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6 Lessons for Landing a Job After University

28/07/2014 11:04 BST | Updated 27/09/2014 10:59 BST

If you're one of those people in the habit of keeping lists, it must have been remarkably satisfying recently to cross off 'university' - and in that moment, as the graduation ceremony wound down, to realise that you've arrived at the conclusion to your formal education.

With a little luck and a canny career choice, you may even find yourself never having to endure another exam again - sincere congratulations.

It is only later that all of us realise what a wonderful bubble university exists in and how easy it is compared to graduate life, which brings with it the rent, the working hours, the responsibilities.

At the risk of sounding sentimental and dangerously 'self-help' (yuck), your job will hold massive sway over your happiness. You will spend more time with your colleagues than your loved ones (a sentence which makes me think we aren't such a civilised society, after all) and your work will dominate your thoughts. If you are in a role which you do not like, which makes you sore and leaves you stressed, everything else will slowly, inevitably lose much of its charm. This, then, is why it's crucial to land the right job. Below are some tips:

1. Lose any arrogance over your degree

It is not shocking to state with certainty that your degree will not land you a job. It was never meant to. A degree allows people to pursue a subject they love, it helps cultivate a mind, shape thinking, sharpen analytical thinking. It provides the time and environment for an individual to find out their strengths, wants, likes, way of working and all the opposites to these too. It is not, however, a guarantee of a job, or of a salary. Do not treat it as such: well done on your 2:1 - but don't treat it as an access all areas pass. Some doors still need a lot of work to pry open.

This is your responsibility: to find the role you want, to perfect your CV and cover letter and to practice your interview technique - every stage of your application must be targeted for the company you wish to work for. A degree cannot do these things, or make up for them if they're below par.

2. Apply for the job you want

I'm not being facetious - promise. Unfailingly, this is a mistake many make every year. Feeling the pressure, it's easy to end up applying not just for 'a job', but for 'any job'. This somewhat accounts for why, in a year's time, you'll be having dinner with university friends who definitely hate whatever it is they're doing. So, for as long as is financially feasible (and do everything you can to save), only chase those roles you actually covet. By not wasting time piecing together applications for positions you couldn't care less about, you leave yourself more able to craft the perfect cover letter detailing your suitability for the role. Besides, when it does come to interview, if you're eager for a role it'll show - and if you're not keen, that'll show even more clearly. Taking anything which is going will simply set you on the wrong career path and likely make you miserable.

Student discounts still work for many graduates - take advantage. If you can cut down your expenses, you ease a little of the pressure to take anything going.

3. Internships = yes, unpaid internships = no.

Given they are illegal - and no, there is no 'wiggle room' - do you really want to be working for a company so cheap they are willing to break the law in order to avoid paying you a few quid an hour? Furthermore, if it's on the promise of a job, do you want to be working for a company who treats soon-to-be employees so poorly? Go somewhere where you needn't starve to gain that elusive 'valuable experience'.

4. Stop wasting time on social media - start using it cleverly

Don't use your social media accounts solely to appease your narcissistic streak: get on LinkedIn to make contacts, search for job opportunities and build an impressive online CV. Twitter is marvellous for job hunts too. Besides this, Facebook and Twitter are set up so you can learn a little more about the company and get an idea of their 'feel' and the company 'tone' - are they funny and friendly, or more professional and straight faced? Or somehow a mix of both? Infer what you can from their social media and apply it to your application: show them you could already be one of the team.

Don't forget to keep your privacy settings high, either: a potential employer may well check your accounts - don't let one dodgy photo ruin your chances of scoring the ideal role.

5. Competency alone isn't enough - it never was

Businesses and corporations are pejoratively referred to as 'faceless' - it's an easy criticism, after all. But you can be sure these companies don't see themselves that way. Very few places are looking for an anonymous skill set: they want people. They want people they like, people who fit, people that can add something. This is where you can gain an advantage over your competition, by demonstrating you are an ideal match, the perfect fit. This means, of course, that you must not only prove yourself on paper, but in person - so make sure you're well dressed, articulate, confident, keen. The most important thing you must do is demonstrate clearly, again and again, your suitability for a role. Don't be afraid to stress the small things either - make it clear why your degree has set you up for this role, how your hobbies reflect well on your character and so forth.

6. Be patient

This speaks for itself. Remember that so often things seem to grind to a halt only to then happen all at once. This is simply how it goes: take your time and know that if you're putting the effort in, it will happen. If you're only getting rejections, take a look at why and modify your approach.