Whether you're still studying, have recently graduated or are employed and want a change of role, looking for a job can be a long process - make sure your effort is rewarded
The UK labour market is looking positive for jobseekers. The unemployment rate is 3.9% as of April 2019 - the lowest it's been for more than 40 years, and the number of vacancies is steadily increasing.
While this means there's a range of roles available for talented graduates, it's also likely that you'll face a competitive application process. Being well-prepared could be your key to success - read on to discover the steps you'll need to take.
1. Start your job search
There are a number of places you can carry out your job search. It's best to keep up to date with a few different sources, as new vacancies will appear across different platforms every day:
- careers fairs
- GOV.UK's Find a Job service
- jobs boards
- local and national press
- recruitment agencies
- sector-specific websites
- social media
- speculative applications
- university careers and employment services.
2. Gain experience
Once you've decided on the role you're aiming for, gaining some relevant experience will not only introduce you to the skills you'll need and help you to develop them, but you'll be proving your commitment to working in the area and making contacts as you go.
Experience can take a number of forms:
- Internships - lasting anywhere from a few weeks to 12 months, an internship is a fixed period of work experience aimed at giving students and graduates relevant experience in their field. Interns are classed as workers and are paid at least the National Living Wage.
- Volunteering - if you've got the time to spare, you could give your time to a worthy cause to develop your skills and learn more about working as part of a team. There are volunteer opportunities in a range of sectors, across the UK and further afield.
- Work placements - if a work placement is a compulsory element of your degree, it's likely that it'll be formally assessed through completing tasks and projects. If it's not compulsory, you can arrange your own by contacting employers to enquire about your options.
- Work shadowing - by observing a professional in their role for just a day or two, you'll gain a valuable insight into what their work involves.
The saying 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' may spring to mind here. By making yourself and your ambitions known to those already in the industry, you'll be considered for future job vacancies or work experience opportunities.
You'll need confidence and a proactive attitude to approach employers, but try not to feel intimidated - they've all been in your position before and know how it feels.
You can start networking from home - your first point of call should be your friends, family and colleagues, before attending relevant events and careers fairs. You can also connect with professionals and organisations through platforms such as LinkedIn, if you're using social media in your job hunt.
4. Tailor your CV
Once you've found the role you'd like to apply for, prove that you're the best candidate for the job by tailoring your CV to the role. Include examples from your past experience that match the skills and experience listed in the job description. By doing so, you'll stand out from the crowd of candidates submitting generic applications.
You may also be asked to provide a cover letter, which acts as a more personal introduction. Go the extra mile by discussing why you want to work for the company - evidence of research and passion will go a long way.
5. Prepare for the interview
Receiving an invitation to interview may at first sound daunting, but taking the time to prepare beforehand will help you speak clearly and confidently, and leave the interviewer with a great first impression.
You can prepare in a number of ways. It's important to research the company and its achievements, as well as current affairs within the wider sector, but you could also plan answers to typical interview questions, and think about the questions you'd like to ask the employer.
For more advice on how best to prepare, whether you're attending a video, phone or face-to-face interview, see interview tips.
Although these are the steps you're likely to take in your search, this isn't the only way to find a job.
For instance, if you'd like to work for a specific company that isn't currently advertising a vacancy, you could contact them directly with a speculative application. This shows confidence and initiative, and even if there are no positions available you may be signposted to opportunities elsewhere.
If you've got the initiative, knowledge and passion to drive your ideas forward, you could consider starting your own business. Find out more about self-employment.
Another route to consider, if you're still studying, is to apply for a graduate scheme - many of the UK's largest companies offer them, in a range of specialisms such as HR, healthcare, engineering and IT.
Top job hunting tips
- Don't feel disheartened if you're turned down for a position, either at the initial application stage or after an interview. You'll always be competing with a number of applicants; contact the interviewer for feedback to find out how you can improve for future interviews. Learn more about how to respond to job rejection.
- Signing up for job alerts will save you time and introduce you to opportunities you may not have previously considered. The more detail you give as to what job you're looking for, the more likely you are to receive vacancy alerts which excite and motivate you. Sign up for job alerts with Prospects.
- Register with recruitment agencies - they're well-connected and will put you forward for positions requiring your skillset. Building a good relationship with your job agency will help you land a role which is appropriate and satisfying.