It’s never too early to start making yourself stand out from the crowd, and a few simple things can really help boost your employability, Women in Technology managing director Maggie Berry explains.
Employability is something that, unfortunately, few students think about until it’s almost too late. Faced with the dissertation and exam pressures that accompany the final year of university, it’s understandable that personal branding and work experience do not rank highly on the list of a finalist’s concerns. The problem is then, that new graduates find themselves at the end of their education – and unsure of the next step.
Whether graduating still seems like a distant prospect or you’ve just finished your degree, it’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do after university. In a tough economic climate, competition for good, entry-level roles is fiercer than ever. But there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stand out from the crowd – for the right reasons.
While you’re still at university
You can boost your employability while you’re still at university by getting involved with clubs and societies. This may sound like a cliché that you’ve heard from your union a million times over, but being part of an industry-relevant student society looks great on your CV. While you’re studying take on internships if you can – as many as possible. Contact companies and ask for work experience – the more practical experience you have under your belt the better. Employers will be impressed with your initiative and work ethic, particularly when faced with a plethora of graduates with little understanding of workplace dynamics and appropriate behaviour.
Use social media in the right way
Use social media in the right way so you’re visible to recruiters and businesses. Facebook tends to be more of a casual medium, and you may have been on there for a long time, so maximise your privacy settings. If you can, erase any trace of embarrassing posts or photos. Even if you haven’t graduated yet, make a habit of doing this as it will save you a lot of trouble and awkwardness at a later stage. At the same time, you should be optimising your LinkedIn page so it’s relevant to your profession.
Use keywords and export your CV, leaving a phone number so employers can contact you. It shows you understand how the Internet is used professionally and puts you ahead of the game. The way you use social networks is key to your personal branding so it’s crucial to get it right. The Internet can also lead to industry networking events that you can attend, so keep your eyes and ears open.
Your personal branding should be an extension of yourself. It’s about enhancing and illuminating your best qualities, not inventing them. If you’re one way online but completely different in person, employers may think you’ve been dishonest. Jot down your best qualities and use those when interacting on the Internet. While it’s easy to get carried away with what you post in the ups and downs of job hunting, keep a dignified silence. Don’t go online and tweet about an interview, even if you think you have it in the bag. Keep cool about any potential opportunities and definitely don’t complain about them.
Start a blog or website
You could even go one step further and start a blog or website. Some of the best graduate jobs in recent years have been snapped up by people who went the extra mile.
Rather than simply mailing off CVs, start an industry-relevant blog or a “hire me” website that demonstrates the skills you need for the role you want. In doing so, you’re more likely to be noticed, and less likely to land a generic graduate job. People who ask for the job they want in a bold way often do get it!
Spelling and grammar
When it comes to applications for internships or graduate jobs, watch your spelling and grammar. Recruiters and employers will notice a misspelled word or an ill-placed punctuation mark. Make sure you print off your CV and covering letters and read them before you send them out. You can also instantly improve your employability by being more selective about the positions you’re applying for – and making sure each application is unique and pertains to the company and role you’re after.
Just being nice can make all the difference! Many students and graduates think that if they’re academically qualified and have the right experience, they’re guaranteed a job. This simply isn’t true – cultural fit is extremely important and if you seem like you might be difficult to work with, you won’t have much success. How you dress can be a deal-breaker too. Whether you’re at a networking event, interview or internship, you’ll be taken more seriously if you’re well groomed, smart and professional.
It may seem daunting to take those first steps into the world of work, but if you follow these tips, you’ll soon find yourself earning and on your way to career success. Good luck!