After a year of arduously slaving my way towards a First Class Honours Degree, I thought I’d be able to pick up a job as easily as a packet of Extra chewing gum at the New World self-checkout. Incidentally, so did my parents, and my friend’s parents, and just about every Baby Boomer that I spoke to. At risk of sounding like a TOP campaign advertiser (which, believe me is not my intention), our Baby Booming foremothers and forefathers are perhaps not the best placed to gauge the current job market. Unlike in 1975 a qualification is not a ticket to the job buffet, nowadays it is often expected as the bare minimum for consideration. But do not stop reading, it is not as bleak as it may seem, I promise.
Alas, despite a landslide of applications nothing came to fruition except the filling of my inbox with rejection letters. I returned to University to complete a Master’s qualification, partly due to the somewhat sugar coated concept that no-one could reject a ‘Master’ from an entry level position. But it turned out that once again I was not the only ‘Master’ in town, a medium fish in a big pond, where a qualification was essential, and experience ‘highly preferable’.
Knowing full well that I could not use academia to run from my employability forever, I enlisted the help of a friend who is often a hiring manager for a government department. The two very simple pieces of advice that she gave me and the two I learnt along the way, transformed my job search from a one sided conversation into an educational and ultimately successful experience. (I won’t say it was enjoyable, but follow these tips and stick out it and hope for it all to be over soon.)
- Use your connections. This applies to pretty much everything. Make sure you have the best possible references on your CV, and tell them that they’re on there! If you have an acquaintance currently working in the area you’re looking to get in to, talk to them, pick their brain and get a feel for the company.
- Your cover letter should not be an extension of the skills section of your CV. Take this opportunity to discuss why this job is right for you – of course! But engage with the job description and the company. Why do you want to work there? What about this job in particular appeals to you? And how does your skill set reflect the skills asked for in the job description?
- Double-triple check your applications before you send them in. Because more often than not you won’t be able to get them back once they’ve gone in to the HR abyss. (I added this one because having to explain in an interview why you addressed your cover letter to the wrong company is not a good look, TRUST ME!)
- Finally, when your excellent applications lead you to that super daunting interview, remember that YOU are your strongest selling point at this stage. Much of an interview is about employers gauging how you will fit in to the working environment. Dress smartly and be professional, but be yourself. It’s normal to be nervous, but remember that the interview panel is human too and they are asking questions about you – they want to know what you’ve done, why you’re right for the job, but also a bit about who you are, so don’t be afraid to show them that.
It took me 3 ½ months, 4 interviews and countless applications to slither my way into a job with my BA. It’s easy to argue that millennials are hard done by, BA grads in particular. But try to embrace the satisfaction of knowing that if you take these steps, when you finally get that job you’ve worked so hard towards, you – not your qualifications, were the biggest selling point.