Student Guide: How to Find a Job After Graduation

The idea of graduating from university and moving into the ‘real world’, can often fill graduates with complete excitement, or utter dread. And we tend to find that it’s as an equal split.

Whether you’re feeling consumed and overwhelmed by the uncertainty of what career route to pursue, what platforms to be searching on, or how to stand out during the interview process, or you just a little guidance to set you off on the right foot, you’ve come to the right place.

A student with their head in their hands sat at a laptop. 

We’re here to ease the pressures, answer all of the above and guide you through this next exciting stage of your life.

 

Firstly, let’s get some perspective, why is it so hard to secure a graduate job?

There’s a very simple answer to this question!

With over 800,000 UK students a year competing to find the right job, it’s no wonder the graduate job market is crowded beyond measure and amplifying pressures.

3 CVs of which one has a green tick on it. There is text which says: Employers receive around 80 applications for every graduate job.

According to Graduate Coach, for every job vacancy, employers receive over 80 applications, with certain graduate schemes receiving over 650.

  

Why your first job matters

As a new graduate, you may not realise the impact that your first role has on your future career. 

An illustration of two people sat at a work desk holding papers with text which reads: Graduates starting out in the world of work, with a job that has no relation to their area of study, are likely to remain in that line of work for at least five years.

A survey carried out by the New College of Humanities, a private university in London, has shown that graduates starting out in the world of work, with a job that has little, to no relation to their area of study, or one that doesn’t require a degree at all, are more likely to remain in that line of work for at least the following five years.

But why? Once in a certain field, it can be difficult to deviate from that path, your experience becomes aligned to a specific role, which in turn, can reduce the chances of moving into your desired field.

It's key to remember that you don’t need to, and chances are, you probably won’t jump straight into your dream job but, finding one that’s at least within your desired field is pretty crucial.

Two people sat at a work desk talking.

 How to choose the right career route for you

For many new and upcoming graduates, choosing the right route can be the biggest challenge to conquer.

The best way of doing this is to find where your passion lies and visualise your goals. Creating a career plan may seem a little excessive but it doesn’t need to be war and peace, it's just a great starting point in identifying which route to take. You can develop and manage this throughout your career.

Consider the following four stages:

An infographic titled: How to choose your career route. Below the titled is a numbered list. Number one: Identify your skills and interests. Number two: Explore career ideas. Number three: Make a decision. Number four: Set achievable goals.

A great time to start thinking about this would be the summer before your final year, that way, you’ll be ready to apply for the graduate opportunities as soon as they hit the market.

The big question, should you move home and apply for roles, or should you stay in your university location?

Unfortunately, we can’t give you the answer for this one, but we can help you make an informed decision.

If you’re looking for a graduate scheme in a large-scale corporation, these roles tend to be located in the larger cities, London, Manchester and Leeds, so you’ll need to relocate to where the job is based.

If you're considering staying in your university city and applying for jobs, you need to factor in that your living experience and expenses, post-university, will be drastically different. Your lifestyle changes and many house and course mates will return to their hometowns or move on to other cities. However, if you love that location, and it opens the doors to opportunities you would not get back home, it’s a no-brainer to stay – as long as you can cover the rent costs!

An illustration of a person walking past a house with text which reads: Graduates who move back to their hometowns have a higher chance of staying there long term.

For many, going back home may be the best option, it gives you a chance to save money, and have a support system through this next stage of life. Statistics have found that those who move back to their hometowns have a higher chance of staying there long term, but that’s not a bad thing – being close to family and friends and having a progressive career is a great option.

When to apply for graduate jobs

An illustration of a person pinning up job adverts with text which reads: Top employers begin advertising their graduate roles up to a year before the actual start date.

Top employers tend to begin advertising their roles, anytime up to a year before the actual start date.

The period between September and January is usually the key time to start applying, with many graduate schemes only open for applications during a certain window of time - if you miss the deadline, you’ll have to wait another year to apply.

Graduate jobs, tend to begin advertising, anytime from the start of the year, through to October. Some roles are contiguous to the final grade, however, some offer on predicted scores alone.

Where to look for your graduate role

Connect with a recruiter

In the first instance, it’s always a good idea to register with a recruitment agency. They will provide excellent advice, take the time to understand what it is you’re looking for, offer useful tips and tricks throughout the recruitment process and ultimately, help you find a suitable role. At Elevation, we have 7 divisions that recruit for various sectors, so if you’re looking for a specific career or just need some advice, reach out to us.

Someone speaking on the phone while sat on a sofa in a homely environment.

Visit your university’s career fayres

Throughout your time at university, you’ll have seen or been to a number of careers fayres. These are great opportunities to talk to professionals, employers and recruiters to ask questions, career advice and learn more about the industry or field of work you're considering.

A busy careers fayre.

For some, it may seem daunting, to walk around a hall and interact with the unknown, especially if you’re unsure of what career area you want to pursue. However, these fayres are fantastic informal opportunities that will help you prepare for life outside of university. You can speak freely without worrying about making mistakes, and it will help you gain invaluable communication and other soft skills.  

Employers and recruiters often come prepared with career advice and information on their graduate schemes or jobs. If you know the field you want to pursue, this is a great way of getting your foot in the door with excellent employers.

Search and apply through job sites

Luckily, there are plenty of specialist websites and apps out there to help you find your perfect role. Here are just a few of the best sites for graduates:

If you’re not already on LinkedIn, you need to change that

LinkedIn provides an excellent way to share information, keep up to date with industry news and learn more about your practise.

Aside from that, you can promote your achievements and build up a professional online presence, which will make you more attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.

 An illustration of a person presenting the LinkedIn logo and text which reads: More than 30 million companies have a LinkedIn profile and 90% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn to source talents.

Fun fact, more than 30 million companies have a LinkedIn profile and 90% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn to source talents, making it a significant platform to be headhunted or apply for roles through their job board.

 How to secure a graduate job

An illustration of a casually-dressed person looking in the mirror and the reflection shows them in a suit. There is text to the right which reads: 49 percent of graduates who left university within the past five years are working in roles that neither require further or higher education qualifications.

The Office for National Statistics show that almost half of graduates (49%) who left university within the past five years are working in non-graduate roles that neither require further or higher education qualifications.

Here’s some of our top tips to help you along the application and interview process.

CV tips:

  • Demonstrate your education and experience, and tailor it to the specific role
  • Include a personal statement to show who you are, what you can offer and a bit about you — remember to shine through your personality
  • Share any of your key achievements/awards or any extracurricular activities
  • Keep it concise but informative

Interview tips:

1. Get to grips with the types of questions you might face

Having an idea of the questions and being able to prepare for those, should help to ease your nerves.

While there are different interview styles, some more formal and structured and others freer flowing and conversational, you could still get a mix of questions.

Consider the following:

  • Motivation for the application - Why do you want to work for us?
  • Research and preparation - What do you know about our company?
  • Experience - Tell me about your degree, what are your career aspirations?
  • Scenario questions - What would you do if this happened?
  • Competencies & values - Give me an example of when you worked in a team to solve a problem or tell me about a time when you took pride in your work
  • Personal strengths - What motivates you? Do you prefer to work in a team or by yourself?
2. Be more than just a piece of paper

Securing a job, in a crowded marketplace is about standing out, being unique and offering something other candidates don’t have.

Demonstrating your passion and achievements, whether it be having a blog page, a portfolio of work, taking part in volunteering projects, being active in society or getting nominated for an award – these are experiences that you need to share, and not just on your CV.

A group of young people planting a tree together.

It’s key in today’s world to present yourself well, both online and offline. Employers more often than not will be searching social media platforms, to get a feel for the type of person they could be hiring, so make sure it is a good representation of yourself.

3. Surround yourself with people, build your network

Building friendships during your time at university is a great way of networking, whether it be through courses, societies or placements. Your connections won’t just give you great career insight, but they will also open doors and broaden your horizons to future opportunities. Being active in student organisations expands your social circle, enhances skills and adds experience to your CV.

A group of young people sat on some steps outside together talking.

4. Most importantly, don’t give up!

We know the graduate job market is a crowded and competitive place, but don’t let that deter you from applying. If you’re following the steps above, you have a higher chance of getting noticed than any other candidates you’re up against.

You may find that you’re experiencing rejection from your applications, but don’t take that as a negative, it actually allows you to learn and grow, and indicates that the position may have not been the right fit for you.

Always remember to be polite, responsive and positive – follow up with a thank you email after every application or interview and ask for feedback, that way, you’ll be able to improve your technique for next time.

If you have recently or are about to graduate and are looking for a role or some additional advice on any of the above, our team of expert recruiters are on hand to help you.

Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and one of our team will be in touch as soon as possible, alternatively, take a look at some of our live vacancies.

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