It is a beautiful memory and wonderful moment to rejoice in – Graduation.

You’ve spent years of your life in education. The strife to get the best grades at school, to get the course you want at College or Sixth Form and all that so you can get that university placement you so badly desire. And here it is. You’ve finally made it. Graduation.

I myself have been there. Admittedly my choice of degree (Media) is a subject panned by critics and mocked by academics as a so called “soft degree”. Never the less I was proud of my 2nd class with honours.

In hindsight, I must admit, I wish I had have taken a more career focused course. Engineering, Computer Science or something similar comes to mind. If you are one of those who took or are taking a more career focused course, I.E one which offers specific Graduate programs, than this post is for you.

Having been a Graduate, having known personally many graduates who took those career focused courses and having been in the Recruitment industry placing graduates for several years myself, it has given me a great knowledge of the marketplace.

Firstly though, and without wanting to dampen the dream of that great placement, let’s clarify a few realities:

1-Companies want 1st Class Honours Grads from Red Brick Universities if possible

No sh!& Sherlock! This is pretty obvious and although many people might try to reason that your 2.2 from a rank 100+ university has just as much chance, the fact is it doesn’t. That being said getting a 1st from a Red Brick University is challenging, but recent figures show that there is a five fold rise in 1st class degrees being awarded.

2-Universities will always try to sell you the dream that their University is the right choice for you

For most Undergraduates getting into Cambridge, Oxford or UCL is a pipe dream and they simply won’t make it. There is nothing to be ashamed of as there are many other very good Universities UK wide. When considering a University though, do be aware of their actual rankings as companies will take this into account when assessing Graduate applicants. Here are the latest ranking tables for the UK as well as global rankings:

3-You will have competition for Graduate places…potentially hundreds

The average volume of applicants for each graduate job in the UK on recent statistics stands at 75:1. 75 to 1? If you were a betting person would you bet on those odds? It’s doubtful.

Therefore, you’ll need to spread your bets. Bluntly speaking, do consider that securing that dream graduate placement, although not impossible, is unlikely. The rational tactic is to be open minded concerning your applications. Apply for several graduate placement roles and aim for them to meet say 75% of your preferred criteria. If you do get your dream placement, great, but if not you have options.

4-Dream jobs aren’t always obvious or local

This link gives a write up and statistics to graduates relocating for placements. For obvious reasons, the larger cities are the most popular due to the companies there and the lifestyle balance. Therefore if you want competition for places, apply to graduate roles in London or Manchester, as will countless other graduates. It is of course easier said than done if, after considering you’ve just spent years working tirelessly for your degree, you want to live and work in a popular city. Unless it is imperative and impossible to be elsewhere, do not write off other locations. Take into account living costs, travel routes and proximity to larger towns and cities as there are location gems that can be easily overlooked.

5-Your choice of career path could provide an awkward road

In other words, dependent on your choice of degree, it could mean an easier or tougher route to obtain a post-graduation placement regardless of location and industry.

Most people understandably won’t want to compromise on their choice of career path. After all, why do all that work to get to University if you’re not going to study what you want to do. However bear in mind the level of competition and don’t get too downbeat if you’re beaten to the placements that you want.


Going back to the original question, how do you get the graduate placement you want?

There are things you can do to strengthen your chances of getting the placement you want regardless of any taxing circumstances. They won’t all necessarily work every time, but they can certainly strengthen your chances as the majority of your competition for those placements will not have even considered any of them.

So with that here’s the top tips:

  1. Be Pro-active with your applications. By this, applying for graduate placements just before your graduation day doesn’t count. If you really want to standout you need to make your name known to the right people in that company well in advance. Wise tactics are writing directly to the company a year in advance and following up with a call to reinforce your interest. Even offering to volunteer your services for free so that you can demonstrate your suitability and zeal on working for them specifically over the summer break is an option. Be persistent and avoid giving in just because you didn’t get a reply the first time. Once you do get a reply, even if it’s a thanks for the offer, but no thanks your name is known to them. Therefore when the applications come in for that years graduate influx your name will be remembered and thus much more likely to be considered by association. (Do avoid following them home from work as that’s just going too far)


  1. Don’t just have one dream job with one dream company. You should find other dream job opportunities with other dream companies. They are out there, you just need to do your homework and look for them. Not all companies will even actively advertise their roles. Many have connections with Recruiters who simply build a portfolio of good graduates so that when their clients need someone they go to their preferred recruitment agency who have a ready prepared list. Get yourself on that list by applying to grad jobs and speaking to Recruiters. You need to get yourself out there and that way you’ll create the opportunities and openings for other dream graduate jobs.


  1. Get a LinkedIn profile. Even if you aready have one make it look professional, credible and effective. If you need inspiration check mine out or other 500+ connected people. Try to get yourself connected with Directors, hiring managers, internal and external recruiters, Talent Acquisition Manager’s and HR people at the companies you want to join. You can even Inmail them to see about opportunities. And again, you’ll get your name out there. You don’t need the paid LinkedIn package, the free version will do all you need.


  1. Have a Portfolio in place in both hard copy and digital versions. By portfolio I mean work examples, references, any work experience examples, testimonials, photographs/stills etc. Make it organised, have the hard copy in a nice binder (leather or plush material) and for any interviews bring it with you. Use the digital copy to accompany any applications.


  1. Have your CV professionally done or if you are doing it yourself ensure that it looks the part. That doesn’t mean checking it off with Mum or Dad. Have someone who will give you construction criticism approve of it. The best people are experienced hiring managers or people involved in recruitment. They could be family, friends, friends of friends etc. Make sure you get someone who knows what they are doing and remember, if they have criticisms and improvements to suggest then it’s only going to improve your CV.

Here is a link to a previous post on CV Writing if you want to write one yourself.


  1. When you apply for a job, tweak the opening personal statement of your CV to be specific to the job that you are applying for. If a hiring manager looks at the CV and right from the off they see that you are specifically looking to do that job, they are much more likely to consider you. Also avoid the dreary “I am effective in a team, but equally adept working individually” in your Personal Statement part of your CV. It’s cliched nonsense and it won’t make you stand out.


  1. When applying – apply at around 9am in the morning. Why? You’ll be top of the new email lists for whoever is assessing your CV. If you’ve applied at 7pm the night before just after they’ve gone home and when every other graduates are doing the same thing, you’ll find your CV way down the list. When I put a graduate advert out I might have 20 good applicants, but another 150 that are completely irrelevant chancers. Consider a hiring manager will be a lot sharper and more attentive at the top of the list than when they’ve drudged through 70 or 80 applications. A quick mistake and your CV could go under the raider. Easy done.


  1. Finally, do not fear rejection and let it get you down. It’s so easy for Graduates with high hopes to take things personally and give up prematurely. I know I struggled with this when I left university until I got to know the rules of the game. By rules of the game I mean that you’ll need to apply to a number of jobs, be prepared to be persistent, don’t expect to get any results or even replies to your applications straight away and stay focused. Do that and you’re much more likely to get somewhere. But if you start wallowing in self pitty, flicking through Instagram and getting caught up watching Netflix you’re missing the point. Stay focused.



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