Career Tips

Employment tips for graduates: planning your first job

Posted: 25/06/2016

After years of sacrifice, study, two-minute noodles, essays and exams, it’s an epically brilliant feeling to graduate. Whether it be from a training institute, college or university, it’s understandable that you’d want your first job to reflect your newfound qualification. However, if you haven’t had much experience in the workforce, you may not be the ideal choice for employers yet – and this is something you’ll have to accept. Good first jobs or the best first jobs aren’t likely to be your dream jobs.

No matter how clever or qualified you may be, employers have ways of judging a new graduate’s ability to work professionally, such as how they get on with others, whether they are reliable, respond effectively to criticism or manage time effectively.

With these serious unknowns, why should an employer hire you?

If you want to know how to get your first job, and how to make your first job a good one, you must understand a potential employer’s scepticism, and then get on with the task of finding ways to prove your worth in the workplace.

Ideally, try to find work that is similar to the field you are interested in, but if that’s not possible, frankly anything will do. A big thing to note too: it needn’t be paid work, as volunteer work is also a great way off clocking up experience, doing good, and proving that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves.

Getting your first job is a matter of showing people that you are keen, motivated and willing to go the extra mile.

Today, the attitudes graduates have towards finding employment vary dramatically. Some are willing to put their shoulder to the grindstone, but many Gen Ys are missing the point and instead, living up to their reputation of ‘the entitled ones’.

For a small group of Gen Y’s, accepting work in just any position is beneath them and somehow, they believe they deserve to be given the dream job that instantly reflects their recent qualification. This attitude is sadly backfiring, with deluded graduates remaining on unemployment benefits for a long time – see the young man in the SBS Insight video clip below.

Real life doesn’t work this way, though. Employers want more than just degrees; they want individuals with smarts, savviness, experience – and humility.

Be prepared to lower your standards a little for your first job – and even your first few jobs. If you prefer full-time work but only part-time work is offered, take it. Then, set your sights on working up to a full-time position. If you are offered a first job in the organisation of your dreams but with a lesser position, take the position and work your way up.

Remember that the old sayings, annoying as they may seem, still apply to graduate careers: patience is a virtue, and good things come to those who wait…

Writing your resume

You must always write a separate resume and cover letter every time you apply for a job. Cookie-cutter resumes are not how to get your first job, or any job for that matter. The resume must be tailored to the new position and speak about the benefits for the employer, not yourself.

Think about what the employer needs or wants in an employee and how you can give it to them. Be truthful about your strengths and weaknesses; this will allow your potential employer to place you in the most appropriate position in their organisation – which could be the start of your graduate career.

If you are applying for a position that is still a realistic option, but you don’t have the right work experience, give examples of how you have applied the required skills in some past situation. For example, you could mention:

  • volunteering experience
  • part-time jobs
  • sporting experience
  • activity with community organisations, or
  • hobby groups

Don’t forget social media

Finally, ignore social media at your peril – your history seriously affects your first job hunting. There’s every chance that the HR department of any company you apply for a job with will find your account and have a good look. Check your posts and photos and make sure you haven’t written anything rude or derogatory. Also check your friends’ contributions to the page. If your page reveals that immature friends are posting crude remarks or photos, this could limit your graduate career options before you’ve even started.

So be humble, get proactive, and think of what you can do to impress your future employers. Give yourself some time, and with any luck (and planning) you’ll find yourself with a great job using your knowledge and qualifications – even if it doesn’t happen with your first job!

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