02 January 2013 09:49 AM

New Year, New Job-Hunting Strategy? Tapping into the Hidden Graduate Job Market

Graduate schemes only make up about 20% of grad job destinations each year - so while it might feel like the world and their dog is heading off on an all-singing, all-dancing graduate programme, it's really not the case. It's estimated that around 70-80% of all job vacancies never get advertised - so you need to get proactive! Here'a few handy hints for making sure you're in with the best chance of success with speculative applications:

> Networking is key. Building contacts in the industry you want to go into is always a good idea - click here to find out how to start your own graduate recruitment network.
 
> Research the industry. To make a good targeted speculative application, you'll need to really stand out as someone who wants to work in that field. Recruiters can spot a generic CV a mile off, so take the time to tailor your application to each company.

> Try and find a contact to address your covering letter to - 'Dear Sir/Madam' just doesn't cut it! If necessary, phone up and ask. LinkedIn can also be useful for stalking key decision makers finding out names and roles.

> Be creative - if a company isn't hiring right now, offer to do some freelance work for them or even a free trial (if you can afford to). This is a pretty standard way of getting into certain creative industries, and it'll help your name stick for when a position does come up.

> Make sure your CV is top-notch
- click here for more info on writing the perfect graduate CV.

> Don't give up! Whether you're applying for huge graduate schemes or sending your portfolio off to tiny creative agencies, you're bound to get the odd knock-back. It happens to the best of us, so pick yourself up and try somewhere else - and don't take it personally! Find out more about motivation here.

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19 December 2012 10:25 AM

A quick tour of popular conversion courses...

Are you studying a degree you enjoy but not sure you want to work in that field? Or perhaps you've studied something non-vocational and want a change of direction? A conversion course can help! Postgraduate conversion courses 'top up' your undergraduate degree and allow to you enter certain professions that would otherwise be closed off to you. Some of the most popular conversion courses include:

> Law - It's fairly common for solicitors or barristers to start their professional lives from a non-legal academic background. In fact, many firms say that they take up to half their trainees from non-law backgrounds, and top-class graduates can often get their fees provided for them by their firm. To become a solicitor or barrister, you'll need to take the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law, also known as the Common Professional Examination), and then depending on the path you choose, you'll take the BPTC (Bar professional Training Course) or the LPC (Legal Practice Course). The BPTC is for aspiring barristers and the LPC is for graduates who want to be solicitors. To learn more about where a graduate law career could take you, click here.

> Property - If you want to work in property or surveying you'll need to take a conversion course that's accredited by RICS (the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). You can study for an accredited masters degree and then apply for jobs, but some firms will take 'non-cognate' graduates (i.e. those without an accredited relevant degree) and train them on the job. This latter route usually means you'll get your qualification paid for by your company, so it's a good option if you can get it! To find out about the different graduate jobs in property that are available, click here.

> Psychology - If you haven't studied an accredited psychology undergraduate degree and you want to become a practicing psychologist, you'll need to take a postgraduate course accredited by the BPS (British Psychological Society). This will allow you to apply for membership of the BPS and apply to higher-level degree programmes such as a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Psychology is a highly competitive field, so give yourself the best chance of success by watching our top interview tips here.

> Teaching - The PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education) is a vocational course that prepares you for life as a teacher. Graduates with a relevant degree can train to teach a specific subject at secondary level, while graduates from all disciplines can apply for primary teacher training. There are some pretty generous bursaries available for graduates who want to teach shortage subjects such as physics and languages, and there are sometimes financial incentives for people the teaching agency are particularly keen to recruit, such as male primary teachers or graduates with a 2.1 or above. To find out more about graduate teaching jobs, click here.

> Medicine - Graduates can apply to study medicine on a fast-track programme lasting four years. Some courses will accept graduates from any discipline, while others will ask that you studied something relevant at degree level, like one of the sciences. Because medicine is such a strongly vocational course, you'll need to complete relevant work experience, preferably in an NHS setting, before you apply. For more information on graduate jobs in healthcare, click here.

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05 December 2012 10:39 AM

3 reasons why you shouldn't do an MBA - and 3 reasons why you should

Considering a business management career? Then you're probably the type who likes to plan ahead anyway! You may already have heard of an MBA (Masters in Business Administration). The MBA is a postgraduate qualification taken after gaining some workplace experience - usually around five years - and it's often seen as the qualification for senior managers. However, before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. In fact, there are a few very good reasons not to do an MBA...

  1. It's extremely expensive - an MBA at a respected institution costs upwards of £30,000. If you know you'll want to do one in the future, start saving the pennies right now. Yes, you. Back away from the Starbucks counter!

  2. It's a serious commitment. A full-time MBA takes two years and is a nine-to-five affair (plus the obligatory networking events in the evenings). Like any postgraduate course, studying for an MBA won't give you a sense of direction if you don't have any in the first place. And let's face it, business administration is not something you study for the sheer love of the subject - you study it because you want to go places careerwise. If you're in any doubt as to your enthusiasm for a corporate management career, an MBA is unlikely to tip you over the edge into riotous enthusiasm - and it's a very, very costly, stressful and time-consuming mistake to make.

  3. It won't magically make you into an outstanding entrepreneur, a caring manager, or an ethical business leader. Fundamentally, the MBA teaches you how to run a business, not how to generate ideas, show empathy, or have a conscience. Your own personal qualities will play an important part in your career, not just your qualifications.

An MBA is not a course to be embarked on lightly, and it's not for everyone. But, if you're doing it for the right reasons, an MBA can open up new career opportunities, renew your enthusiasm and give you a fantastic skillset that will prepare you for senior management positions. Here's a few very good reasons to do an MBA...

  1. It's recognised all over the world - there aren't many qualifications where you can walk into just about any corporate environment on the planet and say 'Look what I've got here, hire me!' but an MBA is one of them.

  2. If you really love business, you will probably really enjoy yourself, and do well. Like any postgraduate course, genuine passion for your area of interest is a perfectly good reason to study it, providing you can afford to. And the advantage of being a business geek (as opposed to, say, an astronomy geek or a classical architecture geek) is that you stand a good chance of making serious money out of your interest. So good for you!

  3. You'll be in pretty good company. Of the world's top 30 businesses, 15 CEOs have MBAs, and it can't be denied that having an MBA opens some impressive doors. The global network of people with MBAs is a pretty top-notch club to be a part of.

To find out if an MBA is right for you, click here.

 

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26 October 2012 10:18 AM

10 tips for getting a publishing job without doing a publishing internship

Most humanities graduates have, at one time or another, considered a career in publishing. If you're one of them, no doubt you've imagined a glamourous 'Devil Wears Prada' magazine career involving a terrifying boss, free Dior handbags and trips to Paris Fashion Week.

But what is it really like? Click here to find out more, or read on...

As it happens, before I joined CareerPlayer I was a magazine journalist - so here's a list of the things I wish I'd known before I turned up starry-eyed on my first day at an international publishing house:

1. Beware unpaid work - there is another way! It's important to get your foot in the door, but if you don't value your work, no one else will either, so don't work for free if you can possibly help it. Unpaid work experience may be the norm, but it's only worth doing for a couple of weeks to get a feel for the industry. There are entry-level jobs out there, so instead of doing endless unpaid work, do a few bits of short term in-house work experience and focus instead on building up your portfolio of skills in a specialist area. Lots of people can say 'I like to write' or 'I'm good at designing' but what editors wants to see pop up in their inbox is someone who can create a highly-specialised feature for their target audience, with minimal input and editing from the production team. Got a special interest in music, triathalons or computer games? Know the industry inside out? Great! Start a blog, build contacts with suppliers and key people in the industry, then call up publishers and ask if they're interested in having you write a freelance article or design a graphic for them. Point out your specialism, the contacts you can bring in, the expertise you can offer. Direct them to your blog so they can see a sample of your specialist knowledge and abilities. Repeat as necessary with publishers large and small.

2. Publishing is not like it's portrayed in the movies. It involves a lot of hard work, yes, but it's also not nearly as cut-throat and backstabbing as Hollywood would have you believe. People tend not to take themselves too seriously and are often about as casually dressed as you can be without actually wearing pyjamas as daywear.

3. Publishing is a team sport. Most publishing houses have a small core team assigned to each magazine. Larger magazines will have various hangers-on like section editors, editor's PA, art assistants, editorial assistants...the list goes on! At minimum, this will have an editor (who oversees the editorial direction of the magazine), an art editor (who oversees the creative direction of the magazines, but is subordinate to the editor - which leads to the odd, erm, 'creative difference') and a production editor, who is the hapless dogsbody entrusted with keeping the peace, making sure everything is where it's supposed to be, proofreading every page, sourcing images, arguing with the printers, writing all the regular content and building relationships within the industry. Guess what my job was?

4. Essentially, magazine production is a process-driven industry. You need to be creative, yes; but while a certain degree of artistic scattiness is acceptable on the design side of the fence, editorial teams need to be on top of everything at all times. If you enjoy lists, order and ticking things off, it's a good area to work in. You need to be fairly calm, organised and focussed as you'll be working to some truly horrendous deadlines from time to time - ten days to turn around a 70-page magazine, anyone?

5. No one likes a diva. Make friends the moment you arrive with the hermit-like individuals (usually men in baseball caps) who inhabit the print room. They are in charge of final page setup and creating proofs, as well as essential bits and bobs like business cards. Get them on your side ASAP. Ditto for the receptionists and PAs (who are the people responsible for keeping the entire organisation together, often a rather thankless task) and the classified ad sales teams (who are the ones actually making money for your magazine!)

6. You do get quite a lot of freebies. Depending on the magazine you work on, you may end up with more clothes, makeup, hair products, books, cupcakes, computer games or mountain bikes than you know what to do with. In my magazine offices, we had whole cupboards full of free stuff that were occasionally flung open for everyone, from the cleaners to the MD, to take their pick. You can also pick up a few perks like free hairdressing appointments, photoshoots and trips to fashion events.

7. You won't be retiring at 30. Magazine work is NOT well paid, to put it mildly. You will find that 90% of people who work on magazines do quite a lot of freelance work in their spare time. So be prepared! Build contacts in the industry and you'll always have a bit of extra work coming in.

8. InDesign rules all. If you haven't heard of this software yet, you will! It's one of the most commonly used publishing packages and it's a bonus for an editor if they don't have to teach you how it works from scratch. Get hold of a free trial version and learn the basics. It will really make you stand out.

9. The future of magazines is definitely digital. Make sure you take every opportunity to get to grips with social media, SEO, blogs and websites. Knowing how to use a basic website content management system won't hurt, either.

10. Finally, some words of wisdom from an industry veteran I worked with. 'Always proofread everything three times - once for sense, once for structure and once for luck.' 

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10 September 2012 09:48 AM

Top Tips For Developing The Skills You Need For A Graduate Job

  • Network, network, network! Family, friends, contacts you meet by chance – it all counts!

  • Go to university careers fairs and employer presentations – not only can you pick up lots of helpful info on the industries you’re keen on, you will also have the chance to make a lasting impression with recruiters.


A final tip - believe in your own abilities and focus on presenting yourself as confident...but not arrogant. No one wants to spend all day working with someone who's full of themselves!

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10 September 2012 09:28 AM

Four Vital Skills for Landing your First Job

Graduate employers aren’t just interested in hiring candidates with the right qualifications – they’re also keen to meet people with the right skills for their company. The top skills graduate recruiters want are:

1. Commercial awareness - this is about knowing how a business works, how it’s positioned in the marketplace and how it relates to the wide economy.
    
2. Communication skills – this vital ability covers putting your point across effectively, public speaking, listening to people, writing well, and tailoring your message to your audience.

3. Motivation – are you someone who can pick themselves up again after a setback? Can you keep persevering when the going gets tough?


4. Confidence – can you be assertive without being arrogant? Can you master business lingo and meet company directors without sounding nervous? 


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21 August 2012 03:30 PM

3 Ways to Top Up Your Summer CV

So, the summer vacation is in full swing, any internships or summer placements are drawing to a close, and it's raining (again) - what's a bored student to do? Far from being a drag, the end of the summer vacation can be a great time to build up your skills and show future employers that you're capable of seeking out opportunities and making things happen. Read on for our Top Three Tips:

  1. Getting a part-time job can be a great way to keep busy, gain useful 'soft' skills such as communication and dealing with customers - and, of course, earn some much-needed cash before the Autumn loan payment kicks in! You can also use even the crummiest job to your advantage on those all-important application forms - click here to find out how.
  2. If jobs are thin on the ground - or if earning money isn't your main priority right now - why not look into volunteering locally? Summer is a great time to give something back to a cause you love. In fact, a lot of employers like to see volunteering on a CV because it suggests you're someone who's well-rounded and socially responsible.
  3. Learn something new! Yes, this may seem like the last thing you want to do after a year of studying hard, but it's a great way to add to that pesky 'Other Relevant Skills' section on application forms. This doesn't need to be a formal qualification - there are plenty of online courses where you can teach yourself a new language, learn some basic programming or brush up on your typing and Microsoft Office skills.

It goes without saying - don't forget to relax and unwind, too! You've got to be ready for the start of the new term and (more importantly) ready to party all night in Fresher's Week!


15 August 2012 12:27 PM

3 things graduates need to know about consulting

For many graduates, consulting has a glamourous ring to it – the idea of walking into a different organisation every fortnight and helping to smooth out their business issues. However, it’s notorious for being a highly demanding career path – have you got what it takes?

1.    Commitment

Consulting is not a profession for graduates who aren’t 100% committed to their career – it involves frequent travel and long hours, with often only a day week spent in your base office. If the idea of becoming closely acquainted with a variety of hotel facilities across the UK doesn’t faze you, then a graduate job in consulting might suit you.


2.    Diplomacy and tact
Consultants are often brought in to help organisations that are having difficulties, so an ability to empathise, be tactful and work collaboratively to solve problems is a valuable skill. 


3.    Organisational skills

You’re not going to be based in the same place all the time, so your ability to get (and keep) yourself organized needs to be top-notch.

Still think you’ve got what it takes? Find out more about careers in consulting by clicking here.


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08 August 2012 10:30 AM

Four things you need to know about a graduate career in law

Every year many hopeful graduates apply for coveted and scarce graduate schemes at top law firms. Known in the industry as training contracts, these demanding but well-rewarded positions often come with a hefty sponsorship deal to help graduates through the final stages of their legal training before they join the firm. If you’re one of these hopefuls, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons! Read on for our top things you must think about before you even start to fill out application forms:

1. Make sure you want to work in law for the right reasons
Do you have a real and genuine interest in the law? Do you believe you will find the role as a solicitor or barrister enjoyable and challenging, or are you only interested in the money and perceived prestige it can bring? Do you enjoy logic, details and intellectual challenge? Are you happy working through piles of paperwork? Can you explain complex terms clearly, to people who have no idea what you’re talking about, without sounding patronising? Be honest about your personality and skills, and you’ll be happier in the long run. But equally, don’t rule out law just because you have visions of brash City boys spending 18 hours a day in the office – there are many different types of law and many different law firm cultures. Don’t assume you won’t fit in because of your gender, background or personality. Which leads on to…

…

2. Research!
If the idea of this makes you glaze over, law is probably not the profession for you – it’s research-intensive! If you’re the kind of person who can pick out vital bits of study texts and speedily interpret them without plodding though the whole book, this will stand you in good stead. Find out all you can about the career paths and firms that interest you. Do you know the day-to-day differences between being a solicitor and a barrister (beyond ‘one of them wears a wig’)? Do you have a specific idea of the geographical area or specialism you want to work in, or are you looking for a company that will give you a broad range of experience? 



3. Work experience
This doesn’t have to be legal, particularly if you can demonstrate decent business experience – for example, if you had a placement year at university. If you can get on a vacation scheme at a large firm, this will help you decide if commercial law is for you – but if you can’t it’s not the end of the world! Voluntary work with legal aid organisations, shadowing a family friend who’s a barrister, or working part-time as an office assistant at high street law firms all count. Good employers will accept that people come from different backgrounds and can bring different things to the table. Having said that, if you turn up for an interview and tell a senior partner that you’ve got no business or legal experience but you want to be a lawyer because you like watching Boston Legal and you want to make loads of money, expect to get short shrift.



4. Be realistic about your prospects
If you don’t have, at MINIMUM, a mid-to-high 2.1 and at least one or two As at A-Level, you stand little chance of making it into a top law firm. There is huge competition for places, and although firms will take your circumstances into account, they do have to have a cut-off point somewhere! Last year there were 4,874 training places available, whilst for the same year 7,064 people registered on the LPC (the last stage of academic legal training) – so you need to be one of the best. Becoming a barrister is even more competitive and is really not for the faint-hearted – there are far more applicants every year than there are training places, and as the Bar is very academic in slant you really do need a First (or a lot of luck and a 2.1) to be in with a chance. The moral of the story is that it is probably not worth forking out the many thousands it will cost you to train in either profession if you’re unlikely to get a job at the end of it and make that money back. The exception to this rule is if you have high grades but just haven’t managed to secure a training contract that pays for your training before you start your legal studies, or if you have good grades but want to work for a smaller firm that doesn’t offer sponsorship. But if you have less than a solid, 65%+ 2.1, you are probably better off pursuing other career paths. Honesty with yourself is the best policy!

To find out more about different careers in law, click here.


The Law Society and the Bar Council websites are packed with useful information and are great place to start researching your legal career.


02 August 2012 03:18 PM

What to expect from summer internships

Summer internships are a great way to work out if a particular career path is right for you – and when you get to the stage of filling in application forms and going for graduate job interviews, they will help you demonstrate your motivation and understanding of the industry you want to work in. Placements in large organisations such as banks, law firms and consultancies tend to be highly structured and place great emphasis on giving you a real taster of life at a particular company.

On a typical summer placement with a large company, you’ll likely get to have a go at some of the following: 
    •    Going along to seminars or presentations
    •    Office-based work such as helping with research on projects
    •    Going to client meetings
    •    Taking part in a business task with other placement students and giving a presentation on this at the end of the placement
    •    Socials – many firms will wine and dine you at least once during your internship!

By the end of your placement, you’ll have a definite idea of whether the company – and the career itself – is a good fit for you. For more info on how to make the most of graduate internships, click here.

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