Getting an industry job after graduating is one of those things we hear about all the time while we’re studying, especially in our final year. Lecturers talk about how having a degree will make you more desirable in the job market, or the career department might suggest to work on your CV, or do some networking. The difficulty with taking specific career advice from lecturers and career departments, is that in most cases, these people often haven’t been in the graduate job market environment for quite a while, if ever. Knowledge and theory are great, they have their place, but they are no substitute for practical reality if genuine readiness is your goal.
Go along into your final year, pass all your assessments, and because you’ve got a piece of paper with your name on it, what does that change? Employers aren’t going to automatically want you more, in fact, they are more likely to have choice from more graduates around graduation times of year. There are things you can do to make it much easier to get an industry job, but they are things you’ll need to start doing now.
How a degree won’t help you
When I was studying at university, I remember being told time and again that us going to a particular university, or having a particular degree or certificate would make us more attractive to employers. Hearing this message enough actually had quite the reverse effect and quite a toxic one on some of my classmates. They kept hearing those messages as though their degree made them entitled to a high paying job.
Having a degree makes you entitled to nothing, entitlement is something employers can smell from kilometres away, and they dislike it.
What having a degree can do is help you along your way if you approach your new career with the right mindset.
Understand your skills
So often the people teaching in degrees have lots of academic credentials and qualifications. As a result they will know lots of theory. For instance in engineering, they will help you properly calculate the mechanical strength of a machine so that it doesn’t fail. That’s important, but we don’t celebrate an engineer who knows how to make safe structures nor a doctor who knows how to wash their hands, we expect it. This is why we call these fundamental skills, hygiene skills.
When we talk about skills, we can look at them in two broad groups, technical and soft skills:
- Technical skills are different for every profession, and all professions need them, they are hygiene skills.
- Soft skills are very similar for every profession, and all professions need them.
How can you make getting your first industry job easier so that if you’re at a job interview against 50 other graduates, you’re the one who gets hired?
3 things you can do
Here are three things you can do to make it easier to get a job, but there is a catch, they work a lot better the earlier you do them.
If you don’t know where you want to be, embrace it
Even the most successful and happy professionals in industry are still getting to know themselves as they travel through their careers. As they find out something new about a career opportunity or even themselves, they make small changes.
It’s ok to not know where you want to be, and it’s something you should spend time thinking about, it should create a bit of healthy discomfort, this discomfort will help you focus on solving the question of what direction you can take.
Try things out, make mistakes, iterate
If you have ever experienced an exam, you have learned that mistakes are bad. Some are, like careless or dangerous ones. Taking careful risks in the process of discovering more about yourself is not a mistake, it’s very valuable. Imagine if you got so committed in working in a particular job area before trying it, only to realise you hate it, but that you’ve spent so much time and money that it’s too late to change? This isn’t that uncommon, going in to something knowing that you might change your mind is ok, and it’s a great way to make sure the only impact your career has on your mental health is positive.
Get out there and challenge yourself
It’s great to be reading things like this article (we appreciate it). Just make sure you’re not only sitting behind a screen watching and reading about these important steps in your career, get out there and meet people, put yourself in challenging, even scary situations. This is how you’ll grow, by creating challenges, if you get nervous in front of new people, go up to a complete stranger and say hello.
We’re at the start of a new year, this might be your final year of study, and if it is, see what you can do to make yourself ready for your industry job. Don’t wait for it to become graduation time before job hunting, start working things out now.
Here’s a thought to close on, Some of the most common reasons for industry job rejection is that candidates lack more to the potential employer beyond their academic credentials. Use the time between now and your graduation to see what else you can add to yourself so that when a job opportunity comes around, you’re able to step up and take it.