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The Dreaded Graduate Job Search…

Rikesh ‘RKZ’ Chauhan dips into his personal experience of the dreaded job search after graduation and gives us his tips on how to be best placed to find a job after Uni…

Before i start, here’s a bit about me and my situation.  As with most graduates who were about to embark upon the big bad world, the first thing I said, after avoiding the corners of the graduation cap hitting me in the face on the way down, was ‘Now what??’

In December 2011, I was feeling pretty chuffed knowing that I had come away from university with a degree in Music. I was even happier knowing that I had an awesome job prior to graduation – heading up Digital Media at a Hip-Hop record label.

I was working – as most musicians do – to fuel my career. My notion was if I worked in the music industry, I’d have more opportunities to plug and network. This was going swimmingly until I was let go the following summer due to lack of funding. As I didn’t have a plan b, plus didn’t have much opportunity to make those network connections, nor was I paid a great deal during my time there, money soon became an issue. I couldn’t afford to go out much, had to employ a strict budget on everyday purchases and all the while frantically looking for work.

After utilising my time out of conventional work by making two years’ worth of music (and confusing the hell out of myself on the HMRC website), I set myself up for a string of musical releases which was a good start, but the quarterly royalty income I was getting as a newbie musician wasn’t cutting it. I jumped on the internship bandwagon because I was determined to use my skills – and degree – doing something I loved (digital/social media, video production, writing). However, the majority of internships only covered expenses, so I ended up doing a lot of work for no money. Ah, the curse of the internship.

The problem being a graduate in this economic climate is the fact that jobs are really hard to come by. A lot of companies know this and abuse their power by hiring interns to do invaluable work for peanuts. And they get away with it because experience is an invaluable asset in the long-term career hunt for those on the first rung of the career ladder, plus they have a bottomless well of eager graduates queuing up for that experience.  You want to get paid, do you?  Well in that case, we’ll find someone else willing to work for nothing.  Don’t let the door bump you on the arse on your way out.  You get the picture.

Here’s the life of a recent graduate in a comic strip nutshell:

It sucks, but opportunities are there provided you brand your self. Jobs are more competitive, and the class of competition is ever rising. In order to stand a chance, you need to stand out. Here are a few tips on preparing your self, post-Uni:

1. Be Flexible: if you’re studying, get a weekend job at your local shopping centre, or even at the University SU. It’s essential, and it’ll keep the Tesco-brand foods in supply. You’re at an age where you have the ability – and energy – to work your ass off. Don’t get lazy.

2. Save Money: I know you won’t, but you should at least try. Put some money aside every month, in a savings account that you can access. This allowed me to stay on top of my bills, and pretty much get my arse out of hot water.

3. Plan: Have a good idea of what you want to do once you leave University. Don’t finish your degree and decide to look for work after the summer. It’s always good to be ahead of the game.

4. Become Your Own Brand: your CV is everything you are and represent. I know the importance of this first hand: I had a pretty good CV down in words, but it was very ordinary looking and I rarely heard back from job applications. I decided to get my friend – who is dope at graphic design work – to give it a complete makeover. Pretty much every job I applied for with this CV, I heard back from. This is what I mean about your brand, it’s the definition of you. Make sure you make it the best you can – even if that includes twisting the arm of a talented friend.

5. Research: A friend of mine gave me some invaluable advice when applying for jobs: employers hate it when you address a cover letter as Dear Sir/Madam. It’s not hard to find the HR or head of a division on the company website. It’s the same as a press release, the more personal you make them, the better. Do your research, and spend a few minutes to go the extra mile.

6. Don’t Beat Yourself Up: chances are, you’ll get rejected a hundred times before you get an interview. You’ll go through a hundred interviews before you land a job. The key thing is not to give up at the 99th attempt.

We’re all in this together, so stick with it and don’t lose heart.  We’ll get there in the end, we just might have to eat a lot of Tesco value instant noodles in the meantime…

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