Looking for a job can be a job in itself. For recent graduates, the realities of working life are very different to what you'll have experienced at university. We spend around 70% of our waking hours at work, whether this is in the office, commuting to and from work or even just thinking about it. So it is vitally important that you are doing something you enjoy and love.
Starting out on the career ladder can take time, but once you secure your first job, it will be a lot easier to progress, either within the company or in another role. The job market has changed considerably since I started out but it's still just as important to approach your career with the right mindset, the right outlook and real drive.
When I graduated from university, I really wanted to work for an entrepreneur so I sent a speculative job application to Gordon and Anita Roddick of the Body Shop. They subsequently employed me as assistant to then-chairman Gordon. This job was a great starting point for me and helped with what can sometimes be a tough transition from University to the world of work. Anita was a wonderful person to work for. At the time she was changing the landscape in cosmetics by not testing products on animals and insisting on fair trade with suppliers from the developing world. I remember that Anita would pull you up if a bottle of jojoba hand lotion wasn't displayed properly on the shelf, and I really liked that. This combination of real drive and enthusiasm as well as getting the details right, has been an inspiration to me ever since.
If you've just graduated, you're probably wondering what's the one thing you can do to enhance your chance of getting and keeping a job and of flourishing in your career? The answer to that is simple. Work on your mindset.
Your mindset can help you stand out from the crowd - especially if you're competing against hundreds of graduates with similar qualifications. And don't just take my word for it! 97% of employers agree that it goes beyond having the right skills - it's all about the right focus. A winning mindset is made up of qualities like honesty, trustworthiness, commitment, adaptability and flexibility. Develop yours and you will dramatically improve your chances of success. I explain how in my recent book Put Your Mindset to Work.
What's my top interview guidance when looking to land your first job?
In my job, I'm often asked what advice I would give someone just before an interview. I would definitely say preparation and confidence are key.
'Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.'
It's also really important to be true to yourself. There's no need to exaggerate or pretend to know it all as this will give the employer a false impression of who you are and what you can actually deliver.
Above all, make sure the job is right for you. You really want to find a job that means that you too will Love Mondays. If you have real passion for the role, it will become clear in your interview.
In my latest book, Why You? 101 Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again, I've gathered feedback and insights from the UK's top employers to uncover the most commonly asked questions in an interview. I wrote this book because over half of jobseekers leave interviews feeling like they were underprepared, whilst three out of four wished they had had a better idea of what questions to expect before an interview.
There are hundreds of interview questions doing the rounds out there but nearly all of them resolve into one of a few broad themes. I call these the 'Six Cs.'
• Classic questions (The fateful 15)
• Career goal questions
• Character questions
• Competency questions
• Curveball questions
• Creativity questions
The classics, which I call the 'fateful 15', form the basis of almost every other interview question. They're also the questions you are most likely to be asked and range from 'tell me about yourself' to 'where do you see yourself in five years' time?' Prepare an answer to all 15 and you should be able to tackle almost any other question.
Some additional tips to help you make a lasting impression include:
• Outfit anxiety? Choose something slightly more formal than what you'd wear day-to-day on the job
• Arrive 15 minutes before the interview - not any earlier
• Be confident - it might make you feel a bit silly, but take a few minutes before your interview to sit quietly and stretch out
• First impressions count - a good, firm handshake is highly correlated to interview success
• Always follow up with a thank you email
Lastly, remember that to an employer, a job is a problem to be solved. All other concerns are secondary, including yours.