I would like to think that, after two decades of hard graft, my CV is relatively jam-packed. I've photocopied what feels like tonnes of paper during dull work placements, had plenty of relevant experience and taken on numerous roles outside of work. Yet, come June, I'm still going to be shoved somewhere in the middle of a pile of CVs on an employer's desk with dozens of other eager graduates. It goes without saying (so I apologise for saying it) that finding a job in this market is verging on impossible and the traditional routes for getting your foot in the door just aren't working.
So, if the first step you plan to take when you come to applying for jobs is a Google search, think again. By and large, most students in the same position will search similar words or the same big company names and most will end up on the same 'want to work for us?' pages; a depressing thought, to say the least. Some sites even provide handy counters that helpfully inform you that 'you are the 53rd person to apply for this job'. Right, great.
Of course, though, someone has to get these positions, and if you've had your heart set on working for one of the big companies since you were a wee one, you of course should still give it a shot. It's definitely still worth trawling through dozens of application forms in case you are the cream that rises and you climb to the top - if you don't apply, your chances of being offered a job will drop... dramatically. So, by all means, go ahead, but don't rely on the trusty CV.
If you take one mantra away from university (no, not 'first year doesn't count'), let it be that in life, it's all about who you know, not what you know. Building up a hefty little black book, knowing someone who can put you in the right company and having impressive names on your email is what will count. Nowadays a 2:1 is more likely to put you on a level playing field rather than make you stand out.
My cousin recently landed a great job at a PR firm in London through my aunt bumping into an old friend at the races who was recruiting which, if it wasn't great enough by itself, has allowed him to land his girlfriend a job at a top magazine through a client. In an ideal world, you'd either be at the right place at the right time or have a contact that can put you there. A perfect world is rare, though, and if the right people and circumstances don't fall into your lap, you'll need to make them happen yourself.
Start by identifying who'll be able to help you. Whether that's a company or some top names in the industry, locate them; follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their blogs and get their contact details. Drop them a tweet, comment on their posts or send them an email - even if your contact goes without response, your name might be remembered and showing a genuine interest will be appreciated. After posting on Twitter that she was looking for a PR-related job desperately, one girl was lucky enough to benefit from hundreds of retweets and ended up being offered a position. Hard work? No - we can all handle 140 characters of typing, a good idea? It might not work for all but, yes, apparently so.
LinkedIn has developed itself as the professional version of Facebook, the social-networking hub for reputable businessmen and women. Search for specific companies and people to 'connect' with them directly, making it easier to slowly build links. Don't expect to have a new best friend by the end of the day though, professionals are inundated with people contacting them, it's the consistent, respectful and interesting ones that will stick in their minds. Start slow, with a tweet/email for some advice or comment on their work and work your way up. By the time you graduate, you'll have some valuable contacts under your belt. Plus, LinkedIn has an app for most smartphones, so it's easy to stay current on the go.
I feel way too young to be discussing conferences, but here I go. If you don't feel like you're ready for an industry level one, companies and organisations put on student conferences across the country in all different fields. They're often a little costly, but networking face-to-face with experts is well worth it. Be direct and confident; tell them your name, your experience and what you want to do. Your personality and business-like manner (which means you should put down that last glass of free wine. Yes, you) will shine through. Even if a 'hey, we're actually looking for someone in that position, would you believe it?' situation is a little unrealistic, you can at least ask experts how they landed their current jobs, and what they would recommend for you.
If you decide to ignore everything I've just said and are full of confidence in the good old CV, at least stand out. Whether that's something tiny, like changing the colour of your email background, it's the little touches that will get you noticed. Research the company well because, although a rookie mistake, most don't and your knowledge will translate. If, for example, you're applying for a fancy boutique, perhaps send in a handwritten CV on pretty, perfumed paper. Tailoring your application to your industry and being that little bit different will help your chances.
It's difficult out there, no doubt. One thing my cousin was repeatedly told in his job hunt was that there are jobs going, plenty of them, but lots of companies don't even bother posting positions on their websites. Some go round the office and aren't released publically (grrr), so instead of pinning your hopes on your CV, build up your contacts book, start networking and land the dream job you didn't even know was going your own way (apologies for the cheesy ending there, I felt it was necessary). The traditional methods aren't working for we current graduates anymore, so it's time to get creative.
Good luck, folks.
Follow Lauren Cope on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laurenjanecope