Improving your post-university career prospects
It’s never too late or, indeed, too early to make a start on improving your employability. Whether you’re in 1st, 2nd or 3rd year, a postgrad student or even a recent graduate there’s never a wrong time to start improving your career prospects.
Writing as a Business & Marketing graduate now engaged Monday through Friday working in the student and graduate marketing industry, I’ve picked up one or two things about successful marketing.
Taking steps to improve your employability and hence widen your post-university career prospects is, in essence, marketing. Marketing the self is fundamentally the same as marketing a brand. It is all about ensuring your target audience (employers) see and believe that you are what their organisation requires. Crucially, they need to see (or hear) from you your experience and aptitude and how that fits with their requirements.
Just as it is in marketing a brand, marketing yourself requires you to have a differential advantage or at least the appearance of such, over your competition. The great difficulty that many students and recent graduates experience is that the competition when it comes to graduate jobs is as fierce, if not more so, than in any other industry sector.
All this begs the question of what practically can students do now to help themselves improves their career prospects?
Firstly, it must be remembered that Graduate employers frequently market themselves to students but the mistake some students make is that they do not always do what is necessary to effectively market themselves to an employer.
It is important to not neglect the fact that thousands of students across every UK university work feverishly hard academically in order to reach the highest degree classification possible. However, graduate employers are increasingly looking for more than just the candidates with highest degree classifications. Though a strong academic background is always desirable from a graduate recruiter’s perspective, it is almost invariably the case that it is looked for in tandem with relevant experience.
‘Experience’ can be a taboo word for many students who may resent its frequency of use in relation to their career search. However, it need not be an unmentionable word. After all, the reality is that graduate employers see relevant work experience as a demonstration of a candidate’s pragmatism, forward thinking nature and above all else, evidence of the basic skills and practical, industry-specific acumen that can help propel them in a role.
Internships, summer placements, relevant part time employment and unpaid work experience all contribute significantly to the improvement of your employability. Any or even a combination of the above will provide an employer with tangible evidence of your ambition and determination to begin a career in your chosen industry. It will also show to them that you have many of the basic skills required to succeed and potentially excel in a role.
Getting your foot in the door so to speak is so important for any student really wanting to make something of them self in their desired career path. However, not being successful in an application to a renowned employer in your field first-time round – or at all even – is by no means the door of opportunity slamming shut in your face indefinitely.
Working for an SME post-university can be a superb way to beef up your experience and acumen in the industry sector you want to work in. This can give you that differential advantage over other graduates and students who lack such relevant experience. Alternatively you may find that an SME offers perhaps a warmer embrace and much greater freedom to work across multiple areas of the business simultaneously than one would experience in a larger firm without rotations.