If you are in the position of having left university but you don’t have a permanent job in your chosen field, this can be a scary time.
Being a recent Graduate myself (I graduated last July in Fashion Journalism), I know first-hand how difficult it can be.
This is especially so in the creative sector – where opportunities can be more scarce. I’m not saying it’s ever easy. For any job you will need the qualifications combined with some experience and genuine interest in the industry and the company. But without someone giving you experience, how can you progress into other positions? Everyone had to be given a first job at some stage. But it can feel like all available options require that all important experience. It can feel like a vicious circle.
So what do you do?
The best advice I can give you is to intern as much as you can or to explore other areas of your field. Those jobs that are related to your ideal job and demonstrate complementary skills.
You never know what doors one job might open up. Maybe there are related or unexpected opportunities that spring up and you are ideally placed for these. Or maybe you discover a new niche within your profession that you hadn’t previously considered. Or you might just discover upon doing a job that you like something more (or less) than you originally thought.
For example, despite being fashion based, my course covered PR, marketing, communications, events and photography just to name a few. As a result, I was able to not just apply for straight ‘Fashion Journalism’ jobs, but had a pool of transferable skills which can be applied to numerous creative roles. My current position as a Marketing Executive has nothing to do with fashion, yet has introduced me to so many areas within marketing which I love. I’ve also learnt so many new skills as well as meeting business professionals – a few even opening up future job opportunities.
Another example would be those having a Psychology degree. You don’t just have to become a ‘Psychologist’. You could go into education, sport, teaching or even advertising. Marketing theory and practice is very much psychology driven. Try not to be narrowly focussed on one thing, however easy it is to do.
Disregarding other positions because you are holding out for your ‘dream job’ is a common mistake for graduates. This can be catastrophic for your career development. You need the practical experience. With this it is very unlikely that any experience would be considered negative. It looks great on your CV, as it shows your willingness to learn and how you can adapt to different environments.
The only things you need to avoid are changing jobs too frequently in a short space of time or getting stuck in a job for a long period that doesn’t offer progression. So, a few months to a year of transition is great. Working in 10 different bar jobs is questionable. As is still being there in 2 years unless you are progressing.
Get as much experience as you can
Whilst I don’t support unpaid internships (for more than a very short period of time), carrying out work experience alongside a part time job at university can also lead to a full time role. It’s about making yourself indispensable. I know a number of graduates who have actually secured their first job through work experience or internships.
Finding time for work experience is an issue. Students put so much pressure on themselves to get the highest grades that they forget about the practical stuff. The answer? A good combination. You need the theory as well as the practical. Being in a working environment allows you to use your own initiative, think under pressure and work alongside new people – things you can’t fully develop in a classroom. When it comes to applying for jobs, these skills are transferable to just about any position. The experience will also help with the job application process and interviews in numerous ways. Through working with new people and moving out of your comfort zone, you will have increased your confidence. And you will have examples of your work that you can discuss.
So yes, graduate jobs that are 100% tailored to your degree can sometimes feel thin on the ground. But opening your mind to different opportunities and getting as much experience under your belt as possible can really help you progress. Be focused and absorb as much as you can and the world of work should feel a lot less daunting.
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