Luke Bird completed his MA Communication & Media Studies at the University of Leeds in 2018, after a number of false starts he began to realise he was making some fundamental mistakes with his approach to jobsearch. Read how his more targeted approach led to him securing a graduate job.
My overriding feelings of being a graduate without employment were frustration and disappointment, but it is worth noting that for many graduates this is par for the course. Some of the reasons for these feelings were out of my control, in that I was eager to secure employment in a field where there just weren’t many jobs in Leeds, but along the way I realised most of the reasons were in my control.
Detail is everything
Firstly, it is important to remember that detail is everything when applying for a graduate job. Most big companies receive hundreds if not thousands of applications every year, and in order to stand out you must pay attention to detail. After three months of taking the scattergun approach to job searching, where I had been sending my CV out left, right and centre through jobsites without much research about the companies I was applying for, I realised the CV I had uploaded to loads of jobsites made no sense. Because I hadn’t converted the document into a PDF, when I uploaded it online every single part of my CV had been jumbled into a nonsensical, seven page document that read more like code than a piece of work I had spent hours on.
Lewis Bailey studied Religion, Politics & Society at the University of Leeds, graduating in 2018.
With a love for Leeds but not many ideas of what to do next he pursued jobs where he could earn big money, however the reality of these roles led him in a different direction.
When I finished university my frame of mind was probably very similar to a lot of yours. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to stay in Leeds and carry on living with friends, and I wanted enough money to live comfortably by paying all my bills, but also being able to carry on having fun outside of work.
Money, money, money…
I’d done well in my social sciences degree, so I felt confident I could secure any entry level job I applied for in no time. I quickly found out that this wasn’t necessarily the case, and I learned I had to tune in better to what my prospective employers were looking for, which wasn’t simply a good grade on paper and a confident interview.
My primary motivation when applying for jobs was money, but this quickly changed. I applied for numerous roles in a sector which I had no interest in whatsoever, just because the salary was high and I had the chance to earn uncapped commission. I’ve always been told I have the gift of the gab, so I figured I could fake it ‘til I make it just to make a bit of extra coin. The feedback for every interview I did- and I did a lot of interviews- was almost identical. I was confident and approachable with great people skills, but the passion for the business just wasn’t there and employers were concerned I’d leave after a few months.
Kelsie Root graduated with a Masters in History of Health, Medicine & Society at the University of Leeds in December 2018, having put off jobsearch until completing her studies she found it difficult to find the right job with the right organisation straight away. Read how Kelsie learnt the importance of understanding what she could bring to an employer and finding a role that fitted with her skills, motivations and values.
Focusing on my studies
When I graduated in December, I was excited, relieved and deeply anxious. I had spent the year with my nose to the grindstone working on my MA and the various side jobs that paid the bills during the previous year. The demands of MA study and juggling paid work made it so difficult to spend time finding opportunities, drafting applications and getting feedback that eventually I gave in and decided I would start looking for a full-time job after I had handed in my dissertation. This felt like a good idea, and I now think it was the right choice for me at the time. Once I’d finished, however, I immediately felt like it had been a mistake. I had no idea what I was going to do next.
Applying for any job…my misplaced efforts
I quickly realised my first step had to be figuring out how to showcase my skills. Using the resources from the Careers Centre website I looked over all my work experience to date and put together a skills-based CV. This helped me to match my skills to job descriptions and work out what I could do. I started applying to any job that matched my skills-based CV and secured a variety of interviews. As soon as I started going to interviews, it became clear that I was doing something wrong. I just wasn’t gelling with the teams, the places or the work itself. I soon became stressed, questioning how I could keep motivated when all my efforts seemed to be misplaced.
Jamie Gayya is a recent University of Leeds graduate, currently working as an Employability and Progression Assistant based in the University of Leeds Careers Centre.
Here she talks about how immediately after graduation she felt the pressure of being left behind as friends secured graduate jobs or further study. However, by reflecting on her skills and values and undertaking volunteering she found a career path she is very much engaged in.
The benefits of University
In many ways, university has been more than just a place to gain an academic qualification. It has been a place that has exposed me to various opportunities and challenges – all of which have significantly contributed to both my career and personal development. Beyond the accomplishment of graduating, my time at university has been significantly rewarding and memorable, as I have taken part in various opportunities. I have been involved in supporting a candidate campaign during the student executive elections, was a committee member for the Leeds Filipino society, and worked as a Leeds Loves Ambassador to promote the study of Arts and Humanities to secondary school students.
Where to start?
Having these experiences enabled me to gain a range of transferable skills that were useful for the world of work. Furthermore, these opportunities were very helpful in distinguishing what I enjoyed and disliked. Despite acquiring all these skills, finding where to start after graduation continued to be a challenging and nerve-wracking phase. With my friends securing places for further study, graduate jobs and employment, I felt a lot of pressure that I had to get my career rolling to make sure that I wasn’t left behind. “But where do I start?” was a constant question and thought.
This blog post was written by POLIS student Sam Greet about his experience on the module Career Planning for POLIS Students.
When I was looking at my module choices for second semester, I wasn’t sure I had made the right choices back in September. My first lecture for one of my choices really didn’t suit me and I knew I had to think of something else to move onto, but amongst the array of discovery and optional modules I really struggled to narrow down exactly onto something I wanted to do.
Finding the right module
A module that I had originally glanced over (but not given much thought to) was the Career Planning for POLIS Students module. When it was getting closer to deadline for changing modules, I still had yet to find anything that really spoke to me from the traditional module list and I revisited the careers module in more depth. What I found was a comprehensive programme of teaching, with extended seminar sessions and no lectures that looked to develop all manner of skills and employability. However, I remained unsure about what this would really amount to in practice.
I’ll admit that I was at first concerned with academic rigour, as I very much enjoyed traditional subjects and essays, and was performing well with these. I decided to seek out lecturers and staff members to discuss the POLIS Careers module, and I was immediately reassured of the module’s immense value. Ultimately this convinced me to take the plunge and switch – and I can say that this was one of the best decisions I have made in my second semester.