Last Wednesday night in Dublin, 480 graduate recruiters, careers services, senior representatives from higher education institutions, business organisations, policy makers, advisers and the Minister of State for Training & Skills, gathered for the gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards 2012.
Why does this matter? It’s just a bean-feast, right? A prize for everyone in the audience and a stonking hangover on Thursday morning?
Thankfully, no. The gradireland awards are now acknowledged as one of the most important events in the graduate careers calendar. It is the only time in the year when such a vast gathering of key stakeholders and influencers in this sector can come together – people who are shaping the future career opportunities of a generation of Irish students at a historic time in our social and economic development.
A key message that was reiterated several times during the evening was the need for business, academia, government and higher education to work closely together to ensure that our students are equipped with the employability skills necessary for an increasingly competitive global job market. The evening was an opportunity for employers from all sectors to engage with careers practitioners and explain what competencies they are looking for in their graduate recruits; for course providers to hear what skills and knowledge need to be developed in order to meet the fast-changing needs of industry; for policy makers and recruiters to hear from course providers and careers services about the incredibly gifted, motivated and dynamic graduates being produced by our universities and ITs, and the skills that they are ready to put to use (and to meet a few of them, too).
Facilitating this network of the key stakeholders and influencers within graduate recruitment is a crucial element of evenings like this one. Having the opportunity to showcase some of the great courses, students and graduate employers that are at the heart of graduate career development, and that therefore play a huge part in the economic development of the country, is so important. In an era of so much media noise, of such a lot of negative coverage of careers in Ireland, it is vital that the graduate recruitment industry has a night such as this to showcase their work to decision-makers: to show that there is an incredibly dynamic community of passionate and engaged professionals working to provide careers advice, training and development and graduate jobs; and to pull together to ensure that business, government and education work even more closely in the future to provide our students and graduates with the skills they will need to get good jobs and develop great careers in Ireland.
That’s why awards matter. To see the full list of winners on the night visit www.gradireland.com/awards
Recruiters want to feel special. They don’t want to think that they are just the latest in a line of organisations that you have shortlisted as a potential foot onto the career ladder. So, if you are busy hunting potential summer internships/jobs to apply for, remember that it’s absolutely vital that you tailor your cover letter and CV to fit each individual application. Do this, and the interviews will follow.
Here are our top tips for keeping recruiters happy, and for improving your chances of finding your perfect job match.
Always research the company (and the role) you are applying to – demonstrate in both your cover letter and CV that you have spent time getting to know the organisation and that you have the specific requirements they are seeking in their ideal candidate. We know this takes time and effort, but it really can make the difference between an interview and a rejection letter.
Don’t write to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ (or, far worse, to ‘Dear Human Resources’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’) if the name of the recruiter is given in the job ad – always address the recruiter by name where possible.
Don’t include vague aspirations on your CV such as: ‘After I graduate I would perhaps like to go into journalism or PR’; if you are applying for a journalism position, tailor your cover letter accordingly, otherwise you will look unfocused and aimless.
Avoid using clichéd expressions like: ‘I would relish the opportunity to…’; ‘this opportunity excites me’; ‘I would excel at any role I am given’… these stock phrases don’t really mean anything, and recruiters will have heard them all before. Give specific examples of what you would excel in, or what fires your interest, in the context of the role you are applying for.
Do use genuine, active verbs to emphasise your desire for the job or placement. If you would love to work for the organisation you are applying to, then say so. Make them feel wanted. Explain why, and exactly how you match the criteria set out in the job description.
Do be clear and concise; always limit the length of your CV to strictly two pages of A4. Recruiters haven’t got the time or inclination to wade through reams of waffle.
Do get someone to proofread both your covering letter and CV before you send it.
Nearly 6,000 thousand students have voted for their favourite employers in Ireland’s largest annual student survey, conducted by the international research firm trendence. The detailed results will be published in September in Ireland’s 100 leading graduate employers which is distributed to every campus in Ireland.
But the survey does far more than identify Ireland’s most desirable employers. It also reveals a lot about the aspirations, hopes and fears of the current generation of students and graduates and one issue, in particular, seems to be much more of an issue in Ireland than it does over the water.
Students were asked if they planned to leave the country after graduation to secure a job in their chosen field. In Ireland, 27 per cent of respondents said yes, they were planning to leave. In comparison, only 19 per cent of students in the equivalent survey in Britain said that their first job would be abroad. When you analyse the data more closely, there are also significant differences between sectors. For example, only 17 per cent of Irish students looking to work in accountancy expect to leave Ireland after graduation while for those hoping to make a career in construction, the figure is 37 per cent.
The survey results reflect, of course, the delicate state of certain key sectors in the economy at the moment. But it’s also worth noting that of the 24 European countries that take part in the annual trendence survey, Irish students are at the top of the league for job mobility, so even in good times a significant proportion would want to leave after graduation. At first sight, therefore, the data suggests a potential ‘lost generation’ of Irish graduates who are forced to emigrate. Yet, in reality, it’s always been the case that many graduates begin their working life abroad – only for large numbers of them to return later in their careers. The trend has accelerated this year but it’s not the crisis that some commentators believe it to be. In an increasingly connected and international world of work, the greater geographical mobility of Irish graduates is worth celebrating.
Of course, it’s not all good news. Many graduates don’t actually want to leave Ireland but, for some, maybe it’s a step they have to take. Hopefully, the economic situation will stabilise soon to allow everyone who wants to go to do so, and to provide those that want to stay with enough jobs in the sectors they favour.
Last week saw the official merger of Ireland’s two research councils, the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), to form the Irish Research Council. The thinking behind the merger is to strengthen existing resources and increase emphasis on interdisciplinary research opportunities. The merger won’t affect existing postgraduate scholarships and fellowships but, it is hoped, will enhance collaboration with enterprise and ‘provide a strong voice for the promotion and support of emerging researchers in Ireland’, according to the Department of Education and Skills.
To illustrate the point, the Research Council has just announced a new industry-based Postgraduate Programme, under which students will undertake their research in collaboration with an enterprise partner. This all sounds like good news, but exact details of the programme, and how the merger will impact on other existing funding application procedures for next year’s research students, are as yet unclear.
In a general climate of shrinking state support for postgraduate students in Ireland, it’s also worth remembering that there is still funding to be found from other, non-government sources. Most higher education institutions that offer postgraduate programmes also offer access to scholarships, studentships, fellowships, bursaries, bequests and other awards, from private donors and benefactors, and sometimes from commercial enterprises. It’s worth investigating all of your options.
Although many deadlines for postgrad funding applications come early in the year (deadlines can fall as soon as 1 March), keep your eye out for potential funding opportunities all throughout the year, as they can crop up at any time.
You may have to search harder, for longer (inexplicably, information about funding opportunities are sometimes well camouflaged on institution websites), but a little bit of extra research could be well worth the time and effort if it results in a sizeable financial award.
For more information on what kind of funding is out there, and how to go about tracking it down, see postgradireland.com/funding.