This week, Susanna from Inspiring Interns gives some useful tips for students and grads on how to prepare for the world of work, and demonstrate this to employers.
We’re in the middle of a graduate shortage. That’s right: while grads complain about how hard it is to find a job, employers are moaning about the lack of good candidates. Seems weird, right? But the problem isn’t necessarily the quality of graduates; it’s their readiness to enter the world of work.
The reality is that most students have never known real employment – a fact that many recruiters can tell from fifty paces. From STEM to arts subjects, from Russell Group to poly, graduates find the real world hard. These days, the movement from childhood to adulthood occurs not at sixteen or eighteen but with the end of university. As a result, many employers think of graduates, however much they claim otherwise, as too immature to be trusted with a job.
Here’s how you can assuage an employer’s fears and prove you’re ready to enter their world.
Perfect grammar, punctuation and spelling won’t get you the job. However, poor writing is sure to lose you it. Ensure all CVs, cover letters and emails are composed with maximum attention to detail; good written communication is essential in the working world. Writing not your forte? Simple: get someone else to look over your work.
Just as important as linguistic perfection is email etiquette. If somebody has previously emailed you introducing themselves by name, ensure that you spell it right. Sign off with ‘kind regards’, don’t open missives with ‘yo’ and – for goodness sake – don’t use emojis. If in doubt, leave it out. Make perfect politeness your default. If your correspondent replies more casually, you can take their lead.
People who can’t write properly can’t be trusted to represent a company’s needs to clients. Don’t know the difference between there, their and they’re? You can take your CV elsewhere.
Loosen the tie
A huge part of working life is learning to play well with colleagues, communicate positively and keep everything on an even keel. Most modern offices are not trading floors and most bosses are a far cry from Miranda Priestly – Anna Wintour excepted. People skills are among the most important thing a graduate can demonstrate and they’ll get you far.
If you want an employer to know that you’ll slot right into their organisation and not cause tensions or problems, the interview is your best playing field. Accept any drink they offer without awkwardness – “Actually, I’d love a green tea. Thanks!” Communicate openly with the interviewer, keep things as relaxed as possible and smile.
Swot up, scrub up, turn up
Yes, yes, we all know turning up to an interview on time is the sine qua non of the working world. But turning up exactly ten minutes early, having done your research on the company, holding a copy of your CV, wearing the perfect outfit with a smile on your face – that’s what makes you look professional.
Juggling commitments and tasks is half the challenge of being a working professional. If you can’t even get your act together at interview, how are you going to do it day in, day out in a full-time job? Getting yourself prepared for interview is the most important thing you can do. Look confident, put together and ready to go.
University is fun time, a productive time, where lectures are only semi-compulsory and essays completed from the comfort of your uni library. It fosters your creativity, challenges your intellect and gets your brain whirring. It does not prepare you for going into work every morning for nine, working eight to twelve hours with only a short break in the middle, going home, relaxing, going to bed too late and getting up again the next day to do it all again.
Working life is hard. This isn’t necessarily because the job is challenging or stressful, but because it’s relentless – you can’t run home in the middle of the working week because you feel ‘burnt out’.
A way to prove that you can cope with a full-time, five-day-a-week job is to do one. Any experience will do. Whether it’s doing an internship over summer or slaving weekends as a waiter to support your studies, the best proof that you can hold down a full-time role is to just get on with it.
You’re not in Kansas anymore, nor even the classroom. For most grads, the higher authority of school and university is all they’ve ever known. You’ve always had the safety net of your professor to fall back to – the next essay, the next exam to aim for.
In the world of work, there are no guidelines, no module options or syllabus. Your boss doesn’t act in loco parentis; they are there to get you to work your hardest and more effective. They are not obliged to give you a second chance should you turn that assignment in late. If you fail in the real world, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
There are some things you can do to prove your maturity to a hiring manager. If a recruiter points out an issue with your CV – a poor grade at university, a gap of years between graduation and your first job, a bad reference – take responsibility for these. Don’t sling blame or badmouth former employers. Similarly, if asked what you hope to achieve in the future, don’t say ‘fame’ or ‘money’. Think things through carefully; even if you don’t know precisely what your next move should be, you should have an overall game plan.
Do employers view graduates as adults? Not always, but nor do they have to. For now, concentrate on proving yourself worthy of consideration. Respect is something you can earn later – once you’ve got the job!
Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.
If you have an interview coming up, check our website for more tips and resources, and come and talk to us in case you need any further guidance.