Hey, I'm Maddie, a 22-year-old Criminology graduate from the University of Leicester. I now work as an Account Executive within Public Relations. It's been a bit of a weird year since graduating, which is why I've started my own blog about the highs and lows of graduate life (@mindthegapgraduates) and also love sharing my story on sites like The Blue Graduate.
Q: What are your top 3 tips for graduates who are currently job hunting?
A: My top 3 tips are:
1. Make a spreadsheet to keep up with where you've got to with jobs and which ones you've applied to. Have column headers that state the job title, company, stages of the application and when things have to be done by. This is not only a great way to stay organised but also a good way to track what you're doing well or not so well - if you're never getting to an interview or perhaps never passing a psychometric test, you can see a pattern and try to resolve any shortfalls with that.
2. Don't give up - it might take a week, a month or even a year to land any job after university. It's really difficult to get rejected from jobs, and I so wish we were taught how to handle that. Just keep your head up and know that one day something amazing will come to you. Keep on going and don't lose any faith in yourself.
3. Don't compare your timing and journey to others. Comparison, especially in careers, is so damaging. Someone might have got a job before you and it might make you feel worse about yourself, but you don't actually know if it's making them happy or if there's something that makes it less than ideal. Similarly, job titles don't really mean a thing, so if your friend has got a swanky Director role after a year, don't panic - that might just mean they're the only person in that department. You never know so don't compare, it's a terrible (but easy, I know) habit to get into.
Q: How did you secure your current job? What was the interview process like, and what did you do to stand out?
A: I actually got my job though family connections (I won't lie), but with previous jobs I did identify a few reasons why I got the job or passed interview stages.
While at University and during the first year of being a graduate, I started a small business and a blog in my spare time. These were amazing ways for me to learn new skills and demonstrate to an employer that I'm committed, always going above and beyond and had good time management skills.
It's often not enough to just have a degree, as so many people do, so you have to go above and beyond with things.
My advice to anyone that's struggling to find a job or doesn't really have that key selling point, try and start something in your spare time and learn new skills. Whether that's a blog, a freelance business, tutoring or just proofreading other students work, it all counts and shows that you're hard working.
Q: How did you feel when you started your job vs now?
A: When I started my job, I felt really excited and got caught up in the whole wow look at me I'm working and get paid for it but that has recently worn off. Whether that's due to the pandemic or not, I'll never know.
I've had my fair share of imposter syndorme, and still do. I go through bouts of feeling not good enough to be doing my job, wondering why I got the job (which I think about a lot more considering the family connection) and generally feeling inadequate.
As the year has gone on, I've definitely developed a lot more confidence and skills in my role. So the doubting thoughts come less frequently but they're definitely there.
In my day to day role, I do a range of tasks, from managing the company's social media to writing press releases and blog posts for clients. I really like the fact that no two days are the same, as this gives me a lot of practice across a range of things and lets me see what my favourite things are to take into future roles.
Q: What do you miss most about university?
A: I think I miss the validation of grades and assignments the most. Always working towards a deadline and knowing that I'd be given a number to reflect the effort I put in, there's nothing quite like it at work.
It's all we've ever known really - working towards GCSEs, then A Levels, then wanting to get our desired grade in our degree. So when I produce a good piece of work in my job, the 'Great, cheers for that' email doesn't quite cut it.
If you would like to feature on the blog and share how you beat the blues please contact me, or read more of our Graduate Q&As here.
If you type 'CV tips' into google, the search result shows a whopping 1,510,000,000 sources...That's ALOT of information for one person to sift through, and with job deadlines looming, you might need something quick and fast to get you on your way. I sat down with two recruitment specialists to bust some CV myths, find out what really helps you stand out to recruiters, and some common mistakes to avoid.
First, I spoke to Charlie Waterman, who has spent the past 6 years in recruitment and now heads up Talent Acquisition at a company called Harnham (wow, go Charlie!). Charlie now focuses on recruiting for Harnham's graduate scheme, and she's also previously recruited for big companies like British Airways, Deloitte and even Facebook as well smaller start ups- so you can be pretty sure she knows what she's talking about!
So Charlie, is it true that some recruiters only look at your CV for a couple of seconds? If so, how can you make your CV stand out against others?
It is true that recruiters take a very short amount of time to look at a CV. In my experience, speaking for me, having recruited for 6 years I am a master skim-reader and I know what I am looking for when reading a CV. I'll typically spend around 5-10 seconds doing that initial skim-read and then if I am interested naturally will spend more time reading and then wanting to talk to the candidate to find out more.
To stand out, it's quite simple:
1. Make sure that you're flagging to the person reading that you want to do the role that they are recruiting for. So if it's a Media Buyer, have the words media buyer in your personal summary at the top. You would be surprised at just how many CVs have another job listed in the personal summary or a very vague overview - when you receive hundreds of CVs, it makes it an easy differentiating factor.
2. For graduate roles, put your education up top. But make sure you still have a work experience section with a clear outline of your work and commercial experience. You may not have done an internship or have relevant commercial skills, but any work experience (even if it seems irrelevant) is better than none. Working in a coffee shop will have taught you many skills that a company will benefit from, hiring managers just like to see that a graduate has had to put a bit of hard work in before - no matter where that may be.
3. Network - see someone that works at the company you want to work at that went to your school or uni? Use it - introduce yourself and ask them if they'd be open to jumping on a call to network and find out about how they got there. Flatter them a little and don't be too pushy at asking about the job you've applied or want to apply for - chances are if you do it right, they'll not only give you some helpful advice but they'll probably also put in a good word 😉
Join us for part 2 next week where we speak to Julie Grimes, founder of Jaguar White Recruitment, who shares three of the biggest mistakes someone can make on a CV and how you can avoid them!
So you've decided to take on the challenge of designing your own creative CV to stand out from the competition and showcase your skills, but where do you start and how do you ensure that the design looks professional? You don't have to have graphic design skills to create a smart, professional looking document, just follow these 7 simple steps:
Colours can be used to relay meaning, express ideas and provoke emotion, such as when text is presented in red to show that it is important or alerting you to danger. If you are designing a CV specific to the organisation you are applying to, use its brand colours. However, if you are creating a more generalised CV to send to multiple organisations, use a colour that represents your personality (you should do some research on your chosen colour to understand what meanings are conveyed).
When using headings, always make sure that they are all written in the same font and size. You can change the colour or font style to help them stand out even more, which is a great way of guiding the reader through the document, dividing sections and maintaining a consistent format.
When presenting your work experience or job history, make sure that dates are easy to follow by writing them in the same format. Avoid 'January - December 2017 - 2018' and instead go for 'January 2017 - December 2018'.
If you are leaving small spaces between paragraphs to divide sections, make sure that the amount of space between each section is the same. This makes your work look more aesthetically pleasing and coherent, meaning that people will be more likely to want to read it (typical human behaviour as we are attracted to things that look good). You should also avoid leaving a lot of blank space as it can be disengaging and make your design look unprofessional, leaving content to be desired. If you have large amounts of space on your CV once you have finished designing it, trying moving sections around or adding an image or shape to reduce the space.
If you've chosen to use text boxes, headings or shapes on your CV, make sure that they align to follow one smooth margin. All your headings and text should start at the same point on the page and there should be no indents. This helps to guide the reader down the page.
If you choose to use icons on your CV, make sure that you have removed the background if it doesn't match the rest of your CV. Pasting icons into your document with a small white square outline can look messy and unprofessional. You should also avoid using an images that are pixelated or appear with a watermark.
Adding an image of yourself on your CV isn't necessary, but sometimes using an image can compliment your design and reduce empty space. If you are going to include a picture of yourself, make sure it is one where you are dressed smartly. Similar to icons, make sure that this image hasn't got a white square around it and doesn't appear pixelated.
One more top tip: The style of CV you design should reflect the nature of the organisation or role you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a marketing assistant at a fun food brand, your CV should reflect that by featuring bright colours and cool fonts. If you are applying for a more corporate role, your CV should use more muted colours and a clear, plain font.
I always look at any documents that may be featured on the website of the organisation I am applying to and create a design similar to that. If they don't have anything on their website, I try to imagine the type of document they would produce based on their branding. You can get a good idea of how an organisation might design their reports and brochures by looking at the style of their social media posts too.
The key to creating an eye catching, effective CV is to make the process of reading it easy and straightforward for someone who has never met you before and only has this to understand who you are and what you want.
It can be extremely disheartening when you spend 2-3 days preparing your answers for an interview, just for your mind to go completely blank as soon as the first question is asked. It's something that most of us fear happening, and we can get so worked up that we stress ourselves out to the point where we are incapable of remembering anything other than what we are worried about. Here are 2 techniques that help me to stay calm and trust that I can remember answers and examples during an interview:
Throwing it back to school days with some good old fashioned flash cards. For me, these are a great way of forming connections and helping me to remember what I want to say and what examples I want to give. On one side of the flashcard I write a common interview question taken from sites I found online (The Muse and Forbes) and on the other side I bullet point the answer I want to give and the example to support it. Try not to overdo this technique, use it to test yourself once you have planned your questions so that you can recall examples without having prompts in front of you.
2. Spider diagram
If flashcards aren't your thing, a spider diagram is another great way of using visual aids to help you remember your answers. With this technique, I circle each question and bullet point each answer. This way, when I come to answering questions during the interview I can think back to my bullet points to help me create a structured answer.
If you don't think these will work for you but you can remember how you revised when you sat your exams at school, try using a similar technique when preparing for your interview! Once you work out what type of learner you are, you can very easily help yourself to remember things and arrive for your interview prepared to sell the best version of you.
There's no doubt about it, applying for jobs after you graduate is a stressful process. With so many opportunities available, it is important to stay organised and on top of your game. Here are 3 things you should do when you apply for a job that can sometimes be forgotten about but can help to leave a lasting impression:
1. Check the name of your CV file before you submit it
Creating your CV is a whole other job in itself, so you can end up with multiple files named random things such 'CV v6'. It's important to remember that your employer will see what your CV file name, so make sure you make it clear by saving it as '[Name] CV' so that the recruiter can find it on their computer easily if an opportunity arises.
2. Save the job description
This is such an important one if you want to make sure you are well prepared for any future interviews! Most places will remove the job posting once the application stage closes, meaning that you lose all of the valuable information you need to prepare for your interview. When you apply for a job, make sure you save a copy of the downloaded job description or copy and paste the text into a Word document. This will be so useful when planning your interview answers as it will enable you to make them more bespoke to the job you are going for.
3. Keep a list of the jobs you have applied for
Once you graduate, you may find yourself applying for multiple jobs at any one time. In order to remember all the roles you have applied for and who you are waiting to hear back from, make sure you note down each job role and company. Doing this will help you to be prepared for any phone calls you may receive and can make you appear more organised to recruiters.
Lockdown has been tough for so many people, and each person is facing their own personal challenges during this time. For me, it is so important to maintain some sort of routine like I would have in my normal life to stay happy and healthy. Here are some things I have found that have helped to maintain routine:
1. Use time to organise your day
Since I began working full time I realised how toxic having so much free time during university was for me. Following my normal routine of waking up early, going to work for 9am, breaking for lunch at midday, and travelling home from work at 5 to have a relaxing evening helped me to maintain a healthy mind. So, during lockdown I have tried to stick to a similar routine of waking up early, working out during the time I would normally drive to work (following a workout by @ZLRFitness on Instagram), doing an activity until midday, breaking for lunch, doing another activity in the afternoon, and signing off from any 'work' (I have been working as a freelance marketer) to begin winding down for the evening.
This has helped me to make sure I am eating well as I have a habit of forgetting to eat if I'm busy, and fitting in a daily workout to start my day with a positive mindset whilst feeling some sense of 'the norm'.
2. Plan your meals
As food is sparse, I have found the easiest way to eat healthy and reduce food wastage is by planning my meals based on the food I have in the house. I usually write down my meal ideas, keeping breakfast the same each day. Sometimes, I'll cook for my family or I'll batch make a meal so I can eat it over a couple of days. Planning my meals helps me to focus my mind on other areas and makes me feel less stressed.
3. Write to do lists
To do lists can help you to stay motivated by giving yourself a reason to get out of bed in the morning as you know what you are working on each day and you can tick off your progress, which makes you feel good! It also helps to declutter your mind and reduce the pressure to remember important things.
4. Have some fun
We will (hopefully) never experience a time like this again in our lives, so it is important to make the most of it. Spend time with family who would normally be busy working or at university, start a project you never felt like you had time to do before or play a game. Do something that takes your mind off the current situation and helps to make you laugh.
5. Stay accountable
Set yourself deadlines (but don't be too harsh), or ask a family member to check up on you if you have university deadlines to keep you accountable and motivate you to get things done.
It can be a little overwhelming...
Looking for jobs related to your field of study after you graduate can seem daunting. It is easy to procrastinate because it seems like the mountain is simply too big to climb, but the key is to take small, progressive steps until you reach the top. Read more to see our tips on preparing yourself for your graduate job hunt including CV preparation and creating a life outside of work.
1. It's okay to take a break
Everyone is different, and people take time out for a number of reasons. Leaving university can be daunting, so taking time out to travel or explore other career options can be a great way of helping you to decide what you really want to do with your career.
2. Use your resources
3. Don't take rejection personally
Spending hours on a job application just to receive an automated email explaining that 'after careful consideration you have not made the cut' can be demotivating, and even negatively affect your self-confidence. Be mindful of the fact that sometimes a job just isn't right, and try to adopt the "it is what it is" mantra. You don't want to work for a company that doesn't see your potential or doesn't feel like you are the right fit for the job, take some time out to process what happened and then take action - adjust your CV, get back on the internet and set yourself some new challenges to take your mind off the rejection.
I was rejected for so many jobs until I secured my first role post university and when I sat at my desk on the first day I finally realised why all the other jobs hadn't worked out.
4. Stay up to date with the competition
The people you see online or in your interviews are your direct competition. Take note of the courses people are studying, the style of CV people are using, and the amount of experience they had prior to their job offer. It can be useful to check out the LinkedIn profiles of people you know or people who work in the industry or job role you want to do. Have a look at their journey - although everyone's is slightly different, what have they done that helped to make them more suitable for the job role than you? If it was an online course, see if you can complete one similar; if it was an internship, consider contacting some professionals to see if you can gain similar experience. It isn't about comparing yourself, but it is about staying on top of your game and being mindful of the competition so you can be prepared.
5. Always ask for feedback
Free constructive criticism following an interview is rare, so take the opportunity for self-improvement when it arises. This can be the difference between you securing your next job interview or not. Understanding why you weren't offered the job can help to reduce the impact the rejection can have on your self-esteem, and motivate you for your next interview.
6. Have a life outside of job hunting
As well as professional experience, recruiters want to see some personality. They want to know what you can bring to a team and the business and what hobbies and personal interests you have. You are going to spend the majority of your life working, so make sure you are using some of your time to get to know yourself, building good relationships with your friends and family and discovering hobbies you love (and if like me, you discover something somewhere down the line that you love, you could always try and turn this into a career!).
7. Stay focused
There are a range of techniques that you can use to help you figure out the best way to keep yourself motivated. Mood boards, spiritual manifestation, affirmations, lists, physical activity, talking to friends and goal-setting are all suggested ways to keep your mind on track and remind yourself of your overall goals. Check out our 'Setting affirmations: This will work!' blog post for tips of how to make affirmations work for you!