The realities of landing your first job after university

Published on: Fri, 27 Nov 2020
By: Claire, redwigwam

It’s a proud moment – receiving your graduation certificate – probably the proudest you’ve felt to date. Blood, sweat and tears (or at least just the latter) have gone into the process over the last three or four years and you’ve finally done it.

However, in some ways, it feels like you’ve yet to face the hardest part of the journey- landing your dream job in your chosen field. It’s daunting for every new graduate, and if you don’t feel a little apprehensive then I salute you.

In today’s job market, having a degree does not necessarily mean you will get a job straight away. It doesn’t mean you’re going to go straight into a well-paid position. It doesn’t even mean you will get the job over somebody without a degree but with more experience.

This may seem unfair. After all, you’ve ploughed through tons of research and spent the last few years holed up in the library writing essays or a dissertation and you definitely weren’t doing it so you could go into a job you could have gotten back in high school. However, I would like to point out that having a degree does give you the edge in most situations!

You may have heard the sentence ‘everyone has a degree nowadays’ and this is simply not true. Everyone does not have a degree. University is more accessible for people now but hat doesn’t mean everybody goes. Don’t let this misconception fool you into believing that your degree is somewhat of a generic achievement. Which leads me to my next point about why getting a job after university may be more difficult than imagined.

The types of jobs you are applying for are more often than not going to be the types of jobs other graduates are applying for. Essentially this means that whilst you may get knocked back, it could simply be because another graduate was successful. In any case, you just apply for the next one and let it go.

What you need to realise when you graduate is that simply using your degree certificate as proof of being able to do the job won’t always wash with employers. Instead, you need to use the knowledge you’ve gained from your degree and utilise these skills to insist on your competency for a role. An employer needs to know exactly what knowledge you’ve gained from your time in university and how this is relevant to the job you’ve applied for. After all, there are a whole host of new graduates out there for you to compete with!

I speak from personal experience when I say that accruing work experience related to your field throughout your university career is always a good idea. I didn’t make the most of this opportunity whilst studying and it has come back to bite me a few times.

Gaining a specialist knowledge through your course alongside valuable industry experience is really going to benefit you. Sometimes employers will value experience over theoretical knowledge.

Misconceptions about life after university will become all too real when you’re out there looking for work. Some people may think than to start out you have to undertake unpaid internships – which you don’t – and some will tell you that only people from top tier institutions will be considered for the best jobs, and again this is wrong. Unfortunately, some people also think that university is the hard part and they will be immediately rewarded will their ideal job at the finish line, and sadly this is once again wrong.

Under no circumstance is your dream career going to be handed to you on a plate but it is also a possibility if you really want it.

After graduation, you are going to have to put in the hard work all over again to prove yourself worthy of jobs, and you are likely to get knocked back from these jobs at some point too. My point is, however, that university is not a gateway to making the big bucks or living the dream, it is essentially preparing you in theory and in practice for what you will face in the real working world. So to sum up, you need to be prepared to put all your retained knowledge into action and prove your abilities.

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