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10 Tips to get your first job after graduation with no experience

If you’re worried about finding a job after graduation, you are in a very large club of fellow students! Graduate job anxiety is an increasingly common issue facing those of you about to leave further education in pursuit of meaningful employment after university, with the main question being how long does it take to find a job after graduating?

No doubt you’ll have heard a few horror stories about people being ‘overqualified and under-experienced’ for their dream roles, but don’t be scared of not finding a job after college, as we have plenty of tips to help you kick-start your career after university.

When it comes to getting your first job, you could find yourself between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you will have taken the time to gain a relevant qualification that should allow you to circumnavigate non-graduate entry-level or irrelevant roles, but on the other, you may have no practical experience.

You might think that employers seem to want it all – years of experience AND relevant study, but how can you combine the two? The simple answer is that you are unlikely to, but you can still clear the hurdle of how to get your first job by considering the advice of this article.

1. Spend time on your CV

It might sound like a common-sense tip, but by updating your CV, making sure you have removed any spelling or grammar errors, and by tailoring it every time you apply for a position, you can maximise your chances of getting noticed. Another idea is also to create a graphic resume maker to make sure your resume stands out. 

It’s a good idea to check that your references are still relevant and contactable at the email addresses and phone numbers listed, and always be sure to include a personal cover letter when applying for a role. A generic ‘to whom it may concern’ greeting will no longer fly in today’s tech-savvy world when all it takes to discover who your application is heading to is a few cursory searches on LinkedIn or Google.

If you’re pressed for time and want to have your experience and recommendations in one place we recommend using the WorkHero platform. It allows you to quickly and easily add work experience and colleague recommendations all in one place. You can then share this with your application or send it directly to the hiring managers.

2. Carve yourself a niche

Don’t confuse a niche with a gimmick, as you are trying to present yourself as a mature and qualified professional looking for their first job. But doing something to make you memorable can be the difference between employment and submitting more applications.

Having some business cards printed with your details and a line that denotes the job you are hoping to get (with a humble ‘soon to be’ in brackets next to it) could grab attention, here is a business card maker tool which you can use. So, too, could hand-delivering your application or making the most of YouTube as a platform for getting noticed. Your imagination is your only limit here.

3. Think tactically

Did you know that there are certain strategies that have proven to be more successful than others when looking for a first job? Well, there are, and they are simple to put into practice when you know what they are. First off, the best day to look for a role is Monday. Whether it’s because you’ll be fresh and revitalised after the weekend or because more companies advertise after the weekend is unknown, but set an alarm and start your week with a decent search.

Secondly, if you are invited for an interview, always try to secure an early-morning slot. Not only will this demonstrate your keenness and ability to be punctual, but your interviewers will also be energised and more likely to remember you.

4. Be knowledgeable

When you find out that recruiters generally spend just a few seconds looking at your CV before deciding whether you are worth further consideration or not, you’ll realise how critical it is that you cut through the bluster and get to the point of why you are a serious contender.

One way you can demonstrate your potential is to draw attention to a broad knowledge of the company you are applying to, as this is something that all employers look for. If you mention relevant recent accomplishments or published articles, for example, it shows that your interest is more than just perfunctory.

 

5. Be ready for questions

Have you brushed up on your interview questions yet? Could you give three examples of when you were a true team player, without sounding boastful? Have you formulated a list of questions to ask in response? If the answer is no to any or all of these, you are not ready for an interview! Don’t let performance anxiety scupper your chances once you have made it through the door for an interview, especially if you have no formal experience to fall back on.

You’ll need to be engaging, amiable, and most of all, interested in what is being said, to the point where you can adapt some formulaic questions you have devised on the spot. Don’t forget that while some light-hearted humour can be a good way to break the ice in those nervous first moments, employers are not looking for funny or wacky questions about the role itself.

We know that it can be disheartening when first job offers don’t come flying through the door after graduation. However, you can overcome your lack of employment experience by using these tips to help highlight why you deserve a chance.

 

6. Focus

You’ll have barely put your cap and gown away before you start thinking about finding your first job after graduation, and while a lot of people complain that they can’t get a job after uni, there are things that you, as a shiny new graduate, can do.

It’s all too easy to be so relieved after your dissertation gets submitted that you simply let all of your determination and focus slip away, but now is not the time! Instead, channel those last few ultra-organised months to create an applications spreadsheet and filter your job applications honestly.

Have sections for those roles you are very keen on, all the way through to some that are less of a perfect match but could give you the right experience for a better position later. With this in place, you can make sure that your energy is channelled into the right applications, and those that you can’t muster any enthusiasm for probably aren’t for you anyway.

7. Search for graduate-specific vacancies

Industry Jobs available (Feb 2020) Avg. annual salary
Construction Graduates 25 $57,500
Psychology Graduates 73 $85,925
Architectural Graduates 9
Logistics Warehouse 76 $67,266
HR & Recruitment 10
Business Development Graduates 49 $72,099
Graduate Sales Executives 26 $70,000
Graduate IT Analysts 43 $73,000
Graduate Financial Analysts 66 $71,944
Graduate Management Consultants 32 $64,389
Graduate Designers 66 $81,404
Graduate Engineers 43 $74,071
Marketing Graduates 5
Graduate Teachers 5
Graduate Software Developers 26 $92,449
Graduate Data Scientists and Analysts 20 $65,000
Graduate Events & Hospitality Coordinators 4
Graduate Researchers 32 $74,479
Law Graduates 14 $56,666
Accounting Graduates 36 $64,545

This might sound basic, but by tailoring your first job search to pick out vacancies that are specifically looking for a recent graduate, you are already leaps and bounds ahead of other potential applicants who are not qualified enough. Adzuna lets you search for graduate roles in various frameworks:

New Graduate jobs

  • $79,495 average salary
  • Currently over 360 jobs listed

Listing every role that requires the successful candidate to hold a valid degree certificate, this search term is very general, but you can focus your search once the results are shown. Choose your location, your preferred salary range, contract type and even look for a specific company, using the filters on the left of the screen and from there, shortlist a few options.

Entry-level graduate jobs

  • $63,569 average salary
  • Currently over 300 jobs listed

These tend to be junior positions with no structured training programme attached to them, meaning you will gain practical experience and knowledge on the job. This is an organic way to progress and tends to be suited to ambitious, confident graduates.

8. Assess your skills

If you are struggling and starting to wonder how to get your first job after university, it might be time to take an objective look at your skill set. Aside from actual experience in the role you are applying for, an impressive collection of general demonstrable abilities can set you apart from other candidates. Employers look for:

Business acumen – You should be able to discuss the current state of the industry you are hoping to join, as well as an awareness of the specific company you are applying to.

Teamwork – Draw attention to times when you have been both the leader and a worker bee in a group dynamic.

Attention to detail – You need to show you are organised, focused and able to think critically to solve problems. You can also draw in examples of your negotiating skills here.

Communication – Confident communicators fare better in interviews, so if you are nervous, it’s time to fake some bravado, but keep it in check. Interviews are pressured situations, so keeping your cool while you sell yourself and demonstrate a working knowledge of the company will make you stand out.

Perseverance – The saying goes that ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’ and it still applies to today’s competitive job market. If you leave university and have your sights set on a particular company, don’t baulk at one, two or even three rejections – keep going. Always ask for feedback and use it in your next application.

 

9. Try your hand at networking

Once you’ve graduated, it’s time to start putting out feelers for your first job however and wherever you can. Start online with sites such as LinkedIn, connecting with recruitment managers at companies you are interested in and commenting on relevant posts. The more your name is recognised as someone with valuable insights, the better, especially when your CV is in among numerous others. You could also branch out into attending local careers fairs and alumni events. Sometimes it is who you know, after all.

Using the WorkHero platform we mentioned before will help you keep all your recommendations and CV content in one place so you can quickly share it with the hiring manager.

10. Consider unpaid opportunities

If it is the experience you need in order to secure your first job, go out and get it. It might feel a little demoralising to take on voluntary positions, but if they will give you practical experience, industry references and a taste of what you can expect as a paid employee, they are worth considering – even more so if you don’t have anything other than applying for roles going on.

You’ll find many voluntary roles in teaching, finance, healthcare, and more. You can use Adzuna advanced search to find volunteer options for exactly your area of interest – use the filters to specify keywords that are relevant and browse available vacancies.

Potential employers will be impressed that you’ve taken the initiative and found a way to get in the door of an industry, regardless of whether or not you are being paid. Even just a few months of hands-on interaction could see you move up from an entry-level role.

Leaving university is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can’t wait to get out into the world with all your new qualifications and thirst for a good salary, but on the other, it is competitive out there! Suddenly, your degree result isn’t the only thing that matters to potential employers, and you need to hone a number of other skills in order to get noticed, gain an interview and bag that first job. It’s not all doom and gloom, though.

By taking the time to formulate a plan of action and understanding what employers are looking for, you can present the best version of both yourself and your achievements. Experience isn’t everything, especially when you can put forward a confident, ambitious and keen-to-learn persona through your CV and in person.

Always remember that you’ve been committed enough to complete years of further education in preparation for your dream job and that as a new graduate, you are only at the beginning of your career journey and there are plenty of opportunities to discover.

If you’re still studying and looking for ways to make extra money on the weekends article is a must-read. And don’t forget to try our resume builder tool from our partners to help you have an idea of how much you might be earning when you graduate!