‘Help! I’m still unemployed…’ Here’s what you can do

Don't despair!

Don’t despair!

Unemployment amongst graduates is high, but don’t get put off by the headlines screaming: ‘Shocking truth about graduate unemployment: They have the same chance of being out of work as a school leaver with one GCSE’ (Daily Mail, 23 Feb 2012),  or ‘Slump in graduate jobs market hits six-in-10 ex-students’ (Daily Telegraph, 21 Jan, 2013) or stories about the extremes gone to by some graduates ‘Please give me a job’: Unemployed graduate spends last £500 in his bank account on billboard begging for people to ‘Employ Adam’ (Independent, 3 Jan 2013). It is also true that many jobs are never advertised (estimates vary from 50 – 75%) and the majority of graduates will not get a place on a blue chip graduate training scheme – but let’s put all this into context.  Over 400,000 people graduate from UK universities every year and of these only 16% will gain a placement with a blue chip employer, leaving the other 84% to find alternatives in the labour market  – and work is there at both graduate and non-graduate level, particularly with small and medium employers.

So, rather than being despondent about it all, how can you boost your success in the labour market?  With over 25 years experience of working with young people in the labour market these are my tips:

  • Your job while unemployed is to get a job…so be proactive, employers will not be coming to you saying ‘I hear you’ve recently graduated, here’s a job for you…’
  • Have a job search strategy – don’t apply for absolutely everything! If you need help creating a strategy, come and see a Careers Network professional
  • Don’t think you are on your own – join professional networks, groups and if necessary, set up your own group to give each other support when times get rough
  • Use professional job boards, don’t post your CV on every job board going
  • Sign up for job alerts, so you can respond quickly to new job postings
  • Apply for jobs regularly, and always have several ongoing job applications at different stages
  • Have backup plans, and apply for these too
  • Be prepared to move location (not always possible, but don’t automatically dismiss it)
  • Be prepared to start at a lower level and work your way up, especially if you are determined to work for a specific employer or location
  • Get relevant work experience – paid/unpaid/voluntary/part time/temporary/fixed term/internship/placement
  • Know your skills, and how to articulate them on paper  – employers don’t just want a degree
  • Improve or gain extra skills e.g. ECDL, advanced Excel and Access, specialist software used in the industry, persuading and negotiation, resolving issues, basic fiscal awareness/budgeting
  • Match these skills to the job criteria – do you actually meet the criteria?
  • Reflect on your experiences and build up a bank of examples to use in appropriate situations
  • Write targeted applications
    • Use STAR when writing your answers to questions, to ensure you have fully answered the question (Situation > Task > Actions > Results)
  • Come and get extra help – you can come back to see Careers Network for up to a year after graduation, and if you have ‘gone home’, ask if your local university careers service will help you with interview practice, check your applications etc
  • Never give up – there is a job out there with your name on it

About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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