Every summer, the internet is awash with advice for upcoming graduates about their life choices and what to do when they finish university. In today’s current economic climate, many third years will be terrified at the thought of life after university. Unemployment and moving back home to live with parents is a harsh reality for many and millions of young, exceptionally bright people will be applying for a small number of graduate jobs.
However, thinking about life after university in the term before you graduate is way too late if you want to find your dream graduate role, and avoid returning home. When you stop thinking of university as a break from the real world, and start seeing it as preparation for the real world, you’ll find that university becomes a lot more productive. You’ll be able to think about your long-term goals more clearly, allow it to take the right shape for a career, and maximise your chances of career fulfilment. By using the following advice throughout your three years at university, rather than your last term, should see you in a far better place to succeed after graduation.
Many university students easily fall into developing an inferiority complex, where they assume that nobody in the ‘real world’ is going to be interested in their talents, thoughts or problems. If you suffer from this, you’re far less likely to reach out to people who could massively help you at a later date with finding your dream role, until you’ve finished your studies. Reaching out to these people when you’re actively looking for work is too late.
Try making connections as early on in your career as you can. Two easy ways to do this include:
- Email people who are well known in their field, or who have influenced you to have an interest. Just saying ‘I really like the way your company is dealing with this matter’ or ‘I read your book and it really made me think about this’. In doing this, you get your name known within an industry, and show your enthusiasm for an industry long before having to attend interviews. You may even find that with regular correspondence you won’t need to go to many.
- Joining professional organisations is another great way to network. Most offer lower priced student memberships, so you’ll be able to go to conferences and events that will not only introduce you to the people you need to know, but most likely enhance your time at university and your studies.
The majority of instances, you will find people are more than happy to help you and lend a hand. It’s very flattering to be recognised for your work by bright students, and many people will feel good by helping you on the right path. If you find a rare exception, you can always move on to someone else.
Research your options
Virtually nobody uses them, but you can reap many benefits from your campus career service, usually from enthusiastic staff. Make sure you make a note of any unusual job titles and research them- it may be your dream role. For example, maybe Corporate Happiness Officer sounds like it would suit you perfectly.
Remember to research in-depth the companies that interest you, to see if and how you would fit into it. Whether it’s programming or manufacturing tractor parts, there are thousands of tasks to be done in every company.
Make sure you stay up to date with new fields opening up in the world of business, or skills that are facing an increasing demand. This will tell you what and how you need to study, as well as indicating the lucrative career paths of tomorrow.
Make the most of your summers
A summer job or internship with a prominent company in the industry you want to enter are great ways to get your foot in the door, and will help with your networking. However, if you can’t find a placement, there are other meaningful ways you can spend your summers:
- Start a business
- Create a website or blog- great for aspiring journalists, writers or digital marketing executives
- Temping work for experience in a number of companies, and to build a professional network
You could also sign up for summer courses at your university or a local college to build up complimentary skills, such as bookkeeping, leadership or computer programming.
Take the summer to strategically read- forgo the typical beach reading and invest your money in relevant journals instead.
If you can afford to do so, travelling will teach you to adapt and become flexible in your approach to problems, providing you with experience to draw from in the professional world.
Build up a professional online persona
One of the worst ways you can damage your chance of reaching your dream career is by having the wrong kind of personal information on social media. The best way to approach your online presence is to assume that everything you post online is accessible to prospective employers, investors, clients and your grandmother.
With more and more companies examining prospective employees’ social media accounts and internet presence, make sure you keep all you nights out and other potentially risky stories and anecdotes anonymous. You may also wish to use a pseudonym, or increase your privacy settings.
In addition, build a public-ready profile with your true name, and present a positive image of a driven, bright student looking to start their career.
Consider start-ups and small companies
You may have the dream of graduating and then starting a job with Google, but start-ups and small businesses offer a lot of benefits to people in their early careers. At a mega-company, you’re an extremely small fish in a very big sea, but start-ups can give you the chance to shine and prove yourself in a number of ways:
- You can take on opportunities and responsibilities beyond your original job description
- You can benefit from flexibility over working hours and days off
- You play a real, measurable role in a company’s success
- You have a chance to closely work with people experienced in your industry