Career Advice

The Top 10 Reasons Why You Still Haven’t Scored a Graduate Job and What to Do About It.

min read
Mikaela Thompson

The days of getting your dream job, or any job, based on your degree/s alone, are long past. Many more people are graduating from universities these days due to increased accessibility, so the competition for employment has increased exponentially. Now, you have to offer companies something extra to stand out. So, what’s your weapon? You need to stop with the self-pity, change your mindset and start taking positive actions to make it happen!

10 Common Job Search Pitfalls

1) Insufficient effort.

Ask yourself these questions: what courses relevant to the industry or job have you done? Have you got a flashy portfolio of work ready to share at an interview? Do you understand the jargon/acronyms/abbreviations used in the industry? Have you got an updated blog? If not, you’re not trying hard enough in today’s job market.

2) Little to no work experience.

New graduates typically fall into the vicious cycle of not getting a job because you have no work experience, and you can’t get work experience because you have no previous work experience. 

3) Lack of skills.

Companies want to employ people who will add value. You need the right skills to do this, even as a recent graduate. For instance, computer skills are always in demand because companies leverage technology for increased efficiency in their offices. People skills are also in high demand.

4) Failing to network.

Like it or not, the majority of people get their jobs through referrals. Why? Because a company is likely to trust the judgment of their experienced, long-standing  employees. Word-of-mouth eliminates an employer’s worry over whether the candidate can do the job. To get referrals, you have to know people in the industry willing to vouch for you. 

5) Lack of resume and cover letter preparation.

Don’t send out a generic resume and cover letter, or ones with typo, spelling and grammar errors. Recruiters can spot these at once and you won’t get any further. Get professional editing and a proof-reader. Such services will be valuable investments. 

6) Poor interview skills.

Don’t naively think you can walk into an interview with no research or preparation and bluff your way through. Interviewers will ask you hard-hitting, challenging questions that are very difficult to answer on the spot.

7) No extra skills or talent beyond your degree/university work.

As mentioned above, your degree and university work alone won’t get you a job. You need to put in the time to develop extra, desirable skills whether through hobbies, volunteer work, internships or industry career-related courses. 

8) No follow up.

You won’t help yourself get employed by passively sitting back and waiting for feedback or a call back from an employer. Be proactive.

9) Quitting too soon.

Yes, it’s disheartening to apply for loads of jobs and hear nothing back. Don’t start second guessing yourself. It’s the same for everyone! If you’re selling yourself well, eventually a company will see you as a good fit. Keep applying; your turn will come.

10) Lack of soft skills.

e.g., social/people skills. Employers want to know you will fit in well with the existing team and will work and get along with anyone.

10 Actions to Help You Clinch that Graduate Job

1) Acknowledge there’s increased competition and work out how to set yourself apart.

With more graduates applying for positions, be patient and positive about your job prospects. It may take much longer than you’d like to get that first position but don’t give up. As well, make yourself stand out and memorable by taking time to consider what your best qualities are and making a list. Frame these in terms of how you can add value to each company you’ve applied to. 

2) Apply for jobs.

Self-evident as this is, the key is to apply for as many as possible e.g., internships, temporary jobs, fellowship programmes, or any jobs you think would be a good fit. Apply, apply and keep on applying! Some of life’s greatest successes come from unexpected strokes of luck. You can’t benefit from these if you don’t persevere with your job applications. Securing a job is hard for everyone let alone a new graduate. You must continue to ‘put your hat into the ring’.

3) Create a stylish portfolio.

This is a way to help counter the lack of work experience as a new graduate. Showcase your past work, talents, and your potential by gathering all your achievements at university, any job-related class projects etc., in a binder to share at an interview. Also make a digital portfolio. 

4) ‘Sanitize’ your social media accounts.

Recruiters/interviewers do look up candidates on social media accounts so what they find there is important. Delete any inappropriate, unprofessional shots of yourself or others and start instagramming your hobbies and interests, especially if they pertain to your chosen industry career. Show your fun side tastefully. Start a blog about related hobbies and tweet what interests you. These are great conversation starters in interviews.

5) Work part-time or for free.

Any work experience is good work experience. Don’t turn down work because you think it’s beneath you or paid poorly. Even be prepared to work for free, especially if it relates to your chosen career field. It’ll be rewarded eventually. Just make sure you balance work experience with doing your job applications.

6) Network, network, network.

Use LinkedIn, Facebook groups and ask friends of friends to help you out. Join twitter chats and follow companies on Instagram. Connect with colleagues from past internships and let them know you’re in the market for a job. 

7) Stay connected to school contacts and events.

Keep in contact with your old professors, advisors, and mentors. See if your school has any listserv that sends out campus-wide emails about jobs and internships. Also check out university job fairs and recruitment drives.

8) Upskill yourself during your unemployed time.

Show employers your resourcefulness, entrepreneurial skills and hunger for work by studying courses that will give you the required skills listed on relevant job postings. Great courses are offered by Udemy, Google Garage, Lynda etc. These extras will greatly improve your chances of getting that elusive first job. 

9) Follow up on your job applications.

You’ve nothing to lose but may gain an edge if you email or call the company to see when you might hear back about a job interview. It will show them your interest in the position and tenacity that may set you apart from other candidates.

10) Research and prepare well.

Do your industry, company and market research. Prepare adequately your resume, cover letter and interview question answers. Look up company websites, blogs, LinkedIn and social media accounts to know as much as you can about their products, services, projects, mission, values and culture. Tailor your resume to each position and company you apply to E.g., use keywords from the job advertisements to show your ‘fit’ with each company, personalize your resume by E.g. using the specific hiring manager’s name etc., write a summary specifically targeting the experience and skills required for the position. Many online sites will help you prepare good answers for the most common interview questions E.g., 

Check out some more key interview tips here, and land that dream job in no time!

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