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Job hunting after graduation

If you've left university and don't yet have a job, here are tips on creating an action plan for finding work.

It’s widely acknowledged that it's harder than it used to be to land your first graduate job, and more people now find they are graduating without a job to go to straight away. If you are one of them, don't panic. Take the opportunity for a short rest, then focus on what you can do to make things happen.

1. Keep looking

The good news for graduate job hunters is that employers are now recruiting all year round. Traditionally, most graduate jobs were advertised in the autumn ‘milkround’, with many students having a job offer before they sat their finals. These days, graduate employers are more likely to advertise on an ad hoc basis, as jobs become available or as they get additional budget for recruitment. So don’t stop looking.

The gradireland Summer Fair that takes place each June in Dublin is a chance to meet employers who did not fill all their jobs in the autumn or who have new vacancies.

Use the same vacancy sources as when you were at university: gradireland.com, your careers service website etc. But don't just rely on these: spread your net as far as possible.

2. Network

Tell everyone you know that you are job hunting; be open to any suggestions. Start with family and friends, then build new relationships through them. The more contacts you make, the more likely you are to find out about opportunities and meet people who can help you.

The majority of job vacancies are not advertised, so word of mouth can be very valuable. It can also be worth making speculative applications. These work best when they are targeted to an organisation that you have researched and know you want to work for: a few carefully-written applications are more effective than hundreds of standard letters.

Work experience or voluntary work can also widen your pool of contacts and provide a foot in the door of the industry you'd like to work in.

Don't spend all summer on Facebook. Use a range of social media to make new contacts and find out about new opportunities. Follow employers on LinkedIn, search Twitter for news of the industry you're interested in, use everything to ‘meet’ new people. Start a blog: done well, it could be a good addition to your CV by highlighting your expertise, creativity or networking skills.

3. Apply for internships

There are several internship programmes now available, many aimed specifically at graduates. These tend to vary from three months to a year. Some offer payment on top of your benefits while others carry accreditation; some even give an opportunity to work abroad for a while.

Some of the main schemes currently available are:

Ireland

Northern Ireland

Applying for internships via an official programme gives you a degree of security. You may, of course, also find an internship by applying directly to the employer. It’s advisable to be aware of your employment rights and the Congress website is a useful source of information.

Internships are not just a stop-gap on the way to a permanent job: as a ‘taster’ of a particular sector they can also help you to choose which career you ultimately would like to pursue. Whatever you do, you will gain new skills and experience to add to your CV.

4. Improve your employability

Remember that you can still get help from university careers services after you graduate – either at your own university or, if you’ve moved back home, another higher education institution. Make an appointment if you need advice on how to develop and market your skills or to improve your CV.

Despite the downturn, there are still areas where there are skills shortages and unfilled vacancies. If you have the aptitude, consider upskilling, perhaps through a conversion course in IT, or by learning a language. ‘Lifelong learning’ is now considered essential even for those already in work, so if you have spare time use it to read and learn about the area of work you want to get into.

Work on your employability skills: writing, administration, team-working, communication etc. You'll be in a strong position if your job applications can demonstrate these qualities.

Consider voluntary work as a way of adding to your portfolio of experience and learning new skills. There are opportunities for short and long-term involvement, whether it’s helping out at a local organisation or working for a national charity.

5. Be open to opportunities

Realistically, it may not be immediately possible to get a graduate-level job. If something else is available – even if it is a casual or temporary job – try to use it as a stepping stone.

A job in admin or customer support could lead to a more senior position in the same company later. It will let you prove that you have workplace experience and a good work ethic, and can give you transferable skills to add to future job applications.

Don’t overlook small businesses. There are a lot of them, so add up to a major force as employers. They may not advertise specific ‘graduate’ vacancies but can be a good environment if you're at the beginning of your career as there is often more flexibility to learn new skills.

6. Don’t give up

Taking a year out or signing up for postgraduate study may be tempting as a way to postpone looking for work. They are worth considering if you are sure that you can demonstrate afterwards the benefits to employers. Otherwise, think carefully about whether this will help in the long term.

It’s not necessarily the easy route, but the best course of action may be to stay put, stay positive and stay persistent. If things aren’t going well, review your progress and ask for help and support if you need it.