Congratulations! You’ve graduated. You’ve had that final blowout with your uni mates; your parents have hung up your graduation photo; and it’s time to enter the world of work.
Applying for a job has changed so much in 20 years. When I graduated you had to print off a letter, stick a stamp on an envelope and then wait a week for an application form you had to hand-write. Today, you sit in bed, finding email addresses, cutting and pasting your cover letter and attaching your CV, and emailing prospective employers. But do you ever hear back from these employers? I’d be surprised if you did – if you haven’t bothered to find out my name, and research us, why should I do anything more than hit delete within five seconds of opening your email?
So my advice is to start six months before you graduate and to look at five or ten companies you want to work for.
Emma Bridgewater put it well when she said: “one piece of advice I give people is to target a company you really admire, find out everything you can about them and then wear them down until they let you in.”
So you have to make it your business to get to know those organisations – their staff, their clients, their campaign successes, and their industry awards. Email a mid-ranking member of the team and follow-up with a call within 24 hours. Offer to buy them a coffee at lunchtime (of course they’ll be so flattered to have been asked that they’ll pay for the coffee). Replay your research on the company, congratulate them on their successes, find out when their graduate programme is opening or find out if they hire ad hoc grads, even for short-term placements.
In my experience, the graduate who is interested in the profession, passionate about us, and is keen to work for us has always had the edge over the “entitled” candidate with a double First.John Lehal
Of course getting your first position doesn’t mean life gets any easier. But you’re young and ambitious; have bundles of energy; no money but loads of time on your hands. You are at the prime of your life – the decisions you make now can define the rest of your career. It’s time to work hard!
“It doesn’t matter what you do when you get there, just learn everything you can.”Emma Bridgewater
So earwig conversations, read the report your colleague asked you to photocopy – if it’s important to them, it’s important to you – ask to sit-in on meetings, and be proactive in seeking opportunities to make the most of this first job.
A few asides. It’s time to start learning – read the Financial Times every day, read The Economist weekly, and flick through a tabloid newspaper periodically. Change what you listen to on your iPhone – download podcasts and listen to these. You don’t need to spend £2.70 a day on the FT, but you can listen to their podcasts for free. Set aside an hour on Sundays to read the comment and analysis pages of the broadsheets and to watch a TED talk.
John Lehal is Managing Director of Insight Consulting Group. He tweets at @JohnLehal