You’ve worked hard and are now studying at a great university. What next? At Bright Network we speak to hundreds of talented students every week. Not only do they have sterling academics and an array of extracurricular activities to their name, they also possess excellent communication skills to boot.
Nevertheless, despite being superb candidates, so many struggle when it comes to landing that all important internship or graduate job. Why? Too few students understand the timings and intricacies of the recruitment season. To ensure you don’t miss out, here are the top ten things you need to know.
1. Don’t panic
It’s completely acceptable for you to have no idea about what you want to do with your life or to know what jobs exist that you may enjoy and be great at (of course, hopefully you'll find both). The most successful careers often start that way. Don’t worry if you have no idea what you want to do with your life – it’s an evolving process and you’ll work out it out in the end.
2. Start early
Having said ‘don’t panic’, it is a good idea to start thinking about what you enjoy doing and developing a strong sense of self awareness. Do you love numbers? Does a great day involve meeting lots of new people? Do you like nothing better than planning and organising something? Do you enjoying helping others?
These self observations could help you decide what business function may be the best fit for you. For example - if you like organising things, a career in operations may be the way forward. Or if you like meeting people, business development may be something to explore. People excel in their jobs when they’re doing things they like.
3. There is a yearly recruiting cycle - don’t miss out
Although it’s fine for you to take your time to find the thing you want to do, you need to be aware that the timing of the yearly graduate recruitment cycle is absolutely critical. Every year talented students miss out on opportunities as they’ve missed key application deadlines.
As a quick rule of thumb – you will need to apply for an internship or graduate role in the autumn term to start work the following year, so if you miss that critical deadline you will have to wait a whole year until the next application window.
Most internships are for penultimate year students, so you do them in the summer of your second year if you’re on a three year course, or the summer of your third year if you’re on a four year course. For first year programmes that take place in the Easter holidays, again you will normally have to apply in the autumn term.
4. Firms are hiring
Don’t believe the press hype. The best firms are hiring thousands of the best graduates every year and there are lots of jobs out there. If you’re good enough and better than the competition, you’ll be successful.
5. Know about the big players
Most graduate jobs are in four main sectors – Consulting, Commercial Law, Investment Banking and Professional Services. Within these four sectors are the major recruiters you will hear about on campus - for example, Accenture, PwC, Slaughter and May – so it’s probably worth knowing more about the four main sectors and what the work in those sectors involves. And remember, within each of the core sectors there are a variety of different roles. For example, you could do an operations role in Banking, or a public sector-focused role in Professional Services.
6. Employers have a ‘talent pipeline’
Gone are the days of employers opening up vacancies solely to final year students. Most of the best jobs are now filled through internships with employers ‘trying before they buy.’ Increasingly, firms take students on for an internship (often seen as an extended job interview, normally in the summer holidays) and then make offers to the interns that excel.
7. Apply early
Firms normally recruit on a ‘rolling process’ - filling their vacancies as great applications come in. However most applicants apply too late, leaving lots of applicants chasing the few unfilled vacancies. The solution is to apply as soon as the firm opens the application process – this can be as early as July for internship and graduate roles to start the following summer.
8. Get as much work experience as you can
There is no perfect answer to your career direction and the only way to find out if you’re going to enjoy working in a particular sector, firm or role is to try it. Get as much experience as possible to see what you really love – working out what you don’t want to do is just as important as figuring out what you do. And work experience will always help strengthen your CV.
For first years, Spring Weeks (internships offered by investment banks in the Easter holidays) can be a great way to get some structured experience even if you’re not sure banking is right for you.
Even if you’re just getting experience in a local business at home during the holidays, this is great for your CV. The worst thing you can do is leave the job hunt until your final year and have no experience under your belt. The competition will have taken all the best jobs and you could beleft high and dry.
9. Small firms hire a lot of graduates
SMEs (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises that hire less than 250 people) are significant employers of bright graduates. Lots of high growth businesses are keen to find great entrepreneurial talent to drive them forward, so keep these on your radar.
If you're interested in technology, discover how technology jobs and SMEs could be the match for you.
10. Always be networking and asking for advice
You’re not the first bright mind to be keen to learn about the world of work and the different options available. People are always keen to help and give advice so don’t be afraid to suggest a meeting. Offer to buy someone a coffee and go armed with a list of questions about how they got to where they are today.
Most successful people are successful for a reason and are happy to share their insights to help others. Always follow up with a note of thanks, by email or LinkedIn.
Take Bright Network Academy's course on how to network effectively to learn more.
The Bright Network Academy Core Career Skills course is a great place to start if you're starting your job junt, or you've just got your first job offer. Get prepared today!