So you’ve graduated and you’re about to enter the “real world”, but have no idea how to get started. The 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey found that 67.1% of graduates found full-time employment just four months after graduating, so it’s not as daunting as you may think. The key is knowing how to best approach your job search.
With the current employment market being difficult to navigate, even with a degree, the best thing you can do is prepare. We spoke to graduates and graduate employers to gain insights into what the next generation of workers can be doing to put themselves out there and get started in their field.
What are companies looking for?
Heading into your desired industry is different from a casual job. You want to be making the right moves and impressions to get your foot in the door. This can be daunting for many grads as most have little to no experience in their field.
Learning the theoretical side at university is one thing – it’s another to put it into practice. Understanding the graduate recruitment process takes time, but once you know what businesses are looking for you’ll be better prepared to land your dream role.
Deborah Walker, Partner at IBM, says the relevancy of a graduate’s studies and projects is paramount in choosing the right person for the job.
“We hire from both technical and non-technical degrees. What is important is that you can demonstrate subjects or special interest projects that relate to the application of technologies to business problems or growth aspirations,” she says.
“I’m not worried about a 99.9 ATAR or a HD average, I look to see if there is solid performance and growth in terms of results. I also consider the type of projects that they did as part of their degree, internships or other employment.”
Tips for making the most of your early career
Walker outlines key steps that graduates can follow to make the most of their early career.
She encourages grads to:
Continuously seek out to learn new things and ask questions. Companies are looking for people who have a zest for continuous learning, are adaptable and flexible so they can grow their skills throughout their career and stay current.
Commit to building on skills and learn how to manage working with people who have different skills, opinions and ways of getting things done.
Be enthusiastic and don’t be afraid to show your passion for your work.
Always put your best foot forward and ensure you deliver quality work on time. This will help you build a good reputation.
Speak up if you need help or if there is an issue or a knowledge gap.
Explore graduate opportunities
One of the best places to start is a graduate program, which is specifically designed to assist with the transition from student to employee. Many companies in Australia and around the world use these programs to teach those new to the workforce about what life at a company is like, the different roles available and how to work with others.
Meshva Mehta completed the Optus Graduate Program and says it was invaluable in learning about how the business operates.
“The best things were hearing from our leaders and past graduates,” she notes. “We got an insight as to what happens at a macro level so when we work on things at the micro level we can start to build a better understanding of how massive businesses operate.”
Mehta also says the graduate program was great for building her professional network. “The networking opportunities were so great. We saw grads from the previous years and had some excellent conversations. This allowed us to build great connections with people who helped us grow and transition into life at Optus.”
For those entering a graduate program, Mehta says it’s important to remember that mistakes happen, and it’s all part of the learning process.
“It’s okay to make mistakes. This is the rule of learning, so do not be afraid of failure,” she says. “And most importantly, just because someone started before you doesn’t automatically make them superior to you. You only need to be better than one person – yourself!”
The key difference between an internship and a graduate program is that internships are generally temporary, with full-time employment only offered on occasion. Graduate programs are to transition younger workers into a company more permanently. Internships are a great way to gain experience and learn about different roles and businesses in the industry before you commit to a particular company.
Sharayu Bakal started her role at EY as an intern, having since found new opportunities in the company’s Digital & Emerging Technologies team. Bakal found that her internship helped her in many ways, most notably showing her the different sides of full-time employment.
“I think working with any client comes with its own set of challenges that really push you to think on your feet and iterate in a far more dynamic way than I had ever done before,” she says.
“I learned the power of working collaboratively. Diving into an extremely close-knit team allowed me to swivel my chair around and talk to any number of people if I needed advice or had obstacles preventing me from achieving something. The environment was really positive and conducive to creativity and problem-solving.”
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