Landing a Graduate Job | My Experience & Top Tips


I've handed in my notice and I am super-excited to be starting my dream graduate scheme in a few short weeks! However it's not been an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination, so I though I'd share with you my journey and a few tips I have for anyone on the graduate job hunt.

I studied Philosophy and Theology at the University of Birmingham, which is perhaps the least vocational course ever! I did a 2-week informal work experience at a PR company doing some very simple work but other than that my only work experience was the standard student gig of working in retail. 

In my final year of university I applied to upwards of 50 jobs, mainly in marketing, and reached the assessment centre stage for two of them. I dropped out of one of the processes as I had some real concerns about the scheme and if it was for me, and didn't get the other one. Spring came and I didn't have a job to go into after graduation. Out of sheer desperation I applied to an Internship Programme in insurance, which I had no experience in but my mum and aunt both worked as underwriters and said they thought I could be good at it. I applied, thinking that in the very least it would be money to tide me over for 6 weeks. Somehow I got it, which was lucky as I hadn't applied anywhere else...

I honestly had such an amazing experience doing the Internship. I got to be involved in a real project which carried some weight. I had proper responsibilities and there was a very steep learning curve. I don't think I've learned so much in such a short space of time before, but it was an invaluable experience. The internship finished and the other interns went back to university but I needed a job. I ended up applying for an entry-level role within the same company, which I started a couple of months later. I'm not going to lie; it was a tough year in terms of my job role. I've been unhappy in the role and my ambitions felt frustrated. However I can't say I haven't learnt anything from this experience, as disheartening as I've found it at times. Also, it wasn't all bad as I got to work with some really great people.

The same company did offer me their graduate scheme in January, however it wasn't in the business area I'd wanted and they didn't seem to have much scope for putting me where I wanted to be. I had a graduate scheme but it wasn't in an area I had knowledge of or was interested in. So I carried on quietly applying elsewhere and this time I just went for 3 schemes that really stood out to me. One of them I failed a psychometric test for, one of them I got to the assessment centres but fluffed one of the activities and then finally I got one! It's in the area of the industry I'm interested in, the people seem great, the scheme sounds amazing and I just can't quite believe after all the failures it's really happening... 

Practice Psychometric Tests

Personally, I really disagree with psychometric tests and feel as though companies miss out on excellent candidates as a result of them. However most major companies use them so it is what it is. Make sure you practice, practice, practice with free online tests before doing the real thing. The more you do, the better you'll be at them and I've also noticed lots of employers use the same providers so I've often had the same questions come up repeatedly. There are four main types: verbal (reading comprehension), numerical (maths problems), logical (puzzles, usually shape-based) and behavioural.

Get Some Experience

This is a big one! Most internships will offer you more than you'd earn working full-time in retail or hospitality like a lot of students do over summer so they're well worth doing! You will have amazing exposure to your chosen industry. I really recommend going for a paid internship as (unless you have very generous parents) you need to support yourself and also I feel as though they give you more interesting and challenging things to do when they're paying you for it. Even a Saturday job is experience you can draw on for the dreaded competency-based interview questions ('tell me a time when you XYZ'). I really recommend doing an internship over the summer before your final year if you want to apply to jobs during that year.

Uni Work Comes Before Job-Hunting

Try not to take too much time out from your studies to dedicate to job-hunting. Whilst it's great to get interview experience, if you feel your grades are slipping it isn't worth it! You've spent a lot of money to get your degree so don't throw that away. Also  most schemes expect a 2.1 so it's also in your interests career-wise to study hard! You can try again for jobs next year but you can't re-do your work to get better grades.

Your Job is Not Your Worth

This one is a biggie: it's so easy to feel as though a lack of success in applying for jobs is a reflection of your worth as a person: it isn't! Plenty of bright people end up doing jobs that don't fulfil their needs for any variety of reasons. It doesn't mean that you can't or won't do better.

You Only Need 1 'Yes'

Don't let obstacles and rejections get you down. Try to think of it as a case of the job or company not being right for you as opposed to there being something wrong with you. You only need one 'yes'; only one company has to see something in you and envision you with them. Once you have that 'yes', all the rejections really don't matter!

Learn from Your Mistakes

Always get feedback! It can feel a bit negative to hear the reasons why you didn't get the job however I've also found a lot of the feedback surprisingly positive. Also anything you can learn from and improve as a result of will help you next time round. I also have a post all about interview tips here for a few things specific to that stage of the process.

You're Not a Failure if You Don't Get One Straight Away

Graduates are somehow led to feel as though they're abject failures for not walking straight out of uni and into a job earning over £25k. Now I've met the people I'm going to be on the scheme with, it turns out only about a quarter of us were people going straight from uni into the scheme! The vast majority of us had worked at another job for a year or more before landing this scheme. If it doesn't happen straight away; don't panic! You haven't missed your opportunity, you just may have to wait a little while and in the meantime work on getting some relevant experience (even if that's in an entry-level role like I did). 


At the end of the day, I've learnt it's important to remember life isn't a series of milestones to tick off a list and you can have valuable experiences along the path to your dream career. There isn't a 'right' or 'wrong' way to get to where you want to be so just enjoy the journey.


Have you had any experience with the grad job hunt? What are your top tips?

 



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49 comments

  1. These are really good tips that Many people should read, in my company the first thing To apply is a psicometric test and I have so many friends that they are very qualified but do not pass it, they should practice this test before they apply for the job! X
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  2. Lovely post, dear! Have a great day
    http://starlingdays.blogspot.com

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  3. Lovely post, i think these tips are very important, especially about the test :)
    http://fleurerly.blogspot.com/

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  4. Congratulations on your new job! It seems like you got lots of experience and are ready for the next level :) I feel so old right now, lol! If I had to start applying for new jobs now I would be completely lost :) Good luck in the future! x

    Mummy’s Beauty Corner

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  5. I'm glad you got the job you want in the end!
    This is really good advice. I'm definitely going to practice the online tests
    xx
    www.adrugstoreaddiction.com

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  6. I worked as an underwriter for 3 years, hopefully after Christmas i will be looking into changing my type of work and hopefully start a fresh! Great tips x
    Emma | Emmys Beauty Cave

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  7. Congrats on getting the job and hope you are happier there. I have been in my job now for around 10 years and keep thinking of looking for something else as I feel that I could be doing more but the thought of it all scares me :)

    Pams Stuff and Things

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  8. Thanks for this list - I'm reaching to second year of university and I really need this!

    www.angerawrs.co.uk

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  9. Fab post hun so many good tips, as if you went to UoB I was at BCU haha. I have to agree experience is such a big stepping stone to helping secure a job, it was part of our course to do work experience each year and then I managed to secure an internship in my last year which really helped but my third year became so stressful because of it so I do agree uni work comes first.

    Charlee CharmedCharlee | XO

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    1. It's a small world! And I definitely agree, if it gets overwhelming then work comes first xx

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  10. Awww congrats on landing your grad scheme job. These are really helpful tips which I am sure university grads or anyone looking for a job would find useful. I have lost count of how many psychometric tests I have done or even assessment centres I had to attend but it all worked out in the end. I did a graduate scheme as well with two qualifications and it was challenging and amazing!!!...xx

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  11. Those are some great tips, Jasmine. I am lucky I have never had a problem with looking for a job, as I have always seemed to get them right on the spot. However I am pretty sure it won't always be like this, and it can be an issue for most.
    Congrats on your new job ♥

    Angie x | Chocolate & Lipstick || UK Beauty and Lifestyle Blog

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  12. Loved this long and detailed post, I'm sure it will be really helpful for many people out there!
    I'm about to go into my final year of Uni and after I plan to do a PGCE, whilst at Uni I've been working as a childrens tutor for experience which I'm hoping will improve my chances - these days a degree alone is not enough! I didn't realise psychometic tests were used to widely!
    Iqra |The Blushing Giraffe x

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    1. So many of my classmates who did the PGSE are going into their first teaching jobs this September, it's definitely a good way to go :) xx

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  13. The first internship is such a step! I also did studies in philosophy and theology after fashion and although they were super interesting, I just didn't know what to do afterwards. Great post!

    Natalia | Lindifique

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  14. LOVE this! Great thoughts. So glad I found your blog now following :) xo

    Emma | With A City Dream

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  15. Realistically, I don't think the tests are a hard thing - and I am saying that as someone who has failed them. For my line of work if a person can't do the numerical questions in the time limit I reckon they would really struggle day-to-day. Likewise making decisions and interpreting others is really important. So yes, they are frustrating (and as I am applying for grad roles currently for 2016 I totally don't enjoy them!) but I do think they are an important part of recruitment!

    Are you going into insurance? That's the industry I work in and I find it great. Would love to hear more about your role if you want to chat? x

    NINEGRANDSTUDENT: A Student Lifestyle Blog

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    1. Sorry for the late reply. Yes I am indeed (though I honestly have found the tests really tough in the time limit, maybe a bad sign haha!) - I'm going to be in Commercial Underwriting so I'd love to have a chat about your experience :) xx

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  16. I haven't gotten to this stage yet but I do no landed a grad job can be difficult but as I always say everything happens for a reason and when the time and the job is right everything will fall into place just the way how it should x

    Jess x
    www.momentsofbeautywars.blogspot.co.uk

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  17. I agree with this! I've just finished 7 years at uni and have a job in my field but i also would limit yourself to just grad jobs. You can always build yourself up in a big company- just believe in yourself!

    Jacynta xx
    www.jacyntawalsh.com

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    1. Definitely agree there are many routes to success! xx

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  18. It was really interesting reading your experience and it really helped answer a lot of questions I have. It's really competitive out there, so thanks for the tips :)

    Velvet Blush

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  19. This is such an inspiring post! Congratulations on getting your dream job you must be so thrilled! I have just started at the bottom of a PR company, basically being the go-fer! it's going to be tedious I know but it has to be done hey! Good for you and I so agree with 'the only need one yes' statement! :) xx

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    1. Thank you so much! Best of luck :) xx

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  20. This is so helpful, I will definitely practice psychometric tests and also try and get myself out there with experience as just a degree is never enough! Thank you lovely xx

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  21. Congrats on landing a job you are happy with. These are some really good tips & it definitely seems like you've learned so much through the process, but I can imagine it must have been really stressful x

    Beauty with charm | Zoeva Giveaway

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    1. Yeah there were some real low points but I guess it just makes success even sweeter :) xx

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  22. Congratulations on your new job Jasmine! I'm applying for jobs like crazy at the minute so I love these types of posts!

    Danielle's Beauty Blog

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    1. Thank you so much and best of luck with your search! xx

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  23. Loved this post. Anddd....major congrats! So exciting for you, and I cant wait to hear how you get on.

    Annabel ♥
    Mascara & Maltesers

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  24. I love that statement "Your job is not your worth." I think this generation in particular can struggle with this logic. In past generations having a job was a sense of worth. This needs to be reiterated more often. Great post, Jasmine. xx
    http://www.lipstickisalife.com/

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  25. I love this post!!! Having just finished uni myself, it is a nightmare finding a relevant job straight after uni! Im lucky enough I got a internship, but im panicking about after. Your tips were so helpful! Good luck in the new job!

    http://www.alifeofacharlotte.com/

    X

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    1. Getting an internship will be a HUGE help for you :) xx

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  26. Good luck with your job! I'm graduating (finally) my law degree next year, and I'm dreading the job hunt. I'm saving this post for when I need reassurance that it's okay if it takes a while to find a job! Heck, it helped make me feel better now, even though I'm not on the hunt yet!

    Anna | www.emptysundays.com

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  27. Loved this! I never went to uni but definitely love reading about other people's experiences. Especially love the emphasis on work experience and internships - it's SO valuable now and absolutely necessary in any industry. It's crazy how much you learn on the job, twice as much in half the time compared to classes I've found!

    Kat | www.kathorrocks.com

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  28. This is such a great post; I was very lucky to land a job quickly after uni but I think these tips are also great for moving onto a new position! I also went to Uni of Birmingham too :)

    Claire | Stylingo.co.uk | xx

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  29. Thanks for the tips it is very helpful! :)

    xx Arwa
    dottedbow.blogspot.com

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  30. This was such a helpful post! I'm actually studying Marketing in Birmingham now and am loving it! The course is amazing and such a fab city. I'm doing a year in industry as this has been really helpful, I defo need to start practicing the tests! Thank you for this post!

    Jasmine | jasminehardingmakeup.com

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    1. Birmingham really is a great city to be a student in :) I'm sure the work experience will be super-helpful when it comes to applying xx

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  31. Thank you so much for posting about this. I've restarted uni but am currently watching my boyfriend seriously struggle with job hunting. It's awful seeing how much rejection can damage self esteem, especially when it does seem like all your peers are successful (even though that's not necessarily what is happening -- it's just what you perceive when you're feel down). Congrats on getting into your scheme, good luck :) x

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    1. It definitely does and I do think we imagine everyone else to be doing amazingly well! And thank you so much! xx

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  32. I'm glad you guys found this helpful and I absolutely loved reading about you experiences in the comments :) xx

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