In this post I will outline what strategy you need to follow to get a graduate job fast.
WARNING: THIS IS A LONG POST
First, a quick story:
Friday evening. I had now spent 10 months and a ton of money in travelling costs trying to find a suitable career after graduating – 49 interviews later and still no dice. I had a problem. I was out of time and out of money.
I had to find a job immediately. The old way wasn’t working – so I had to find a new way. This is what I did:
On Sunday I got a notepad, a pen, fired up my laptop and created a massive list of companies. Monday 9am I picked up the phone. By 12am I had several interviews. The next day – after my interviews – I got 2 job offers.
All in less than 3 days.
Let me now tell you in detail EXACTLY what I did and how you can do this too.
Step 1) Decide what your skill set is.
Decide what your skill set is: What are you good at? What are you able to do that someone would pay you for? Make a short list of all the skills you have; by looking at all the various aspects of your life; your degree, extracurricular activities, any groups you’ve joined (e.g. the debating club or the dance society) any volunteering, sports you play etc. Think of all the skills you’ve developed as a result, and write them down.
For instance, if you have a Literature degree and a part time retail job, you could say that you’re an excellent communicator with great sales and customer service skills.
If you can’t think of anything, think of what you would like to do and how your degree and work experience is relevant to it, for instance, If you’re a Media graduate who wants a job in Journalism, your relevant experience might be the fact you’ve previously written for the university paper, as well as your Media degree of course.
If you don’t have any work experience – don’t panic, think of anything that may be applicable from your degree and any other extracurricular activities you take part in. For example, an Economics Graduate with interest in becoming a financial trader might want to highlight the fact they wrote their dissertation on brokers and the stock market.
The point of this is that if you know what you have to offer (or at least have some idea), it will be easier for you to get a graduate job as you’ll be able to tell your prospective employer exactly why you’re the right person for the role.
Step 2) Decide what you want to do: Pick a niche.
Decide what you want to do. Where many graduates go wrong (and I did this for a long time myself) is that in their haste to get a job quickly, they panic and adopt a scattergun approach – they go for anything and everything. However, this approach is likely to get you nothing, or worse, a job you hate. Which is why its important very early on to decide what you actually want to do.
There are three ways to do this:
1) Focus on a certain field – travel, finance, law, sports, media…the possibilities are endless.
2) Focus on a particular niche – A niche is a speciality characterised by the fact that its usually highly focused and very narrow. Where a field is broad, a niche is narrow e.g. a field is Travel, a niche is Travel Writing.
If a niche is big enough (like travel writing) it might have subniches like Travel Writing for Solo Women Travellers or Travel Writing for the Over 50’s etc.
You might need to do a little research to find out what niches there are in your chosen field.
3) Lastly, focus on a certain location – big cities tend to have the most opportunities (although this isn’t always the case) With location, the more flexible you can be the better.
So at the end of that you should come up with a phrase like this, for example:
(Field) Broking, (Niche) Insurance Broker, (Location) London
(Field) Travel, (Niche) Travel Agent (Location) Manchester
This should give you a field, niche and location to focus on. The benefit of this focused approach is that:
a) you’re no longer running around like a headless chicken
b) you’re more likely to find hidden graduate jobs this way.
Step 3) Make a list
Research time! Once you have your field, niche and location to focus on, you will need to build a large list of companies and managers.
There are two simple steps:
i) Build a list of at least 50 companies – You can find companies in several ways:
- Industry specific journals/magazines [e.g. see this one about Insurance Broking, another one about Travel Agents. You can find these by doing a quick Google search for your niche’s ‘industry magazine’.
- Industry specific awards e.g. the Recruitment Industry has the Recruiter Hot 100 and the REC awards
- ‘Best of” Company Lists: for example the Sunday Times Best Company Lists which include The Best 100 Companies in the UK and the Best 100 Small Companies.
- Fastest growing company lists like the Virgin Fasttrack 100
- Google: use a good old fashioned online Google search to find companies in your niche.
ii) Add managers names to the list: When you have a list of at least 50 companies, get the managers names – you can do this via LinkedIn
- Google is another way [literally type in the company’s name and then look for the respective manager e.g. if you’re looking for a sales consultant role you would type in [company name] sales manager or head of sales to get their details.
- Check the company’s own website – often they have a list of staff or contacts.
- If you can’t find the information online, just phone up the company directly, and ask the receptionist who the relevant manager would be.
Important: although it is tempting to go for large, prestigious companies, with your company list it is best to stick with SME’s (small and medium enterprises). They are smaller companies and make up 99% of all companies in the UK and as such have the bulk of graduate jobs. The recruitment process with SME’s tends to be quicker and they hire faster than their bigger counterparts. Lastly, jobs with SME’s are there all year around rather than having ‘a season to recruit graduates’ the way that big companies have.
Very important: make sure you have at least 50 companies and 30 managers’ names (you want to aim for as many as you can, but this is the minimum) because the more contacts you have, the more likely it is that someone will have a graduate vacancy for you.
Step 4) Coldcall Every Single One Of Them (using the script below)
Before you panic and stop reading, consider this. Cold calling gives you two major advantages:
1) It exposes you to the 80% of hidden jobs that are never advertised
2) You immediately establish yourself as a grade A candidate by being pro-active and thinking outside the box (most people reply to adverts, remember?).
Never have I met an employer who wasn’t impressed by the initiative of cold-calling for a job.
How to coldcall – take your list of companies and managers and just call through all of them using the pitch below:
IMPORTANT: emphasise a sense of urgency, and get a result – either an interview or a call back from the employer on the same day to discuss your cv.
Pitch: Hi there [---name of hiring manager---], my name is _______ I'm a recent graduate. I understand you are responsible for------ , is that correct?
Great, the reason for my call is because I am currently looking for a trainee position as a __________. Are you hiring? [if not ask who else they know that is hiring]
Fantastic, just to briefly tell you a little bit about me:
[begin your short 20 second elevator pitch: - see below]
Does that sound like the kind of person who would fit into your team? If yes – push for an interview immediately (if not ask why) If they say send your cv – send it but arrange a time for you to callback and discuss the cv with the manager[they will appreciate your persistence).
Take their details (email address and direct telephone number) thank them for their time and end the call.
Short 20 second elevator pitch:
- Should be no longer than 3 lines
- Include your degree (if relevant)
- Include two impressive achievements related to the role you are applying for (if possible) – the more quantifiable the better
EXAMPLE: I’m a 2:1 History graduate with experience in sales and customer service. My last job was with a retail company where I was promoted to assistant manager and achieved 120% of my target – does that sound like the kind of person who would fit into your team?
AN EXAMPLE OF THE PITCH IN ACTION:
Marie is looking for a job as a trainee broker, rings up BROKING 123 in London and has the name of manager Jack Mckellen
(M) Hi, I was looking to speak to Jack Mckellen please
(J) This is Jack
(M) Hi Jack, my name is Marie Dalton, I’m an Economics graduate. I understand you are responsible for hiring junior brokers, is that correct?
(J) Yes, that’s right.
(M) Excellent. I am calling because I wanted to know whether you have any vacancies for graduate or trainee stockbrokers. Are you hiring?
(J) Actually we are. We have a trainee position opening up next week
(M) Brilliant, just to briefly to tell you a bit about myself:
‘I graduated with a 2:1 in Economics and did my dissertation on the stock market. I’ve also got sales experience with Retail XYZ where I achieved 120% of my target. Do I sound like the kind of person who would fit into your team?’
(J) Yes, absolutely, I tell you what – how about you send me your CV first and I’ll have a look.
(M) I’m more than happy to send my CV, but as it happens I’m in the city centre tomorrow to visit another company for an interview – would you be free tomorrow for a brief chat?
(J) Yeah sure, I’ve got a few minutes in the afternoon.
(M) How about 2 o’clock,
(J) 2 o’clock is fine
(M) Great, I will see you then – can I take your email to send you my CV? And your direct telephone number in case I need to call you beforehand?
(J) Yes my email is jack@broking123 and my telephone number is 123456789—
(M) Wonderful. Thank you for your time and I’ll see you tomorrow at 2pm. Bye
For those of you that are nervous or scared of cold-calling
Remember: It is completely normal to feel a little nervous at first, but think of two things:
1) They’re not going to bite you – the worst thing they can say is no, and if they do – you still have a list of at least 49 other companies to call. At least one of them will say yes!
2) If you are feeling a little nervous, just practice your script either by yourself or with someone else until you feel a little more comfortable.
Step 5) The Interview.
At this point, your cold calling should have paid off and you’ll probably have a few interviews lined up. The interview is your chance to seal the deal. The key to a good interview is preparation.
Make sure you do a thorough self-analysis of your strengths and weaknesses and prepare for any possible objections to you as a candidate. Go in there knowing exactly why they should hire you and what you can bring to the company.
I would strongly advise familiarizing yourself with common graduate interview questions.
A couple of quick fire strategies:
Research: Research the company and the interviewer – know them inside out (check their website, check their LinkedIn, do an online search for any newspaper articles or industry features on them.
Know your value: Make sure you know why you should be hired, why you would be an asset to the company, and what value you can bring to them.
Objection Rebuttals: No matter how good you are, interviewers will have some objections about you. A common objection to graduates is ‘I’m not sure you have the experience for this position’. Ensure you have good replies prepared for any potential objections to you getting the job
Body language & Appearance: Make sure your appearance is smart (unless its a casual environment) & your body language is right; a strong handshake, good eye contact and a winning smile!
Question time: Have some intelligent questions prepared about the company & position (career development and progression is always a good topic and shows interest!); at least 5 questions and no more than 10.
Here are some choice questions to get you started:
-What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate?
-What scope is there for career progression
-What have you enjoyed most about working here?
-What constitutes success at this position and this company
-What would you expect from a new starter?
Remember, with interviews, failing to prepare is preparing to fail
Step 6) Negotiate your salary
Negotiate your salary: Salary is a positive talking point – if the employer starts talking salary it usually means they’re interested in you, and the bargaining chip you have is that good people are tough to find!
When it comes to salary, you should decide on a figure beforehand and stick fairly close to it. But also allow for a little flexibility. If the employer offers you a figure that you’re genuinely happy with it, then take it. If not, don’t be afraid of negotiating.
Some employers will try to deliberately lowball you (especially a graduate new to the world of work). This is where research is your friend, arm yourself by finding out what the typical starting salaries are for graduate/entry level positions in your chosen field. Don’t leave that interview room without a salary that you can both agree on.
Step 7) Job offer + Celebrate:
If you’ve gotten a job offer – Congratulations!
If you didn’t get a job offer after the interview, repeat steps 1-6 until you do.
Keep calling, keep listbuilding, keep chasing and securing interviews until you get a job offer. It is all about persistence
So that’s a brief overview of how I got a graduate job in 3 days.
I will go into more detail about how to accomplish each of these steps over the next coming weeks, so stay tuned!
What about you? What’s been your experience trying to get a graduate job? Look forward to your insights in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like:
-This Is Why You Haven’t Gotten A Graduate Job Yet – 8 Reasons You Haven’t Been Hired
-Uncovering The Hidden Job Market – Is This The Fastest Way To Get A Graduate Job?