are no doubt full of excitement and trepidation as you embark on securing that first ‘real job’. You have spent a number of years completing your degree where it has occupied your mind, time and finances and now you are itching to put it all into action. Unfortunately the job search process rarely goes as ideally as you had planned in your mind.

8 of the key reasons graduates get stuck in the waiting room include;

1. Underestimating how much time and effort needs to go into the process
When you have 1000+ graduates applying for a handful of positions in a graduate program your application needs to be nothing short of brilliant. This includes your resume, application letters, key selection criteria, research and interview preparation. If you are not willing to put the time in to prepare a first class application consider how interested you really are in the opportunity. Focus on doing a handful of good applications rather than spreading yourself to fine.

2. Not looking outside graduate programs
Combine looking at graduate programs with other job openings. Hedge your bets so to speak given graduate programs are very competitive. If you don’t get into a graduate program, look at other entry level roles that are aligned with where you saw your career starting off. For instance, if you wanted to get into a government graduate program and missed out, another angle would be to try for an administrative role in government and work your way up. While graduate programs are great, you can experience a very successful career with our without them.

3. Unrealistic expectations about the roles you are ready to secure
Certainly aim high in terms of the roles you apply for however also be realistic and willing to take roles that are relevant to what you are after and that may just offer you a foot in the door and some relevant experience. There are various paths to the same goal so take a strategic approach.

4. Failing to create your own job opportunities
As a graduate you are heading into the unknown. While there are structured job search paths available to you such as graduate programs and entry level roles advertised, it also makes sense to be more adventurous and create your own opportunities where you can. This is done through having a clear sense of the value you bring and the problems you can solve for a particularly audience. Then setting about ‘selling’ yourself into these companies. This could be in the form of voluntary work, project work or as an employee. Careers are no longer linear, and we now talk about ‘Chaos Theory of Careers’  as defined by Dr.Jim Bright. The theory is not saying we cannot control our careers and that everything is random. It more suggests adopting different strategies to managing our careers. The focus is around planning and looking for opportunities.

5. No seeking out the support and listening to advice from others
When you are starting out you don’t know the rules of the game and as a result are learning as you go. It can be lonely and tough. With the support of trusted and experienced people who know how the job market works you can save time and hopefully secure a good role a lot quicker than muddling through on your own. Support could come from career coaches, mentors, family members, family friends, other more recent graduates who have been through the process and networking.

6. Unrealistic salary expectations
While you bring a degree and maybe some relevant work experience, as a graduate the employer is hiring you on your potential and taking a risk! The reality is that a lot of degrees show that you can learn, they don’t necessarily qualify you for particularly jobs in the real world – so your degree is valuable in one sense and not so in others. So while in your next roles you certainly will have salary negotiation power based on real live work experience with your first it is unlikely. That said if the prospective employer is not paying you the award or a reasonable salary then it is worth entering into negotiations.

7. High grades are not a ticket to employment anymore
High marks are very important in only a few disciplines and even then these companies are not just focused on IQ alone. More than ever before having great Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is just as important. Someone with reasonable grades and a high EQ is now more attractive than someone with just a higher IQ. Employers desire graduates who have great interpersonal and communication skills, a good attitude, respect for others and an inquisitive and creative mind. These are traditionally thought of as the ‘soft skill’s however not any longer. These are the personal attributes and skills in demand. Be sure to highlight these in your job applications and throughout the interview process.

8. Failing to have a plan
In a competitive job market you need to have a plan when it comes to securing your first graduate role. While the plan does not need to be set in stone being organised will make the process far less stressful and more likely to get you results. If you are targeting graduate programs, research them and compile a spreadsheet of those you are targeting. List when applications open. Ask about your networks if anyone has any contacts within these firms. Look at roles outside graduate programs that are aligned with what you are after. They may be your plan B however factor them into the equation. As with the graduate programs, make note of the roles and companies of interest. Do your research on them and any networking contacts.

Ensure your CV is tailored to what your after and that your have a compelling written application letter / email. Also ensure that your online profiles are looking professional and current. Without a plan it is easy to lose focus which can result in a lot of time wasting and feeling of helplessness. You can avoid a lot of this by having a plan!

The most important thing to remember is that your first job as a graduate does not necessarily dictate the path your career will ultimately follow. Your career will follow many paths so don’t put too much emphasis on getting that one job! For the truth is most jobs will take you great places where you will learn many things and meet lots of amazing people!

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ per cent guaranteed.)

Visit The Ladders for great career articles and resources to assist you in your job search.

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