Applying for graduate jobs can often be a laborious and painstaking task – one which involves a huge amount of time and energy but does not always translate into tangible rewards. When I was in my final year at university I felt the inadvertent pressure to secure a graduate job as soon as possible and I found myself rushing through as many application forms as I could squeeze into my already full days.
Now, as I start my career in Management Consultancy with Nine Feet Tall, and having completed a number of fantastic 9Plus training courses, I have learned the parallels between running a project and embarking on the long, cyclical process of applying for jobs. As it turns out, I could have used my time and my efforts far more efficiently so here are 9 tips from a 9Start graduate on how to tackle the job application process:
- Don’t forget the smaller players – When starting any new project, it is essential to have a complete understanding of all the stakeholders who may be affected by change. All too often projects get caught up in meeting the needs of senior stakeholders and sponsors and losing sight of the less well known in the organisation. The same can be said for Graduates who get attracted to the prestige of blue chip organisations and forget about the little guys! Of the 60,000 graduate jobs available, only 16,000 are with blue chip companies and the other 44,000 are with SME’s who are desperate to hire bright young graduates. More and more smaller companies are developing robust graduate programmes with an excellent training offering and the chance to gain first-hand work experience from the outset, often with more responsibility and less bureaucracy. Remember SME’s cannot always advertise in the obvious places so keep an eye on the local industry press and local business news for vacancies.
- Define the Scope – A healthy project will have a clearly defined and well communicated scope which is managed collaboratively between the project sponsor and project team. If the scope is not widely understood then you run the risk of developing a solution that the client does not want. Before applying for any role, graduates should gain a thorough understanding of what the employer is looking for in terms of experience, qualifications and personal attributes. Graduates should not be afraid to contact potential employers in advance of submitting an application; they will be only too happy to answer any questions you may have to help give you a better insight into the position.
- Add Value to an Organisation – Here at Nine Feet Tall we pride ourselves on being able to add real and tangible value for our clients which helps us distinguish ourselves from the competition. As a graduate, you need to think less about what benefits you may receive from a prospective organisation and more about how you can add value to their business over and above anyone else applying for the role. Value does not necessarily equate to tangible benefits such as having the ability to generate extra revenue in your first week – value to an organisation could also be something like having a thorough understanding of Microsoft Excel, which is knowledge you may be able to share to other members of the team.
- Document Management – Keeping project documentation in order is an understated and often overlooked task during a project. Being able to create, collate and record information from a number of different sources is a vital technique. As a job seeker you often find yourself with numerous copies of your CV, multiple different cover letters, notes and application forms created for a range of different roles. Having a logical folder system on your laptop will help you clear up your desktop and enable you to quickly locate relevant documents for specific jobs you have applied for; you could easily need to refer back to these again if you are called for an interview. But don’t forget to back it all up on a separate system!
- Keep an eye on your audit trail – Clients may wish to audit a project at any point in its lifecycle so it is imperative that documents are accessible, up-to-date and accurate. The same can be said for a graduate’s digital footprint; employers are now using social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter more and more to scope out potential employees. It is really important that you update your security settings on personal networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. If you use LinkedIn, make sure the information displayed is up to date and your career history matches that on your CV to avoid any inconsistencies.
- Keep it simple and cut the jargon – Employers, like clients, don’t want to wade through pages and pages of jargon before they reach the information they are looking for. Keep CVs short and concise and do not bombard employers with fancy language and lingo. The same can be said for interviews – keep your answers short, snappy and to-the-point so your interviewer does not lose interest. Practice is the key for this one!
- It’s all about the Image – Making a good first impression is important in any social situation let alone meeting a client for the first time or sitting down in front of an interview panel. Actions tell a thousand words, and how you present yourself will often be how you are remembered, particularly if your interviewer is seeing many like-minded graduates as well as you. An interview is also an opportunity for the employer to see how you may look and behave in front of a client or customer, so make sure you get it right. Remember what your mum always told you – dress smart, don’t be late and be polite.
- Celebrate Success – Celebrating the achievements of your team is a crucial part of any project, not only to maintain morale among staff but to explicitly mark positive success and progress. Graduates need to be thinking about how they have contributed to the success of teams they have worked in, and this should be highlighted on your CV. Employers don’t just want to know about what you have done in your career so far; they are far more interested in what you achieved in that role and how you made a positive impact. For example – getting a first-class mark in a group presentation at university is an impressive feat that employers will want to know about. But if you also document your personal contribution to the success of that team (be it writing up the minutes of your weekly meetings or setting up a group forum to improve communications within your group) employers will be able to get a feel for the intrinsic skills you possess.
- Continuous Improvement – The idea of continuous improvement is a hot topic for today’s businesses, and organisations are always looking to develop ways to out-compete their rivals and remain profitable. Even at a project level, it is important to evaluate what went well, what didn’t go so well and what could be done better next time. Like businesses, graduates must seek to learn from their experiences and continue to better the way in which they tackle job applications and interviews. It is no secret that there is a huge amount of competition for graduate roles and it is likely that grads will be unsuccessful for some positions they apply for. Take time to evaluate what went well, seek feedback from interviews if you are unsuccessful and try and use that insight effectively before you begin your next application.
If you are interested in finding out more about Nine Feet Tall’s award winning graduate development programme, please visit http://www.ninefeettall.com/careers/entry-level/. Applications are now open until 19th February.