Students are nearly finished their exams and soon they will be starting their first job search as graduates. In the first quarter of 2015 the unemployment rate fell from 10.4% to 9.9%. It was encouraging to see last week that the unemployment rate dipped below 10% for the first time since January 2009. Circumstances are improving for graduates entering the job market compared with recent years. Graduates can now be more optimistic about their job prospects leaving college. Despite the lowering unemployment rate there is still intense competition for jobs and graduates need to be well prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. Here are my top tips for graduates entering the Irish job market.
- Create a good CV and Cover Letter: a graduate CV will be different from other CVs. Less job experience means you will have to focus more on your education. Highlight any transferable skills you have developed and any areas of expertise within your qualification. A cover letter is a great place to draw attention to your skills and how they could be useful in the job you are applying for.
- Do an internship: this is a great way to gain experience. A lack of professional experience is often the biggest obstacle for graduates. An internship can provide you with new skills, a good reference and some valuable new contacts. A JobBridge internship, despite criticism from some quarters, can be a good option. It is often better to get out there and start gaining experience straight away than spending months sending off applications without anything to show for your time.
- Develop your skills: adequate computer skills are a prerequisite in most jobs today but there are many other skills that employers look for. Analytical skills, problem solving skills, time management skills, teamwork skills, research skills, and communication skills. Identify your areas of weakness and work hard to develop them into strengths. You can also expand on your existing strengths to make them even bigger assets.
- LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn account. Many recruitment agencies search for suitable professionals using LinkedIn. It is another avenue to promote yourself through, and can lead to job opportunities. Beware of your social media presence in general. Employers check Facebook and other social media to see if job applicants are suitable to work in their company. Make sure all of your social media content is suitable for viewing by an employer because they will look at it.
- Network: it takes time to build a network but the benefits are great, and often come in unexpected ways. Don’t always look to what you can get from your contacts, make yourself available to help them too. Attend career events, reach out to relevant people in your field via LinkedIn, and develop a brief 30 second pitch that encapsulates what you can do.
- Interview preparation: prepare answers to the tough questions, know your CV inside out, understand what you can offer, and what the company needs. The better prepared you are the better you will do.
- Try different things: not everyone knows what they are going to do for the next 40 years when they graduate. Apply for different types of jobs, you will gain new skills and good experience that will stand to you in the long run, and you may hit on the ideal career path you never even realised you wanted.
- Don’t get discouraged: it can take time to find a job and start a career. Don’t get discouraged, keep applying for jobs until you find the position that suits you best.
- Plan: you should view looking for a job as a job in itself. Dedicate a consistent amount of time to your job search each week, and maintain organised notes of your applications so you can easily keep track of what is happening.
Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group