Your University Degree is No Longer Enough

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degree“Get a degree and the world will be your oyster”, I remember my parents telling me when I was young. With recent media reports that youth unemployment figures are on the rise, I spoke with a recruiter friend of mine who verified that many college and university graduates are having a very challenging time getting their first real employment opportunity. If you want to maximise your chances of gainful employment, here are some strategies and points to consider that can help you get the job you desire, even if you don’t come top of your class:

  1. Be proactive and take massive action 

    Don’t wait for the opportunity to be posted so you can apply along with everyone else. Contact employers via email, phone, LinkedIn or even Twitter to find out about opportunities before they are promoted publicly. Always research a company and prepare great questions before meeting with them. If you want to land a big fish, you need to use a big net and cast it far and wide.

  2. Find a mentor

     Approach an appropriate mentor and ask politely for their assistance (especially if they work at your target company.) If you can, offer to take them to lunch, it’s a smart investment.

  3. Build Your Network Before You Graduate

    Use tools like LinkedIn to connect with people you know and also to identify people you would like to connect with. A good network becomes a million dollar asset over time. Knowing the right person to speak with can often be the quickest way of solving difficult challenges or opening doors. Make sure you ask your close contacts for testimonials or endorsements of your character or work. What they say about you is much more important to a recruiter than what you say about you.

  4. Be a leader and be involved in your community 

    It doesn’t really matter what, you need to be able to show you have been getting involved in extra-curricular activities and stepping up to take on leadership opportunities. Employers love hiring people with a track record of taking the initiative or tackling difficult projects.

  5. Volunteer

    Before it gets to vacation time, approach companies you would like to work for when you graduate and ask about opportunities for work experience or volunteering. It doesn’t matter if the work is unpaid or menial. If you end up sweeping floors for two months, you’re still getting an opportunity to show what you can do AND to build relationships inside the company.

  6. Be persistent 

    “No” doesn’t mean “No, not ever”, it just means, “No, not now”, so don’t be afraid to keep asking time and again in different ways. Persistence before you get a job is a great sign for recruiters. If you get a No from someone, it’s also an opportunity to make a smaller request, “Is there anyone else you know hiring at the moment?

  7. Be different 

    Think outside the box. How can you really differentiate yourself from everyone else applying for the role? If you don’t get a role first time around, why not come up with a project that in some way relates to the company you would like to work for and do it in your own time? If you can find a way to add value, it certainly puts you ahead in the recruitment race. What got me my first sales role in corporate was memorising a three hundred page product catalog before a second interview.

These are the top tips for landing a great role when you graduate from university . What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Jide Otoki