Guest post: Kent student, Jennifer Ahrens – Graduate jobs – how to get started!

Jennifer Ahrens is doing an MSc at Kent, and has been applying for graduate schemes. She will be sharing her experiences with us in a series of blog posts, the first focusing on how and where to begin your search.

Graduate jobs – How to get started!

When I came to the UK last September to study an MSc at Kent, I was almost immediately faced with the need to begin applying for graduate positions. At the time I didn’t really know what kind of position I was looking for, or even where to start looking. As daunting as it seemed at first, after I managed to get an overview of what’s out there and figured out what I was looking for, it became easier to start targeting specific employers. Here’s how I did it – hopefully this will help others in the same position!

1)      Get an overview

In order to get a better idea of what kind of jobs are out there, and what kind of companies have graduate schemes, one of my first visits was to the university’s Careers and Employability Service (CES). Aside from journals specializing in all kinds of different fields such as Finance or Engineering, they also had a book called Times Top 100 Graduate Employers that was available for free. Personally, I found this a good place to get started and get an idea of what kind of opportunities are out there. I can only recommend everyone to grab a copy, and also have a look at the Guardian UK 300 companies.

2)      Figure out what you want

When looking for graduate jobs, everyone is looking for different things. Aside from the obvious difference in academic backgrounds, there are different preferences regarding the ideal location, the desired sector, salary expectations, and of course the perfect role. I found it useful to collect the factors that were important to me, and create minimum criteria that any firm I would apply to needed to fulfill. While I still ended up going out on a limb once or twice, it  helped to keep me focused on positions that would actually fit what I was looking for.

To find positions that matched my criteria, I went back to the Times Top 100 and Guardian lists, but dug deeper and had a look at the webpages of firms I was interested in. In addition, I signed up to career newsletters from targetjobs and Prospects, as well as through the CES website. These proved very helpful, as they also included smaller or less well-known companies with interesting roles that I would never have considered otherwise.

3)      Network and ask questions

When deciding where to apply, the biggest hurdle for me was identifying what kind of roles I would be interested in, and which positions would fit and enhance my skills. Some of the role names and descriptions sounded quite generic to me, and I couldn’t really imagine what it would be like on a day-to-day basis.

One thing I found very informative was the opportunity to speak to people currently on graduate schemes. Some firms have networking events where prospective applicants can meet current employees and ask questions, others are present at career fairs. Referring back to people you met at this point may even help you later in the application process. I can only recommend speaking to as many people as you can, even if they may not be at the specific firm you are targeting. Learning about the sector or their roles can help figure out what you want, and what you don’t want. Once you have identified a position that you’re interested in, it’s time to apply!

This topic will be covered in-depth in up-coming posts, so keep an eye out for hints and tips 🙂

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