This is a transcript of Episode 6: Navigating life after university, from Future You - the careers podcast from Prospects
Host: Dan Mason
Contributor: Amy Carpenter, University of Suffolk.
Dan Mason: Hello and welcome to Future You, the podcast from graduate careers experts Prospects. I'm Dan Mason. In this bonus episode, we're going to chat to our regular guest, careers adviser Amy Carpenter, about navigating your way through those first few weeks and months after you leave university. Amy's going to provide some hints and tips on how to organise your job search, how to stay motivated if you're not getting interviews or job offers right away, and some thoughts too on how to decide whether postgraduate study is right for you.
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Amy Carpenter's here. Hi, Amy, welcome back.
Amy Carpenter: Hi Dan.
Dan Mason: Amy is employability and progression adviser at the University of Suffolk. So we're thinking about those first few weeks and maybe months after leaving university. For those graduates who don't necessarily have a job already lined up, do you have any tips for them on how to structure the job search and how to navigate those first few weeks that can be quite tricky after leaving university?
Amy Carpenter: Yeah, definitely. I think you've left where you've got deadlines and places you have to be, things you have to do and suddenly you don't have any of that commitment anymore. But I think the best thing to do is to set some goals and some targets of what you're going to do. And don't just, 'ok, I'm going to type in a few words and see what jobs come up'. Think a little bit strategically about where you're going to start looking. What you're going to target, is it by sector, or is it by graduate scheme perhaps if you're thinking for the following September, is it graduate internships, or is it a certain type of job that you know you want to do. And I think if you can set some targets of maybe how many jobs you'll research a day or how many you'll apply for in the week. And make sure they're manageable, you know, two or three, because certainly applying for a job can take time to do it properly and well, particularly if it's a very long and comprehensive application form. So yeah, if you set those, set yourself those targets, those goals, and it helps to give you something to work towards, and then can hopefully alleviate some of the pressure of constantly thinking about I need to be looking for a job right now.
Dan Mason: So for graduates who are sending off loads of job applications, they're doing whatever they can to find that ideal graduate job - what advice do you have for them to keep the motivation because it can be it can be demotivating can't it, if you get if you get lots of rejections or perhaps you have to take on a what you might think of as a lesser job, temporary job if you can't find the job you want straight away?
Amy Carpenter: Yeah, I think it's really important to remember that a lot of the job hunt process can be timing, actually. That the perfect job might have just not come up yet, because that organisation hasn't got the advert for that out at the moment. And people, you know, find their perfect jobs and their graduate jobs at different points in their career. You know, I've known students who've had a job lined up from day one from when they're available from after their dissertation. But then I've also known students who've, you know, taken quite a few months to find the right role for them and have tried other things along the way, and taken maybe different roles, volunteering, or done some travelling, take some time for themselves to reflect on maybe what they want to do, maybe why it's not going as successful as they hoped it would. And so I think it's really important to remember to take the pressure off and don't compare yourself to your friends and your peers and the people you're graduating with because everyone's in different situations. Everyone lives in different places, has different commitments that they have to balance around work as well. So focus on yourself and take the time to just be proactive and find the place you want to work and it will come together in the end.
Dan Mason: And it is a particularly tough graduate jobs market at the moment, isn't it? So if you are getting rejections, it's not necessarily a reflection on your qualifications or skills or the quality of your applications?
Amy Carpenter: Yeah, definitely. I think there's lots of people in the same position at once all looking for graduate jobs. And sometimes in certain industries as well, it can be you're up against other people who were just in the job market as well anyway. And if you perhaps don't have the experience, specifically in the field they're looking for then that could be the reason you get the rejection. And actually, it's not again, personal to you. It's just that perhaps it's a job in a hospital and they specifically want someone with hospital experience and they get ten applicants with hospital experience and another ten who don't so the ten with the hospital experience are given the interview because they've done it before. So it's not necessarily you as an individual, it's just who else has applied at that time as well and what experience they can bring.
Dan Mason: We've spoken quite a bit in other episodes about the various ways that, while you're at university, you can develop your skills, develop your employability. What about when you've already graduated, and you're doing that job search, but you want to do more to develop new skills and make yourself a more attractive candidate?
Amy Carpenter: Yeah, so you could consider taking, there's graduate internships out there. And so there's lots of opportunities, actually that are fixed-term positions that are targeted at graduates for six months or perhaps a year. So if you haven't done an internship during your degree, it's not too late because those opportunities will still exist. And things like gap years as well that if you take a structured one, perhaps go and do some travelling, or you could undertake some work abroad. And I think even if you, if it's work that you think perhaps isn't graduate level, but more low skilled, it's still going to be fantastic experience for you because it's getting you into the workplace and helping you develop your skills, helping you to identify what you do and you don't like and what you maybe need to develop a little bit more. So yeah, I know from working in retail, I very quickly realised I really liked people, and didn't particularly much like working with Excel as much. And that was from working in retail. So I have to do Excel still every day, but I do more of the people stuff now.
Dan Mason: And another thing that graduates might start to think about while searching for jobs is whether they should be going back to university and thinking about doing postgraduate study. Obviously there are good and bad reasons for doing that. Could you just talk a little bit about when it might be a good idea to start thinking about going back to study?
Amy Carpenter: Yeah, so I think if you're considering postgrad study, one important thing I would always suggest is have a look during your final year if you're thinking of staying at your university, because often there's discounts to alumni for postgrad study and I know that my university offers a discount if you apply before a certain date in the academic year. It doesn't matter if you don't take up the position. But if they're happy to offer you a position, you know that you would get the extra discount on top of the standard alumni discount, which is really fantastic. I think for us it's about, if you apply before July, it's 25% of the course is deducted. And lots of universities offer similar schemes around perhaps grade achievement, that kind of thing. So you know, what you need to achieve to get perhaps the discounted fee.
Things to consider as well is whether you want to take a break from study perhaps for a year and then return to do a Masters or something else, professional qualification or even a PhD. Sometimes there are direct entry routes to PhDs as well, depending on the course that you've studied. And sometimes I know people like to take a year out to have a little bit of a break, do some work, have some time away from writing essays and doing exams. But then for some people, they want to keep going because they're in the flow. They've spent three, four years perhaps of study and they're used to that kind of, the commitment the way of writing, managing time, deadlines. So then they can go and do the Masters perhaps in a year or two years after that. And then you come out the other end to decide where to go next. And some jobs require Masters-level study. A lot of them will also support you through Masters level study. For example, if you wanted to pursue a career in HR, you probably need to do the Level 7 CIPD qualification. I've known people to put themselves through it so that they've been qualified and then they go and get a job. And then others who've got a job at an entry level, and then their employer's paid for it as well. So there are different opportunities and different things to consider there as well.
Dan Mason: But maybe, if you're really struggling with the job search, postgraduate study might not be an option just to, sort of, put off getting a job, in other words.
Amy Carpenter: Yeah, I think you need to consider what your motivations are to do postgrad study because it is harder than the degree, it's the next level. And it is very self-directed, you probably have less teaching time, less contact time with your lecturers. And you have to be very dedicated if you're doing it full time within a year. And if you're doing it as a way to put off going for the job, then it might not be the best reasons to do it. So just consider what your motivations actually are to do that subject.
Dan Mason: Thanks very much to Amy for joining us throughout this series. And just to say, Amy has moved on since we recorded this, she's no longer at the University of Suffolk. She's now a careers adviser at the University of Essex, so congratulations to Amy on the new role. That's all for this mini, bonus episode of Future You, Don't forget to check out all the previous episodes by searching for Future You in your favourite podcast app, or by going to prospects.ac.uk/podcasts. Speak to you soon.
Note on transcripts
These transcripts are produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.