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OK so you've done it all. GCSEs,
the educational conveyor belt stops here.
So, what the hell are you going to do with your life?
Some people are lucky and have
had an idea about what they want to do early on.
But some go through the system
with no clear direction, come out the other end with a degree
they realise is either next to useless or does not interest
them any more and are forced to make choices.
If this is you don't
The first step is to start to
think about what you are naturally good at, and what you enjoy
doing. Unfortunately, breweries don't recruit many beer tasters
these days but thinking about your hobbies and leisure
activities will help you to understand what type of abilities
Enthusiastic team sport players
often thrive in equally competitive business atmospheres.
An artistic or creative inclination could lend itself to a
talent for graphic design, writing or the advertising business.
Take some time to think about
the things you are good at no matter what they are
and then analyse just which personality traits make
you good at them.
Take into account any subjects
you preferred at school, even if you did not keep them up,
and any modules or aspects of your degree course which you
found more interesting than others.
This will help you to focus
on your strengths and once you have done this, you
can start to think about the professions which are related
to these areas or which use these abilities.
Talk to friends or flick through
the careers section of the local paper to give yourself ideas
about jobs which you may not have thought about before. Don't
count anything out just get ideas flowing and don't
get frustrated by assuming they're all non-starters.
Once you have some ideas in
mind, start to narrow down your search by reading some ads.
Decide whether the job descriptions fit you, check the entry
qualifications and the amount of work out there.
If, after careful consideration, you get fed up of the lot
of it and think you might like to bum around the world for
a while instead check out our
guide to going travelling.
Local and national papers are
the obvious place to start. The nationals carry different
types of jobs on different days click here to see what's
in where when. If you're after a job in a specific industry,
hunt down the relevant trade magazine, which will carry job
news and vacancies for that area.
As a wise man once said - it's
not what you know, it's who you know. Don't feel guilty about
approaching any contacts, no matter how tenuous. If your tutor
has dealings with professionals in your industry or your mate's
mother-in-law mows Richard Branson's lawn ask them
to put in a good word. Any kind of connection can give you
a head start, and a little networking can do much more good
Employment agencies are useful
and sometimes invaluable ports of call. There are agencies
that deal with many specific careers, from design and engineering
to IT and accountancy. They can do the legwork for you, and
will arrange interviews on your behalf but be aware
of what's in it for them. Their business is in skimming a
cut off the top, so while the majority of agents keep the
employee's interests at heart, watch out for the unscrupulous
ones who pressure people to sign up for a job which is not
Sending copies of your CV to
any company you think may be interested even if they
have not advertised vacancies is a slightly haphazard
but potentially rewarding ploy. Find the addresses of the
companies large enough to need to recruit more than once in
a blue moon from the Yellow Pages or trade directories and
put a copy of your CV in the post. You are putting yourself
in the shop window and there is always a chance that
the companies are looking for people even if the ads did not
reach you. Include a request in your covering letter to keep
your details on file in case any suitable positions arise.
Career fairs are a good chance
to find out what's out there, get some different ideas about
vocations and advice from the people involved with recruiting.
They will often be a gathering
of representatives from many different types of industry
although fairs are also held for specific fields, such as
They are informal events where
you can wander around and chat to the representatives about
what their company does, job vacancies, entry requirements
and the application procedure. Take along a stack of CVs to
hand out so you are added to their file of interested applicants,
and make a note of the names of who you talk to so you have
a reference if you want to follow it up.
You'll be able to take away
company brochures and careers advice guides, and some companies
offer to add you to their mailing lists so you can hear about
They are not substitutes for
interviews but are a valuable way to get advice from
people in the know.
Milkrounds are where the interviewers
come to you, rather than you going to the interviewers.
Most universities organise sessions
where representatives from companies with graduate recruitment
schemes come onto the campus and carry out preliminary interviews
with a number of students.
These have traditionally taken
place in two rounds in November for finance, accounting
and industrial firms and in spring for others. But many companies
are revising their application procedures and deciding to
conduct on-site interviews at other times of the year.
Not every company visits every
university they will go to the ones from where they
have recruited good employees in the past, or which have the
most highly regarded courses.
The biggest mistake that
people make, according to Andrew Whitmore, the senior
careers adviser at Manchester University, is that they
assume they can wander in and get an interview. It's not like
that. They have to apply in advance, are selected and then
are called for an interview. It is a formal first interview.
Interviews typically last about
half an hour, and some companies require students to take
aptitude tests on the same day. The basic rules of appearance
and preparation should be followed to make sure you come across
as well as possible for some tips, see our guide to
Make it known that you are motivated
and resourceful by finding out a little about the job and
the company before applying.
Use a search engine to find
out if the company has an internet site put their name
in Inverted Commas and you will get a list of
all the websites where that name appears. Companies who have
a web presence usually include a section about who they are
and how they work.
Ring the switchboard and ask
for a copy of any company brochures or their annual report.
If the company is likely to
have been newsworthy, look up the news stories about them
on the web. Knowledge of recent developments about the company
will not only increase your understanding of the company,
but will also impress your interviewer by showing how damn
interested you are.
The CV is your marketing tool.
It is your first and potentially your only chance to make
employers take notice and if they don't, they will
simply screw it up and file it accordingly.
It has to be perfect.
When filling in your details,
here are some tips to help you come across as eminently employable.
Check the spelling and grammar
before printing it out. There is nothing that looks more unprofessional
than sloppy mistakes. Print it on good quality white or light
coloured paper. Bright, rough or lined papers are non-starters.
Don't come across as a total
egomaniac don't start every sentence with I did
or I am
Some employers prefer the detached
approach, such as Jane was
, but a safe middle ground is to make it impersonal
by starting sentences with phrases like The next step
and This involved
Don't ramble. Include the essential
information about your course, previous jobs and extra-curricular
activities but be careful not to stray into irrelevance. Any
activities or outside qualifications which are related to
the job will demonstrate enthusiasm and initiative
any which are not will come over as being unfocused and desperate
for things to fill the space.
The bit commonly known as a
personal statement is often the most awkward to write. You've
given the lists of your qualifications and previous experience
now you have to tell them, basically, how great you
Include reasons why you are
suited to that type of job, giving examples of when you have
excelled or, at least, coped - in similar areas through
your course or in previous jobs.
If there were any details of
your course or outside activities which are worth expanding
on then do. But always try to explain why that information
is relevant to the job. Use positive language such as achieved,
co-ordinated and produced in relation
to the things you have done.
Tell them about your skills
and abilities. If the job requires abilities such as IT skills,
write down your level of competence and the software you can
use. If you have any other qualifications that may not be
strictly relevant but which demonstrate a motivation and commitment,
such as first-aid, include these.
Make a note of any personal
or interpersonal skills you have you are organised,
reliable and determined - but don't go over the top and come
across as a total bullshitter.
Include a sentence or two about
your leisure activities to give the overall picture. This
can also reveal aspects of your personality, which
you may not have addressed. If you play sports, this could
show a competitive streak and an ability to work in teams.
Employers like to be reassured about your whole personality
not just the working side - but keep it to a couple
of sentences. They're not that interested.
Don't try to be funny. Although
you might have plenty of hilarious stories that relate to
Biochemistry, you can't afford to assume that the employer
will share your sense of humour.
While CVs invariably include
an element of embellishment, there is always the tricky question
of just how much to lie. The not entirely honest but sometimes
realistic question to ask yourself is: how much can you get
away with? If you write that you got three A's at A-Level
when you got 2 D's and a U, you are going to be stuck if your
employer asks to see your certificates. And if you say that
you know a programming language that you once saw mentioned
in Inside Computer, you'll be out on your ear at 9:10am on
Monday morning when they sit you down and tell you to write
something in it. But it's a dog eat dog world out there, and
some people are slightly devious and dare I say gifted enough
to get away with it. But that's not what we're advising though,
A covering letter should accompany
every CV you send and if you are sending your CV by
e-mail, write a covering note at the start.
Tailor every letter for each
specific job and company. Try to find out the person to whom
you should address the letter. If there's no name on the advert,
or if you're writing on the off chance, ring the company switchboard
and ask for the name of the personnel manager. This makes
it a little more personal, and looks like you have made an
Tell them which job you are
applying for and where you saw the advert. If you are writing
speculatively, say so and request that if they have no suitable
vacancies at the moment that they keep you on file.
Covering letters need not include
much personal information but give an introduction
to your situation.
Demonstrate that you know about
the job and the company, and link this with a paragraph summarising
why you are right for that job.
Writing application forms presents
a similar challenge to that of writing CVs. You have to make
a case for yourself, but within a ready-made framework.
Elementary as it may sound,
read the instructions and make sure you follow them. If they
want you to write in capitals in black ink, do so. Any failure
to follow basic instructions will mark you as being inattentive
and, quite possibly, stupid.
Don't leave questions blank.
If they are not applicable, say so.
Think about what the employer
wants to know in response to a specific question and be careful
that you don't answer the question you would rather they had
There will usually be the chance
for you to write about why you are right for that job
so use this as the main opportunity to persuade the employer.
Relate your previous experience to the requirements of the
post, using positive language.
Make notes of the main points
of your answers first. These should all be relevant to the
question and demonstrate your suitability. Expand on these
by turning each point into a paragraph, and write these answers
in draft. Copy them onto the form only when you are happy
with them. This will make the form look less messy and read
Keep a copy of the form so you
know what you wrote and make sure it's in before the closing
date. If you send it in late, you don't deserve the job. You
deserve the soup kitchen.
A recent survey has shown that
85% of graduate recruiters are using the internet as a recruitment
tool and some are planning to phase out written applications
all together. Financial giants KPMG are currently running
a trial where only on-line applications are considered. Our
website is basically an on-line version of our graduate brochure,
but with more up-to-date information, says KPMG's Harry
With our Leading Edge
programme, we are phasing out application forms as a test
to see how it goes. It's a trial using just on-line applications
and that's the long-term plan. All students have access
to the internet. It makes the whole process more efficient
The on-line bit means that you
save money on stamps and that theoretically, at least
the process is speeded up. But the same general rules
apply as if you were filling in a normal application or posting
If you are applying for a job
that requires computing skills, but there is no on-line application
form, show that you have the skills by e-mailing your CV.
Make sure they will be able to read it don't use any
fancy files or fonts which may not be compatible with their
Some companies, especially employment
agencies, use on-line registration to gather initial details
about an applicant and their intended vocation but
you will usually still have to turn up for an interview and
possibly do tests to complete the registration process.
A damn good list of on-line
job sites, detailing the industries they cover and whether
they accept on-line applications, can be found at www.agencycentral.co.uk
The impression you make before
you even open your mouth can be as important as what you say.
You are there to sell yourself and who would buy something
that comes across as messy and unreliable?
It sounds obvious but
don't be late. Double-check the train times, interview location
and interview time. Check out where the office is located
beforehand if possible, otherwise give yourself enough time
to find the place.
Arrive about five minutes early
if possible. Even if you find the office half an hour before
the interview time, go for a coffee and re-read your CV instead
of inconveniencing your interviewer and giving the impression
One of the main impression-makers
is eye contact. It should start with the initial meeting and
keep going through the interview. Sharon Thomas of Euro Personnel
in Bristol singled eye contact out as a major factor. I've
had some really sweet people come in but they can't look at
me, she says. If you can't look at me when you
come in, you probably haven't got that level of confidence
Look the part. Different jobs
require different images, and you should know what this image
is by the type of job. Youthful, funky, corporate
the image fit the job, but also make it look like you have
made the effort. Shell out on some new clothes if you need
to look on them as an investment. And tone the jewellery
down especially the blokes.
Don't wait until half an hour
before the interview to drag yourself out of bed after a night
on the beer and baltis. Or at least if you do, make sure it
doesn't look that way. Taking it easy the night before will
not only mean you don't have teabags for eye sockets, but
it will make you more alert and aware during the interview.
If there is a 21-gun salute going off inside your membranes
at regular intervals, it is going to show.
Be firm. The handshake is a
reflection of your personality make it firm but not
bone-crunching. Even if you are a weak and nervous person,
this is your chance to make a positive impression - at least
until the contracts are signed. If you are a professional
arm-wrestler, on the other hand, you might like to tone it
down a little.
Body language tells a lot about
a person's attitude. Don't fidget, sit straight and look attentive
but rather than getting caught up with trying not to
fiddle with jewellery or bite your lips, go in with a positive,
relaxed frame of mind. This will come across in your body
You can do it. You can. You're
a tiger. Go get 'em.
- Be positive. Try to find a positive
angle to any potentially negative answers.
- Be smart
- Answer questions with more than one
- Make eye contact
- Ask questions
- Be over-friendly
- Be arrogant
- Moan about the people at your last job
- Say this is your last resort
- Stand up to leave the room before the