Good news - we've seen the number of jobs advertised on reed.co.uk grow by 21%* in the past year. Even so, it remains a competitive market for graduates. To improve your chances of securing that sought-after graduate role, it's necessary to stand out from the crowd.
One of the best ways to do this is to get ahead of the competition by putting in some groundwork while you're still at university.
There are a number of ways you can gain experience and boost your CV while you're still studying.
Gain some work experience
Ok, so this one might be obvious - but it's key. Having relevant work experience can dramatically increase your chances of success during your job hunt. Work experience remains one of the most important factors for employers when it comes to deciding who to hire, so it can actually hurt your chances if you don't have any.
And it doesn't just look good on your CV: work experience is the perfect way to sample career options if you're unsure what you want to do. Even if you decide that a particular career path isn't for you, it's still a great way to kick off your career and to learn the ropes.
Employers want evidence that you've experienced life outside of the university bubble, and a short-term work placement is the perfect way to show that you've extended your horizons beyond the library/union bar (delete appropriate).
Get involved in student societies
Student societies aren't just a great way to expand your social circle, they also offer real gains in terms of your employability.
Societies depend on events for success, so officers will have the chance to develop lots of desirable organisational skills. From market research to budgeting and promotion, being involved with running a society will offer you the chance to gain a range of experience that potential employers will value.
Even more important to employers than experience though, is your mindset. By participating in student societies, you'll show your potential employer that you have the mindset qualities - like leadership, decision making and trustworthiness - that they really value. Plus, by balancing your studies with an active social life, you'll demonstrate that you're a well-rounded individual with excellent time management skills.
Find a job
It might seem trite, to suggest finding a job as a way to improve your chances of doing just that. But getting a part-time job alongside your studies is the perfect way to develop the necessary skills that employers will look for.
If it's relevant to your career, all the better, but any type of part-time work will give you experience of the working environment that employers will value and it will also underline the fact that you have a positive work ethic. So you'll have the upper hand over fellow graduates who've never worked before.
Plus, there's the added benefit of having a bit of extra cash to spend on nights out.
Not only will volunteering give you the chance to give back to the community, and feel good about yourself, it's also a great way to gain valuable skills and experience. Volunteer work of any kind is a great way to show prospective employers that you have the right mindset for their job.
And it's not all gap years in Costa Rica and charity shop work (although these are great!). The range of volunteering opportunities is vast. Why not do some marketing for a charity, or organise events for a youth club, or try your hand at - well - just about anything?
The charities you can work for are just as varied as the roles available to you. With so many different volunteering opportunities on offer, it should be possible to find something tailored to your desired career.
Learn how to get a job
One of the most valuable things you can do with your spare time at university is to start mastering the art of the job search. There's no question that this is a skill in itself - from writing a cover letter to being successful at job interviews, there's a lot to learn.
Don't find yourself at the deep end when you graduate. Application deadlines come up quickly, and to ensure you don't miss out on a place on that prized graduate scheme or first post-uni role, you need to master these skills well ahead of time.
A great place to start is by attending the careers fairs and interview workshops offered by your university. Take advantage of the expertise on offer while you can, and ask your careers advisor to review your CV. Then when the time comes you'll know it's up to scratch.
Master your mindset
Remember, just because you don't have the exact experience required for the role you're after, this doesn't mean you can't get it. When asked, 97% of employers said they would hire a candidate with the right mindset over one with all the desired skills. What's most important is showing your employer that you have the innovation, commitment and determination to do what it takes. Doing the things listed above, will help you to do just that.
There's really no excuse. With such a variety of options, you should be able to find a way to gain the skills and experience that will suit your needs. You can be certain that plenty of other students will be using their spare time to fill up their CVs with a range of extra-curricular activities and achievements, so make sure that you do too.