Words: Jack Shannon | The Student Pocket Guide

Hello, and welcome to How To Break Into… a brand new series of articles by The SPG helping YOU to get into the graduate career you want.

In this article, we’ll be taking a general look at finding your first “proper” job after graduation. Be prepared to have some of your preconceptions about job hunting challenged though. Which reminds me…

1) No-one owes you a job.

Throughout school and college you were spoon-fed the idea that once you get a degree, you can walk into any job you want on a great salary, with enough for the occasional night out down the wine bar with all your new, fancy business friends.

This sounds harsh, and it is. But don’t worry, because things aren’t as bad as you think they are because The SPG is here to help! First things first:

2) Figure out what you want to do with your life… For the next 18 months.

This is by far the hardest thing on this list to do. Yes, you know what you actually want to do is to write an award winning novel while front-lining a JLS/Death Metal fusion tribute band, but just in case that doesn’t pan out – you might want to get a “normal” job as well. There is an old saying that you should find out what your passion is, and then find a way to get paid for it. Which sounds great, except most people are passionate about sitting around in their underwear, eating cheesy snacks while watching funny cat videos on Youtube. While you are trying to launch your music career, it is perfectly acceptable to have a job to pay the bills as well.

In order to have a CV that doesn’t look like a patchwork quilt, you will need to stay in your first job for AT LEAST 18 months. You don’t have any prior experience to fall back on. If you get a job and quit/get sacked/accidentally burn the place down straightening your hair at lunchtime after 8 weeks then you’re back to square one, with a big sign hanging around your neck to future employers saying “QUITTER”.

You don’t have to marry your first job, but it does have to last for 18 months. Ironically, more than most celebrity marriages.

3) Networking is easier than you think.

Networking. The word conjures up images of powerful middle aged men in suits, like that guy from House Of Cards on Netflix, doing shady deals playing the old boys network, or getting a job from your dad’s golfing mate.

Networking isn’t some magical secret. Chances are you have started to network without even realising it! Once you have an idea of what you want to do, grab a sheet of paper, a pen and write down the names of everybody that you know who knows something about the industry you want to break into. They could be old teachers, old housemates, people you befriended on Facebook and then forgot about.

Then, when you have done that, write how they could be able to help you. There! You’ve just started networking!

LinkedIn is great for networking – if you use it properly! Drunk 3am messages to MDs of companies you have just Googled don’t impress anyone. Start a connection with people you actually know in real life. Then, have a look and see who they are connected with and if they can arrange an introduction. It might not be for a job, but knowledge is power.

4) Agencies are your friend. Unless they’re NOT.

Recruitment agencies are companies that make commission by finding the right person to fill a role.

Recruitment agencies tend to be specialised in some way, either by industry (for example, SPG Creative specialise in Design, Marketing and Media) or by seniority (graduate recruitment specialists all the way up to director level).

Agencies can help by providing advice on your CV, arranging interviews and putting you in touch with people who ultimately might give you a job. They have a vested interest in getting you interviews and getting you into employment.

That being said, it is their priority to get you a job. It is your priority to find a job that makes you happy. If an agent tries to push you towards a particular role that you’re not keen on, be assertive and say no thanks. They will respect you for it and are more likely to get you interviews doing things you want to do.

As a final word of warning, if any agency tries to charge you money to represent you – walk out. No respectable agent will ever try to charge you money for their recruitment services. They make their money from the guys doing the hiring. Not from you.

There are some great agencies out there, like www.spgcreative.co.uk for example. But don’t be afraid to ask tough questions like “How many people did you secure roles for last year?”, “Can you verify that people you have previously placed at this company have been successful?” and “Do you really need to keep touching my knee?”

As well as agencies, another organisation worth speaking to is your careers centre, because…

5) A degree is for life, not just for Christmas.

Your university will have a careers centre. Chances are it will be run by pleasant, middle aged women who remind you a little bit of your mum. That being said, they know exactly what your situation is, have years of experience and most of all are completely free to access, even after you have left uni for several years. If you ask nicely, they can point you in the direction of paid internships, graduate schemes and local graduate level jobs.

They will not however, tidy your room or make your tea for you. Even if you ask nicely.

6) Other top SPG tips:

  • Go to job fairs on campus. At the very least you can stock up on free pens.
  • Know your rights at work. If in doubt, contact your Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
  • Don’t call your boss Mum by mistake.
  • Especially if it’s a bloke.
  • Graduate schemes take a while to apply for, but they generally come with a fat stack of cash, so it’s worth filling out those forms in the end – I promise.
  • If you are doing a Science degree, a year in industry placement looks impressive as hell to employers and shows you are serious.
  • If you can afford to, be picky. You spend most of your waking life at work, make sure you don’t hate it TOO Much.
  • Stick with it. Job hunting is pretty soul destroying sometimes, but eventually it will pay off.
  • If all else fails, and you are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel – there’s always teaching.