It’s pretty much instilled into us since the day we arrive at university that the end goal is to get a fulfilling job in an industry you love. Within my first few days of my degree, career fairs and internships were ingrained into our brains. I remember thinking...this three years is going to end. I’m going to have to get a job.
Fast forward four years and I’m currently in my third role since graduating. I started with an internship, then, whilst I was in a permanent role at my second company, a very interesting opportunity arose that I couldn’t resist: a Digital Content Specialist position at Thoughtworks. It combined everything I was passionate about: writing for social media and digital platforms. Whilst I am not experienced in how to land any job, I do know that when I was leaving university I wanted advice from people who were only a couple steps ahead of me, instead of 100 steps ahead. I personally found the most valuable advice came from other recent graduates. Here’s what I did...
Think about how to build on your skills
If you can, start building a portfolio to showcase the skills you have, tailored for your ideal industry. Think about what you can talk about in future interviews. For example, whilst at university and beyond, I’ve written for multiple UK music platforms, my own blogs and I have also worked independently with artists to compose album biographies and stories. I also did some writing for events companies. These examples gave me talking points to showcase my writing passion. I also completed an unpaid internship in digital marketing for a video production company. Whilst unpaid internships can show dedication, they are also a massive privilege as not everyone is able to work for free. If unpaid internships aren’t an option, there are so many other outlets to build practical skills.
Apply for that job (girls!!)
Research has suggested that women shy away from applying for jobs if their skill set doesn’t match ALL of those listed on the job ad. However, men are more confident in their abilities and will apply regardless. While you never want to waste anyone’s time by applying for jobs that don’t make sense,you should still be confident about your abilities. You can always be honest about what your stronger points are while showing eagerness to improve in other aspects. This will also show the recruiter that you’re self-aware and honest.
Focus on skills, not job titles
This is probably the best piece of post-grad advice I was given. Focus on the skills you have instead of job titles. Rather than being fixated on a specific role or title that you are aiming for, be prepared to search via your skills and see what would suit you and your passions. This could open up your career prospects to so much more and encourage you to branch out into other things. One career or job title isn’t the only option.
Don’t be afraid to say no
As a graduate, especially in today’s uncertain climate, it’s instilled into you that you should take what you can get, especially if you don’t have much experience and you need to be financially independent. Whilst this is true for some very fortunate people, this isn’t the only option. After securing an internship after university, I moved to London to experience London life in full flows. However, my journey was long and stressful, a significant portion of my small salary was spent on my commute and my mental health was suffering; I reluctantly resigned after 4 invaluable months. The role, however, gave me some amazing experiences. I then landed another job in paid media- a position that was heavily numerical. Whilst working there, I was approached about the role I currently have. Now I get to do whatI love and I’m building a career I really want.
The skills I have gained so far have been useful for future content-writing roles. I’m so thankful to have those opportunities. You might have to spend time doing other things whilst edging towards a goal. You have to work for what you want, and if this means giving up your time or the role you believe you should have to gain some excellent skills, then it’ll be worth it eventually. But you don’t have to take a job that isn’t going to contribute to where you’re aiming to be.
In the UK, most degrees require a third year dissertation. This is an opportunity to become an expert in a niche. Your dissertation can be a talking point in your interviews and something to relate to the future career you’d like to go into. Plus, you can talk about your interesting findings and research.
Connect with people who are in industries or roles you’re interested in. Enquire about how they got into that role. Ask to complete unpaid work for them if you can. I had meetings and calls with people within the digital marketing field to find out how they got there. It’s so important to be proactive. Also, these people may keep you in mind for future roles. Most people are keen to help young talent progress and can put you in touch with more people and give you amazing advice.
Everyone has their own pace. It can definitely feel like the pressure is on when you are a graduate, barely out of your gown before you’re stressed, thinking about how to start your career and how to even land an interview. But there’s no shame in doing things in your own time. After all, Stan Lee didn’t create his first comic until he was 39!
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.