The graduate job hunt: Where to start and how to find the career for you

The hardest part of any task is the beginning and when it comes to deciding on a career it’s a minefield. We’re here to help you get over the anxiety of beginning the graduate job hunt by laying out exactly where to start.

Knowing you need to make a big decision can have a paralysing effect for some. If you’ve left it late, are beginning to feel anxious about what you’ll do after you graduate and find the idea of committing to a career intimidating, our tips will help you get started.

To get career ideas, start with yourself

Start with yourself – this is the foundation of all good career decision making. It’s the only way you can make effective applications to the right employers, and the only way of finding the career path that is right for you. You need to think about what you enjoy, what you are interested in, and what you have to offer.

The career choice process can be represented as a continuous cycle of four stages:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Opportunity awareness
  3. Decision making
  4. Taking action

Knowing what your skills and values are is a great basis both for deciding which careers, employers and roles interest you, and for making strong applications.

Any work experience you’ve done, including extracurricular activities, will not only have developed your skills and made you more employable, but will also have given you some idea of what you would like to do.

Examine your values

What is most important to you in terms of a career? Are you looking for security? Adventure? Variety? Money? Travel? To help others? Work-life balance? If you value your social life, don’t join a company which expects you to work 14 hours a day or a profession where you could be commuting internationally every week. Make sure your values align with the companies and roles you apply for.

Break down your job hunt into small, manageable steps

You’ll find the overall process of job hunting much more manageable if you break it down into a series of tasks that you can tackle over time. You could set aside some time to get started – a couple of hours each weekend, for example. Make a to-do list and decide what you’re going to do and when. Here are some steps to consider, if you haven’t worked through them already.

  • Find out how your university careers service can help you. You can find contact details for your careers service here
  • Sign up with and complete your profile to receive information about relevant jobs.
  • If you want to take some time to explore your career options in more depth, you could look into options for planning a gap year.
  • Consider options for boosting your work experience.

Our advice will help you get to grips with the careers open to you with your degree and the range of roles available.

Prepare yourself to keep on learning

Your career will grow and change with you as you develop your skills and specialise. The world of work is changing all the time, and in five years’ time you may find yourself in a role that now barely exists, or that you haven’t currently heard of. Graduate employer’s welcome flexibility; they also like to recruit candidates who are resilient, so if you experience any setbacks during the course of your job hunt, remind yourself that you’re developing an essential skill even during these setbacks. Our advice on the skills employers want will help you understand what recruiters are looking for.

You’re not alone: other students feel it too

If panic sets in during your final year, or even after graduation, and you feel that you haven’t got a clue what you want to do, remember that you’re not alone and don’t be too hard on yourself. There are many other students in the same boat as you, your friends among them, although they may wish to keep a lid on their own private job-hunting fears.

It’s worth seeking out the views of people who have been through the graduate job-hunting process before you, especially if they’re working in an area that interests you. If your university careers service offers the opportunity to network with alumni, this could be a good opportunity to arm yourself with valuable insights and information that will get you through the challenges ahead.

And lastly it’s always useful to remind yourself that things always seem worse than they really are!

*A version
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