Prepare – no excuses!
If you have absolutely NO work experience when you graduate you are either a part time / OU graduate, a mature student with other things to do, or perhaps you have just not thought very far ahead. Your Uni lecture team, your career service, your summer holidays and even your parents’ employers can help. If all else fails, even data entry jobs allow you to put the name of the software you are using on to your CV and give you access to a working IT dept.
Go to the fairs the year BEFORE you graduate, and keep in touch.
Having recruited a number of graduates over many years, there are still those, while they have acquired their IT skills well, have not paid much attention to the simple courtesies of presenting a CV that is spelled correctly, complete forms properly, turned up for interview clean and tidy (I am not asking for designer suits, but unwashed jeans are rather off-putting), and, most vitally, have not prepared some things to say about what they have done in a positive and enthusiastic way, or relate it to the job applied for.
Make your profile
Have a public persona that you would like recruitment agencies to see, with your skills in evidence. Show any small experience in any field that you would like to work in.
Have a LinkedIn profile that presents you in a positive light:
- Get recommendation and and links – zero links comes up as a warning
- Professional looking photograph
- Identify your BCS membership, having joined the relevant specialist groups, it will not hurt to link them to your page
Make your own experience
If you cannot find the time to gain experience, then look for smaller amounts of volunteering, perhaps in parallel to your job hunt. Some of your local community projects, charity, school, playgroup, brownies etc. would like you to website for them. A lot of voluntary or community funded projects and charities have a lot of new govt requirements. Community Education sites are being required to keep computerised records and produce stats for the LSC.
Playgroups and nurseries are increasingly finding that computers would help them, but need help to get them started, and provide spreadsheets or simple databases. Most local authorities, health services, housing associations are really short of resources but cannot fund proper jobs, they do however, have routes in for work experience and summer students, that would provide some form of experience.
Universities also have work experience opportunities that may be used for recent graduates as well as undergrads. Experience can be found if you are not too desperate for money (A lot of the big charities are looking for volunteers). If you leave college without having built a website these days I would wonder, as most of the CVs I see proudly offer at least website as experience.
Work at it
Job hunting is a full time job, don’t underestimate the time that you will spend. Sign up to agencies and keep in touch.
Do your research to find something with a match, but don’t be afraid to step outside of that for anything that you find interesting that might help you achieve your goal.
Do apply to companies that you would like to work for, even if nothing has been advertised.
Be prepared to take the sort of job that you would have got after your A levels if you are still looking in January BUT brand this as a practical streak, a deliberate strategy to gain experience, effort to work up from the shop floor, a need to work close in a certain location, or whatever reason when you start in March competing with next year’s graduates if you have not managed to use this as a jump to better things.
I do believe that the Internet and the broadsheets serve graduates quite well and that there are a number of helpful sites, including almost every University.
Sign up to specialist recruiters, but keep in touch with your local high street agencies, and the local paper is not to be discounted...
Your CV content
If you are within 2 years of graduating, put detail of your thesis, project work etc – there is room.
Many women apologise for lack of experience – if you have worked in MacDonald’s you have a strong work ethic, speed, multi-tasking, customer facing skills and practical experience of EFTPoS, you may have cash handling and BACS skills – how many CVs show that?
If you are trying to get in to a retail HQ, knowledge of floor layout plans, JIT, stock rotation may be a plus even if not IT skills, if you have some words that explain how your shop floor experience will make you a better business oriented programmer.
Learn what your equivalents are – and apply for them too, but be ready to explain how transferable the skills are.
Market the generics – design skills travel from language to language, as do project management, data modelling – drop version numbers. Women, by and large, do not market their skills and one of the reasons I offer advice is to try to assist in this. One applicant offered web development, but said nothing about having used Java, asp, databases – agencies use key words – PUT THEM IN.
Read your own CV. Having made sure that everything is there, read it as if you are reading somebody else’s. You will realise that you ARE good enough for the job you are looking at, so apply for the higher level job, there will be fewer competing. Hold out for what you are worth. After all, what have you got to lose, but a little time.
Contributed by: Fran Paterson