“Go to university; having a degree greatly increases your employability”, they said. But does it really? Here is just a little overview of my experience of job hunting in the last few months leading up to, and following my graduation.
I started hunting for jobs in March, when I’d signed for a house to stay in Cardiff after I finished my degree. I signed up for a lot of email notifications for job postings on Indeed and similar sites, and applied for anything I thought I could do: I started panicking about not having a job and form of income lined up. Mostly I was applying for receptionist, admin assistant and hospitality jobs: the sorts of positions I believed my previous customer service experience and degree-related skills would support me in. After weeks of applying and hearing nothing back, the frustration got a bit much and I decided to put it all on the back burner until I’d finished my exams; after all, my degree was the priority.
These few weeks really made me realise that finding a job was going to be really difficult. Even when on track for a First Class degree. Even with many years of experience and an internship to support my academic qualifications. Even having been sold by university open days that “even if you don’t follow a career in your degree subject, you will gain many transferrable skills which employers look for.” These things didn’t seem to be making a difference – I felt like I was being completely ignored.
Once I’d finished exams, I tried again with another wave of applications. Again, I sent out loads and if you’ve filled out a job application, you know just how long this takes (there was one application which actually took the majority of an afternoon and I believe I never heard back about it). Out of this wave, I had one reply. One. This is actually the position I am currently working in, at the Park Plaza hotel. I was so relieved to finally have a form of income lined up and it was such a long time coming, that it felt like a massive achievement.
Side note: Interestingly, after I’d received my offer for this job, I had a reply back from a previous application for a similar position in another hotel: they said they were impressed with my qualifications but were not taking my application any further. This was in spite of my five years’ experience in an identical role. What else were they looking for?
The key was persistence and confidence. I was seriously surprised how difficult it was to secure a job and had to get used to simply not hearing back about nearly every application I sent out. So no, it’s not a typical “graduate job”, but it’s been perfect; giving my brain a bit of a break, enabling me to pay my rent and continue living in Cardiff, and meet loads of really cool people.
In the last few weeks, I’ve finally had a career epiphany. I finally know what I want to do – it’s a miracle! And it’s an industry which is directly relevant to my degree. I researched local businesses, wrote some really strong (even if I do say so myself) cover letters and contacted them directly, enquiring about gaining work experience. I was confident that taking this personal and direct approach would prove more successful than the generic job application process I’d been through before. Additionally, I believed my degree – which was extremely relevant to the position – PLUS my previous internship in an identical field would stand me in strong stead for securing the odd week of unpaid work or shadowing. Still, out of nine emails, I received two replies.
With a stroke of luck, I spotted an internship being advertised online which sounded perfect. I applied, was interviewed less than 48 hours later and offered the position last week. I think this shows more than anything that success in a job hunt as a graduate is as much to do with timing and determination to not give up, as it is your degree and experience.
It also proves that a First Class degree and a ton of relevant experience isn’t necessarily a fast-forward ticket to landing job interviews; it’s simply another detail on your CV.
It’s been a journey, the last few months, and everyone’s experiences are bound to be different – particularly within different industries and positions. This is just a little overview of how I’ve found the process.
To read my first article published with Style of the City magazine – with whom I am undertaking my internship – which discusses the many different options available to graduates after they leave uni, click here.