A guide on how to get your first graduate job

Updated: Jan 29

Want to talk about reality shocks, let's talk about finishing uni. The best three years of your life have come to an end and now you’re thrown out into the real world.

You’re allowed to be a little melodramatic about it, it’s fine, we won’t judge.

However, being a graduate is actually pretty great. Sure, life might be a little different to what you’ve been used to, but you’ll soon forget about that when you’ve got a full-time salary to hold against your name.

So, how to get your first graduate job, let’s get into it.

Never underestimate the power of work experience

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before. It’s come from your teachers at school, your parents and probably your lecturers at uni – get work experience.

In the months leading up to your graduation, try to get as much work experience as you can. Most final year’s finish in about May every year. So, you’ll have at least a month and a half between handing in your dissertation and awkwardly standing around strangers while you throw caps into the air. Or, graduation, to some.

Ideally, you’ll have a few work experiences under your belt already throughout your time at university. But, to give your CV that final push, put those spare few weeks to good use and intern somewhere. Sure, it won’t pay you anything, but if you’ve still got your student loan or part-time job on to go, it shouldn’t be any different to your usual time as a student.

For most degrees, it doesn’t matter if you waltz into an interview with a first-class degree. Someone can come in after you with a 2:2 and a whole host of work experience and they’ll probably get the job over you. That’s because they’ve got the real-world experience that is far more useful than any piece of paper and £70k debt.

Clean up all of your social media profiles

It’s a ball ache, we know, but always go through your social media profiles with a fine-tooth comb. The number of horror stories you’ll hear about people who don’t get job offers because their interviewer found a photo of them off their face in Zante 2012 is sadly true.

Chances are, after three years at uni, you’ll have some questionable photos on your profiles. Best things to do is either remove the tags and save the photos to your computer for safekeeping or make everything private. And we mean private. Not just the ‘only friends can find me’, we mean full COVID-19 style lockdown on your accounts.

It might sound a little dramatic but when looking for a job it’s so important to have a professional online image. After a few months in your new job, you’ll have friends in the office who you’ll add online, and you can all laugh at each other’s horrendous pictures together. For the meantime, keep it under wraps.

Research the company before your interview

People love nothing more than talking about themselves. When you go into your interview, make sure to have a list of questions to ask them (they always pull this one out at the end). You’ll sound super switched-on if you ask them questions like:

  • Why are you hiring for this role, is the team expanding?

  • What will my typical day look like?

  • Do you have any upcoming projects that I might be working on?

Anything that throws the questions back at them is sure to impress. It shows you’ve done your research and you’re didn’t come to play. Don’t be afraid to interject into the conversation. If they start talking about something you’ve read on their website, comment on it – it’s proof you’ve looked into them!

Also, always remember to ask about the salary. It’s not uncommon for you to see the salary in the job advert marked as ‘competitive’. It won't be, it never is. What you're looking at is an average salary for the role so don’t get your hopes up.

If the salary isn’t marked on the job advert, ask about it in the interview. There’s nothing more disappointing than smashing an interview, being offered the job and finding out the salary is below your expectations.

Don’t be afraid to ask either. People sometimes feel uncomfortable asking about money but it actually shows that you’ve got your head screwed on right and you’re asking the right questions.

Try to stay motivated when you get rejected

We’re not going to sugar-coat things; you’ll almost definitely get rejected – more than once. If you think about it, there are millions of graduates leaving university at the same time and applying for the same jobs. Getting a graduate job can feel like a classic needle in a haystack for a long time.

There will always be that one person you know on Facebook bragging about how they’ve just landed their first graduate job the day after handing in their dissertation. Fuck em’, just ignore it.

It sounds corny but for the first time in your life, everyone is on a different path. Before, you’ve been at school or college and then went to university. Everyone is moving at the same pace. When you graduate, everyone suddenly splits off and some people have success after success while others have to wait a lot longer to find out what they want to do in life.

Basically, what we’re saying is to not compare yourself to others. It’s easier said than done and we’re not going to blame you for having the odd self-pity party when you’ve been sent another rejection email.

Just remember that you’ve got this. No matter how long it will take, you’ll get to where you’re meant to be going.

Have you got any tips on how to get your first graduate job?