“Don’t lose heart”: My graduate job hunting journey

Today’s guest post is from Steven Cheeseman, a 2016 graduate who is now studing for the Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Career Management in Practice. Here he describes the challenges he has faced finding a job in an extremely competitive marketplace and his advice to others in the same position.

Make no mistake: the majority of undergraduates work extremely hard to try and achieve their desired result. I include myself in this, and after 3 years of hard work and personal sacrifices I achieved a 1st class honours degree in Computer Animation & Visual Effects. However a first class degree is no guarantee of a job, especially in your preferred subject.

My story

As an 18 year old student fresh from Shipley College having received a DMM Pass in Games Development (Extended Diploma), I commenced on a 4-year sandwich course for a degree in Computer Animation & Visual Effects. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but come my third year I thought that I would be able to get a relevant paid internship or placement that would provide me with some experience in my chosen career. I sent out over 50 applications about a month after I started my second year and received less than half a dozen responses, the best of which wished me luck in my search for employment. I widened my search to a 50-mile radius and sent out another 30 or so applications.

At last, a thin glimmer of hope;  a company in Sheffield invited me to their offices to discuss if there was anything they could do for me. The opportunity they were offering would be unpaid but they said they would make a small contribution towards my 100 mile round trip between Crossflatts & Sheffield. Nevertheless it was an opportunity to get some experience so I decided to go ahead with it. Unfortunately it could not meet the requirements set by the University to be classified as an Internship / Placement so could not go ahead. I did however agree to do some voluntary work with the company in order to get some work experience, but my 4-year sandwich course became a 3 year course as I could not get any suitable employment.

Over the next 12 months I combined the final year of my postgraduate course with various short term jobs in order to get whatever experience I could of a working environment. I wasn’t all related to my degree and most of it was voluntary, but my view was that in the long term it would be beneficial and provide me with transferable skills which I could highlight as part of my CV.

What I’ve learned, and my advice to others

An important part of any application is ensuring that you have a tailored CV that emphasises your skills relevant to the essential requirements of the position that you are applying for and that the CV is presented in a format that the employer expects to see. It is never too soon to seek advice about your CV, and the University’s careers advice service can help with this. Don’t wait until your last year when you need to concentrate all your efforts on your studies and don’t think you need to limit yourself to one CV. Create different ones that can be used depending on the nature of the position you are applying for and don’t forget to tailor them to highlight how your skills match the essential requirements of the position that you are applying for.

Take advantage of social & other networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. The more contacts that you make the more likely it is that opportunities are going to come your way. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, if potential employers don’t know what you have to offer they won’t come knocking at your door.

In my experience a good degree will certainly take you a long way towards getting an interview but to get your foot on the employment ladder, and the more relevant experience you have the better.

Take volunteering as a serious option when looking for work experience. I know from a short term point of view it doesn’t offer any financial benefits but it will provide you with the opportunity to gain experience of a working environment, hopefully in your chosen career.

If things don’t go as planned in the first place, try not to lose heart. Persevere with your studies, consider all opportunities that may come along and hopefully you will eventually be rewarded for all your hard work and the sacrifices that you made along the way.

Thanks Steven, good luck with the rest of your course and your search for a graduate job! Don’t forget, we’re here to help with your career plans, and we can help you for up to five years after you finish your studies. Please get in touch to find out more.