What to do after graduation?
Ines Arana is a senior lecturer in the School of Computing Science and Digital Media at Robert Gordon University. Ines looks at what lies ahead after completing your studies.
Will you soon be graduating and don’t know where to start looking for the next opportunity? Here are a few tips to get you on the way.
CONSIDER THE KIND OF JOB YOU WANT
A university degree will open a range of opportunities. Consider these alternatives carefully as they will inform where and how to look for your next move. For example you may consider working in industry, pursuing postgraduate education or becoming a teacher or trainer in your area of specialisation.
VISIT YOUR UNIVERSITY CAREERS CENTRE
Universities often organise employability workshops for students, where employers discuss what qualities they look for in their graduates and comment on what attracts them in CVs. Careers centres have a number of materials which you can use to write good CVs and covering letters and to prepare for interviews. Most careers offices will offer advice on CVs and a practice interview. They also give you access to information regarding psychometric tests.
UNDERTAKE RESEARCH INTO THE JOB MARKET BEFORE BUILDING YOUR CV
Undertake job searches to check what skills are in demand and what terminology is used in vacancy adverts. This may help you include relevant skills in your CV using wording which HR understands.
GET YOUR CV READY
Writing a good CV takes time and effort. It should cover not only the skills which you developed at university or college but also those you developed elsewhere and should include both subject-specific (technical) and transferable skills. For example, employers demand professional skills such as team working, timekeeping, management and communication skills. While you may have developed all of these skills at university, you may well have put these skills into practice elsewhere.
SELECT YOUR REFEREES
You often need to supply the name of two referees. Think carefully about who may be well placed to give you a good, well informed reference and ask for their permission to use them.
TAKE OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS
You should be able to back up each skill you include in your CV with evidence. If there is any skill you have not developed sufficiently, consider what you can do about it. There are often a range of opportunities at your doorstep. For example, demonstrate your coding and team-working skills by participating in hackathons or volunteer to teach basic IT skills to improve your communication skills. If there are placement opportunities available to you, consider applying for them.
If you have not yet started your final year project, consider taking a project which will develop your skills in the area you want to work in. For example you may opt for an industry-relevant project if you intend to look for a job in industry or you may select a research-focused project if you intend to pursue a PHD.
BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK AND SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILE
Build your professional network and use your contacts to find out about forthcoming employment opportunities. You may wish to join your professional body (e.g. the British Computer Society) and participate in the events they organise as well as those organised by your university (e.g. seminars, degree shows, hackathons, etc). Some employers will look at your social media presence so be mindful of what you have published and what it says about you.
FIND JOB OPPORTUNITIES AND APPLY
Develop a routine of looking for opportunities and applying for interesting openings. Ensure that you customise your CV to show you in best light for the position you apply for and that the covering letter highlights why they should hire you.
Be positive and honest about your skills – don’t exaggerate them but also don’t downplay your achievements.
PREPARING FOR INTERVIEW
A lot questions are very common in interviews and there are a number of publications which discuss these – you may find them in your university’s careers centre. You can prepare answers to these questions in advance, especially if the questions are tricky.
It is helpful to find out more about the company. You do not want to have to admit that you know little about the company during your interview.
When you answer questions, think about what you can contribute in the specific area you are being asked about and illustrate your answers with examples of your experience where appropriate. Remember that you may be able to show evidence of your skills in a variety of contexts, eg academic, work experience, volunteering, hobbies, etc.
You may also consider what questions you may wish to ask.
Finally, give yourself time to undertake all the above. Start the process early so that you have time to place yourself in the best possible light. Good luck.