Graduating from university is exciting, but it can also be daunting. How long will it take to find a job in your field? Will potential employers expect you to have real-world experience as well as academic knowledge? How can you make yourself as employable as possible?
First of all, it’s important not to panic. A recent Graduate Outcomes Survey revealed that 72.2% of Australian undergraduates find full-time employment within four months of completing their degree. Within three years of graduation, this figure rises to 93.3%.
Employment prospects for Aussie grads seem pretty good, but that doesn’t help ease the uncertainty most of us feel upon entering the real world of work, especially given the current economic climate. Luckily, there’s always an opportunity to improve your hireability.
Here are 10 things you can do to get job-ready in the lead up to life after graduation.
1. Understand the employment landscape in your field
Every industry has a unique employment landscape.
For example, pharmacy undergraduates enjoy a full-time employment rate of 95.7% four months after graduation, while creative arts students face a steeper challenge with 52.9% employment.
Factors include demand for skilled workers and whether or not industries have established career pathways such as placement programs.
Some practical ways to improve your understanding of the jobs landscape in your field include:
- Following blogs and credible sites that keep you abreast of industry news. Is the industry facing long-term growth or shrinkage?
- Keeping an eye on job boards to gauge how many jobs are posted in your field, how often, and where they are located.
- Connect with people in your field and ask them about career pathways into the industry. Networking is so important!
- Know what to expect in terms of average starting salaries in your industry.
2. Invest time into internships or work experience
One of the most common frustrations among job-seekers is that so-called “entry-level” roles require experience. It’s a catch-22 situation: how can you get a job without experience, and how can you get experience without a job?
The answer lies in internships and work experience. These programs give graduates practical skills, a greater knowledge of the industry, and all-important workplace experience. In exchange, the employer benefits from your voluntary or low-paid labour, usually involving low-level, office-based tasks.
Getting on-the-job experience is an effective way of making yourself work-ready and in some cases, can even lead to a full-time job.
But- be aware that internships are sometimes problematic. Unpaid interns can be exploited by unscrupulous employers, and the practice is known to worsen income inequality as not everyone can afford to work a volunteer job.
Become familiar with job descriptions in your field to determine if internships or work experience are a must-have in your targeted profession.
3. Understand where to look for job opportunities
Where do employers in your industry advertise job opportunities? Don’t assume every job in Australia will be posted on mainstream websites like Seek.com. Other places to look for jobs include:
4. Consider improving your employability with further study
Postgraduates are around 10% more likely to find full-time employment within four months of graduation than undergrads.
Before making the decision to embark on further study, ask yourself:
- Can you afford the costs involved in further study? How long will it take before you can expect a return on investment (ROI)?
- Are higher degrees valued/expected by employers in your field? Are they a “must have” or a “nice to have”?
- Is there an opportunity to gain some practical experience during the course of study?
5. Get your resume in order
Write a winning resume to get yourself noticed by employers. At this stage in your career, it will be weighted more towards your academic history than work experience, but you can expect this to change over time. Keep the document short and sharp by using the following basic framework:
- Contact details
- Brief overview and key strengths
- Work history (if any)
- Education and training
Make sure you identify keywords from the job ad and include them in your resume to help it get past any potential screening process. There are plenty of templates available to download, and professional resume writers are available to hire if you need some guidance.
6. Look into grad programs
Graduate programs are harder to get into than internships, as they’re geared towards fast-tracking future leaders into a specific organisation.
Grads benefit from networking opportunities, competitive salaries, training programs and professional development opportunities to gain experience in multiple roles through a rotation program. At the end of the program a grad will typically be offered a full-time role.
Grads get a lot more support and attention than interns, but in exchange, the work tends to be more demanding with a greater level of responsibility involved.
Grad programs range from six months to three years in length.
7. Make use of your university’s career programs
Most universities have a career guidance office or program to help students transition to employment. The great news is that as universities are increasingly ranked on graduate employability by companies, they are stepping up their career guidance offerings. Programs include:
- Mentoring programs connecting students with alumni mentors
- Career consultants available for drop-in meetings
- Job boards and other online career resources
- Careers fairs.
Make the most of all of these!
8. Network, network, network
An incredible 46% of jobs are found through networking, which is the most effective way of accessing the hidden (unadvertised) jobs market.
Some ways to network include:
- Take advantage of any university programs offering connections to industry
- Look for ways to help out others – hopefully an opportunity to return the favour will present itself at some stage
- Join industry-related groups in your field
- Join non-industry-related groups such as alumni associations or Toastmasters
- Treat everything as a networking opportunity
- Get into the habit of building a contact list
Networking can take place face-to-face or online through sites such as LinkedIn.
9. Optimise your online presence
At present, the world of professional networking is dominated by LinkedIn. 90% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn, which means you need to be on the site, whether you like it or not. It’s common practice for employers reviewing resumes to correlate them against your LinkedIn profile as well.
Tips for making yourself employable on LinkedIn include:
- Using a professional profile photo
- Having an eye-catching headline that is more than just a job title
- Spending time growing your network in your field
- Keeping your list of skills and experience up-to-date
- Asking others to recommend you on LinkedIn
- Participating online by commenting and sharing
- Becoming a blogger and using your content to start conversations
Outside of LinkedIn, it’s worth reviewing any other social media platforms you use. Look at anything that is publicly-accessible, and remove any photos or posts that may not impress a future employer. One of the most effective ways to do this is to make your Facebook profile private.
10. Get your background checks completed and up-to-date
Part of making yourself employable involves making the hiring process as easy as possible for the employer. Take the initiative by anticipating what potential employers will need from you in terms of background checks, and ensure they are up-to-date and ready to go.
Depending on your industry, these may include:
- Ensuring your national police check is current.
- Likewise, if you plan to work in an industry with or alongside children, ensuring your working with children check is current.
- Lining up two to three contacts who have agreed to partake in a reference check.
- Having proof of academic qualifications and past employment history.
- Having paperwork such as a valid passport for a work entitlement check.
- Ensuring your license and traffic checks are up-to-date.
Following the 10 steps above will help give you the edge in landing your first full-time job after graduation. Good luck out there!