7 questions university students have about life after graduation
Last week I headed back up to Birmingham for the first time since graduating in July. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane as I walked across campus, feeling simultaneously at home and like a complete stranger.
I was asked to go back to be on a Q&A panel for the School of English, Drama, American and Canadian studies to share some insight into what life as a Graduate is like. Arts subjects have a notorious reputation for low employment rates post-graduation, so the panel was there to pacify any fears current students might have and prove there is hope after university!
So what did they want to know?
“Did you know exactly what you wanted to do, or did everything just fall into place?”
I always knew that I wanted a career where I could write, use words and communicate. Having run my own blog for four years, PR seemed like something I could do! I found Neo whilst looking for opportunities on LinkedIn and within a few weeks I had been approached by a recruiter and was all ready to join Team Neo! In this respect, everything did fall into place and it felt like it. However I think I will look back in a few years time and it will seem like it all happened as a result of hard work!
“How soon do you recommend looking for jobs?”
I started looking at the beginning of third year, but I don’t think it is ever too early to start looking for opportunities. Even if you are in first or second year, searching for work experience is going to be key to building up your CV. Sometimes it is all about who you know, so use your connections to gain experience in different sectors – you never know where it might lead!
“I’d like to work in PR but I don’t want to work in London. How easy was it for you to find a job in that sector?”
This is a common, and mostly out dated misconception. I also used to think this when I first started considering careers. No one thinks about the smaller companies that work from fields in the middle of Buckinghamshire, but if you look hard enough, they are there!
London is big, expensive and fairly overwhelming for graduates that are new to the big wide world. Whilst this suits some people, finances and preferences may dictate you find somewhere cheaper to live and work, or move home until you get yourself sorted. Don’t forget about the SMEs, because you will end up learning more in a shorter space of time than you could possibly imagine! Have a read of Gemma’s ‘Big or Boutique’ blog post to see why working for a small company is better than you think!
“How important is the enjoyment of your job vs. getting on with the people you work with?”
I absolutely love my job; I love the variety that every day offers and the satisfaction it provides when securing a great piece of coverage for a client. But I think that I’m driven to do better by the wonderful, supportive team at Neo. In smaller companies, you need to be able to support each other when the workload is heavier, so in that respect, it helps to get on with the people you work with.
“You mentioned you were approached by a recruiter on LinkedIn – how do I make my profile stand out to maximise future opportunities?”
The wonderful thing about LinkedIn is that it is essentially a living, working CV that you can go into a huge amount of depth on. You can add all sorts of detail about your previous roles and achievements. The main thing I did was edit my description from ‘Student at the University of Birmingham’ to ‘Soon-to-be graduate seeking role in PR/Comms’. This highlights to everyone in your network that you are looking for opportunities – even better if you can be specific!
“Did you use the Careers Network at the University?”
I did and it worked wonders! If your university or college gives you access to a careers service – use it. I visited them when I was just starting to look for grad jobs. They gave me a clear idea on where I should start seeking work experience and what I needed to do to get into the world of PR, marketing or publishing. When I started applying for jobs, they also took a look at my CV and helped make it the best it could be.
“If I want to get into PR, what else can I do?”
Work experience was invaluable to me. I learned so many skills, from using social media effectively, to improving my copywriting. I think that any work experience is valuable, even if it makes you realise that you don’t want a particular job. For PR in particular, being confident with words, social media and talking to people is a definite must. My work experience ranged from working on magazines, running social media and writing. PR is so varied that as long as you have the confidence to get stuck in, you’re onto a winner!
Are you looking for a new role or looking to learn the ropes at a growing PR agency? Drop us your CV: firstname.lastname@example.org