7 ways to improve graduate employability

Jemma Smith, Editor
September, 2020

Opportunities for work experience have been thin on the ground lately but there are still a variety of ways you can improve your employability - all it takes is a bit of initiative

Over the course of the past few months the coronavirus pandemic has caused employers to postpone or cancel work experience and internship opportunities. According to a Prospects survey 26% of final year students lost out on an internship because of the COVID-19 situation.

The good news is restrictions are beginning to lift and things are slowly returning to normal, on the other hand the pandemic has bought about an extremely competitive graduate jobs market.

An increasing number of employers are running virtual work experience schemes, enabling students and graduates to gain essential experience from home. While nothing replaces real, on-the-job experience there are still a number of things you can do to boost your chances of employment.

Pick up a hobby

We've all got interests that we'd like to indulge 'if only we had the time'. With a bit of organisation finding the time is easier than you think.

Starting a hobby demonstrates initiative and a passion for learning. It'll also help you occupy that tricky 'hobbies and interests' section of a CV or application form.

Because of the social distancing measures still in place some group activities or contact sports may be off the cards. However, there are still a variety of options for you to consider. For example:

  • learn a coding language
  • start writing a novel
  • learn how to cook/bake
  • get outside and figure out how to plant and grow
  • take up an instrument
  • start a book club
  • teach yourself to a new skills such as painting, sewing, crafting
  • take up photography.

Take an online short course

There's no better way to improve your graduate employability than by embarking on a short course to improve your skills.

Short, online courses are available in a range of subjects so if you want to learn how to use a certain piece of software, discover what's involved in a particular role or brush up on soft skills there will be a course for you.

The course doesn't have to be related to your career. Any course taken demonstrates to employers your initiative, drive and organisational skills.

Course providers include FutureLearn and Coursera and a number of universities run Massive Open Online Courses (MMOCs), which are free to join.

If you'd like to commit to something longer term an online Masters might suit you.

Learn more about online learning.

Start reading

To be as prepared as possible for the world of work do some research into the industry and sector you want to join, paying particular attention to companies of interest. To find out what certain roles involve, see job profiles.

While some employers halted recruitment over the course of the pandemic others continued to take on graduates. With the easing of lockdown recruitment processes should start returning to normal so to keep up to date with preferred employers and to learn of vacancies follow them on social media.

It’s also a good idea to do some interview prep. In-person interviews are starting to resume but with social distancing rules still in place many organisations may still rely on phone and video interviews so make sure you know what to expect.

Improve your online presence

Take a look at your social channels and ask yourself if they're employer-friendly. Employers do look at a candidates social media channels to gauge whether they'd be a good fit for the job/company.

To tidy up your social channels:

  • Adjust your privacy settings. If you don't want recruiters to be able to see your profiles make sure they're set to private.
  • If profiles are public delete any posts that could damage your chances of success, for example wild holiday pictures or posts containing controversial comments or bad language.
  • Consider whether your profile handle looks/sounds professional? If not change it.

To improve your presence:

  • Follow organisations and professional bodies of interest to keep up to date with the latest news and developments.
  • Like, comment and interact with employers and peers.
  • When posting include relevant hashtags to ensure your posts are seen by the right people.
  • Think about setting up separate work accounts.

Also, if you're not on LinkedIn you should be. Join and start building your profile now.

Learn more about social media and job hunting.

Sign up as a volunteer

Volunteering looks great on your CV and will give you excellent examples to use during job interviews. Activities don't have to be related to your career, you'll be surprised how many transferrable skills you gain.

Again, because of social distancing some community or group projects may be unavailable. To find out what you can do search Do-it and Do-it from home. With travel and quarantine restrictions still in place some volunteering abroad programmes will also be off limits but did you know you can volunteer online or carry out solo tasks in your area?

You could become a telephone or virtual volunteer for a charity or a check-in-and-chat volunteer for the NHS. Alternatively you could collect shopping or medicines for vulnerable people in you community.

Search for voluntary opportunities.

Learn a language

Having a second (or third) language under your belt can help you to stand out in a competitive jobs market. Business in all forms is increasingly international so mastering a well-used language such as Portuguese, Spanish, French or German will often give you an edge.

The hard work and dedication that learning a new language entails is bound to impress employers.

There are plenty of online and auditory resources available to help you to become bilingual, as well as a number of apps.

Craft the perfect CV

Don't neglect your CV. When the time comes to apply for jobs you'll wish you’d kept it up to date. If yours could do with a bit of TLC now's the time to do it.

Spend time casting a critical eye over your CV. Does it contain unnecessary or inaccurate information? Is it formatted correctly? Does it include all your skill and experience? Could you personal statement do with a rewrite? Keep an extra eye out for errors or typos.

Discover how to write a CV and take a look at writing a personal statement for your CV and our example CVs for inspiration and guidance.

If you take up any of these employability-boosting activities don’t forget to add the skills and experienced to your CV.

Find out more

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