A degree is often the only route into a profession. But as new graduates will tell you, education is hardly a guarantee.
Getting the degree should be the hard part, but it often proves challenging to then go on and take the next step into full employment, too.
In many cases, there are more qualified applicants than there are openings, so successful candidates will have to go that extra mile to land a job and kick start their career.
Anything that can help you stand out from the crowd could prove vital, so why not take some advice from the companies doing the hiring?
What the companies have to say
A recent study published by Ballisager, an HR consultancy based in Denmark, revealed some fascinating insights about current recruitment processes.
Companies were asked to give their top tips for new graduates trying to impress recruiters, so we’ve taken a closer look at the 3 most recommended pieces of advice.
(Note: of the roughly one thousand respondents to the survey, around 75% were private companies. The businesses surveyed are all based in Denmark, but the Danes do know a thing or two about job seeking as a new graduate – they even have a word for it: dimittendledighed)
You can read the results here (in Danish).
1/ Show how your qualifications are relevant
64% of companies think graduates should better explain what their academic competences can be applied to
Put your education in context
You’ve just spent years learning the meanings of a whole bunch of concepts, theories, and methods. And you’ve probably been asked to apply these to various problems and use them to undertake research.
Alas, you can’t just put all this behind you now that you’ve graduated. When applying for jobs, you’ll need to demonstrate your learning and show specifically how your qualifications prepare you for the world of work.
Don’t think your degree alone will do this for you.
Employers want to be sure that you’re ready to take on the responsibilities of the job, not just that you’ve passed your exams.
Clearly explain how what you’ve learned prepares you for the tasks you will have to perform, and what aspects of your education have primed you for the demands of the role.
Be more specific
If your degree is a necessary requirement for the job, you might think that recruiters should be well versed in the material you have studied.
This (as with so many things) should never be assumed.
Firstly, not all recruiters are specialists in the field – and many specialists are not specialized in every aspect of a given subject anyway.
Secondly, times change with new ideas, terminology, and reference points coming into play and replacing older ones.
Always be clear about exactly how what you’ve learned during your education equips you to succeed in the job you’re applying for.
2/ Broaden your job search
38% of companies would recommend that new graduates also apply for jobs that do not require a degree or match their exact qualifications
Look beyond the obvious
If you’re applying for the same old positions and getting nowhere, it is wise to look further afield.
It’s not necessary to abandon your attempts to get the job you’ve been studying toward for years, but you should at least consider work in related fields as well.
If you’re specialized in a technical subject, you may be able to find work within that industry but which require different skills and only knowledge of the field. There are many consultancies and analytics firms that require expert knowledge rather than hands-on skill.
There may also be alternative ways to do your dream job in a sector or industry you haven’t ever considered. You needn’t always pursue the orthodox route.
Consider the bigger picture
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a succession of near misses and rejections. But you needn’t ever give up on pursuing the career you have been planning for.
Timing can be all important. (Especially in professions that are exposed to industries, such as raw materials, that typically experience periods of considerable growth and contraction).
Consider looking for stimulating work elsewhere in the short-term. It’s not necessary to give up on your career ambitions at the first hurdle, and employers will understand that it’s a competitive job market.
You may be able to prove yourself and develop useful skills in other lines of work before returning to the field you’re most passionate about.
3/ Communicate less academically
36% of companies think that a new graduate should communicate in a less academic style in both their CV and application
Talk the talk
You will notice a difference in the way people communicate within the world of work from that of the ivory towers of academia. This is natural, and it’s understandable that new graduates become accustomed to writing in an academic style.
When it comes to applying for jobs, it’s a good idea to try and transition toward a writing style more suited to the industry you hope to find work in.
Employers will be more convinced you can walk the walk if you can talk the talk.
If possible, find examples of strong applications and ‘best practice’ CVs. Try and familiarize yourself with how professionals tend to talk about themselves and their work, such as on LinkedIn or the ‘About Us’ section of a company’s website.
Also, don’t assume (as we mentioned before) specialized knowledge. Explain things clearly and in plain language.
Draw a line between work and study
It may seem strange that the profession you’ve been studying to enter sees a problem with writing in an academic style. After all, you might be writing about the exact same subject.
Again, this comes down to the fact that not everyone involved in the recruitment process is a specialist. Just as not everyone in any company will likely share the same academic background.
It’s also because academia and the corporate world have different priorities. Companies tend to have very different goals, despite needing to keep up with the latest research to achieve them.
When attempting to move between them, it’s handy to recognize that ‘education’ and ‘work’ are seen as two very different realms.