Where do you see yourself one year after graduating? Have you made a plan, or are you like the 27% per cent of graduates that hadn't thought about what graduate job they wanted until after they finished their course?
The ninth November marks the one-year anniversary of my graduation, and the end to a very eventful year at that. When I graduated I had a detailed plan of what I wanted to happen, and it did not involve me working as a marketing assistant in a graduate recruitment company in London (Milkround), but here I am, and I could not be happier.
I've learned a lot over the past year, and having caught up with a few course mates recently, it has become apparent that there is no 'right' way for you to kick start your career, there is only the right path for you, but it doesn't hurt to pick up a few tips along the way.
Here is my graduate's guide to surviving your first year after University, it may not be rocket science but stick to these guidelines and you'll have your feet firmly on the career ladder with the minimum amount of stress.
The job market is still tough but it's getting better, and the likelihood is that you will have to trawl through hundreds of job descriptions, write countless applications, research endless numbers of companies and may still be on the receiving end of rejection, but stick it out. The right job is out there but you won't find it if you give up.
You may have put some thought into planning your route to success, but don't be too rigid with it. My original plan was to secure a job in my university town, spend a year there and ask to be relocated when I wanted to move back home. At first my plan went swimmingly, I earned a place on a graduate scheme with a national company and was lucky enough to be given my first choice of location, my university town.
But three months into the scheme and my year-long plan started to crumble. I really wasn't enjoying my job and the long hours and irregular shifts meant I rarely got to visit home or spend any time with friends. I realised that there was no point wasting time building a career that I didn't enjoy and after saving for a couple months, I bit the bullet and moved back home with my parents to look for a job in London. Luckily I stumbled across my current role at Milkround, and I haven't looked back since!
Sometimes plans come together, sometimes they don't. It's important to be able to see when something is worth persevering with and when it is time to seek alternatives.
All experience is good experience. I'm glad I started the first grad-scheme because I learned that it wasn't right for me, and many of my course mates agreed. During our course we had to complete a six-week work placement in a relevant area, so one friend completed it at a primary school. She'd always thought she wanted to work with children but realised on the job that it wasn't for her. She started pursuing other careers and is now successfully working in PR, having been promoted three times in one year.
Another Coursemate completed a placement at the company she'd worked at on her gap-year but in a communications role, she loved the company and the job, and has been working there ever since.
Personally, I completed my six weeks at a recruitment marketing company, an industry I'd never heard of before but really enjoyed working in, and a great name to have on my CV when applying for my current role, as it was one of Milkround's clients. Any kind of experience will teach you something, whether you loved it or hated it.
Be positive & proactive
The phrase that stuck with me is "if opportunity doesn't knock, build a door". There are thousands of other graduates out their looking for jobs and some of them may be better than you (it's true!) but you have to be the one that makes yourself stand out. Contact companies directly to ask if they have any vacancies. Offer to start as an intern to gain some work experience - you never know you may make enough of a positive impact that they choose to keep you on. Use both personal and professional connections to hear about potential jobs, and don't be shy to actually ask for what you want. The only way a company is going to hire you is if they think you are the best person for the job, so you need to start believing that that is exactly what you are, and be willing to prove it.
Leaving university is a daunting experience, but with the right attitude and perseverance you can not only survive your first year but you may even be able to call it a success, whichever route you took to get there.
Mine has been a success, even with the not-so-great first job included, and who knows where I'll be this time next year, I'm trying not to plan it.