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The do's and don'ts of starting your career

12 steps to job-seeking success for students and graduates.

Do…

…start with yourself

The number one tip from all careers advisers is: develop a clear picture of your interests, motivations, values and skills. Self-knowledge is the key to convincing employers of your value – you can only tell them what you have to offer if you know what it is.

…research areas of interest

Consider careers that suit and interest you. List their pros and cons and speak to professionals in each area. If possible, gain some experience – even if it's only a few days' work shadowing. Establish a picture of the area (eg what it involves, current issues, skills required) and try to build a network of people to help you.

…research employers

Investigate your top ten organisations in a sector. Then find out how they recruit.

…make an action plan

Know where you are aiming and keep a record of progress. Include areas you need to work on to boost your knowledge, skills and experience.

…practise

Hone your interview technique and find out about the selection exercises you are likely to encounter.

…be positive and never give up

Optimism is key.

Don't…

…have unrealistic expectations

A degree does not equal a job. Nor does it guarantee entry at a certain level. Academic qualifications are part of the package: interpersonal skills, business awareness and other experience and aptitudes are important too.

…be unclear about what you have to offer

Wherever you want to work, if you aren't sure about what you offer, you can't convince the employer how you will help the organisation meet its objectives.

…be lazy in taking the initiative

Be the one who makes the most of recruitment fairs and utilises their careers service to the full. The job hunters who fires off a few CVs and sits back is rarely successful. Instead, speak with academics, employers and personal contacts and work with one or two carefully chosen agencies for more success. Advisers say that too many students tend to underuse their contacts to network.

…adopt an inflexible attitude

Careers advisers recommend a positive, flexible and open attitude. This can mean anything from keeping an open mind about what jobs are suitable to moving further afield than you had anticipated.

…waste your time on untargeted approaches

Sending mass mailshots of your CV accompanied by a generic 'Dear sir/madam' letter is a waste of time, paper and postage.

…underprepare for interview

Preparation begins before you submit the written application. It's not something you should do the night before the interview.