Computer science degree

Seven questions for the uncertain graduate

Many graduates find themselves leaving university with little or no idea of where to start with the big wide world of graduate jobs. It’s even more daunting when you feel like everyone around you seems to have it worked out (don’t worry, they normally haven’t).

However, if you start by asking yourself these seven questions, you’ll soon find the right direction for you.


1. What motivates you?

Is the company culture a high priority? Are you interested in learning key expertise? Are you driven by money? Create a checklist of all the broad attributes you want your first job to have, both in what it will directly offer you, and the type of workplace you want to work in.

Other things worth considering include how rewarding you’d like the work to be, how quickly you’d like to grow and the location of the office. Once you’ve written your checklist the next thing to consider is…

2. What can I be flexible on?

Once you’ve written an extensive list of all the potential pros you’d like your company to have, rank them in order of importance to you.

Decide on a ceiling at which point you’d be willing to be flexible; your graduate role might not have everything on your list, but provided you can compromise on a few things, you’ll find you can tick off a lot of items.

The thought process behind doing this also helps you in starting to think in more depth about what’s important to you. Off the back of this you can start researching different graduate jobs that are most likely to fill up your checklist with ticks.

3. What size company do you want to work for?

Entry-level roles exist in everything from the largest companies in the UK to the newest start-ups. You’ll find that the top companies looking to hire a graduate will focus on a solid training system, and there’ll be a considerably more defined career path. This is partly due to the fact that they’ll have a far more substantial graduate scheme, which will have often been running for many years.

On the other hand, many graduates are attracted to the SME model as you’re more likely to be trusted to work self-sufficiently with more responsibility, more quickly. The day-to-day job tends to be more varied and you’re likely to develop entrepreneurial skills that you might be able to put to good work elsewhere.

4. What type of industry suits your skills?

Here’s where we get more specific. Consider the skills you’ve learnt both in education and outside of it; certain areas may ask for hard skills or degrees, while others will consider all applications provided they have the suitable level of certain, more general skills.

Careers such as management, sales, marketing, and even journalism can offer the relevant training in-house. Don’t be afraid to apply for work experience or short term internships in a range of sectors. The worst case scenario is that you can cross something off your list with certainty.

5. What type of role should you apply for?

Once you’ve come to a conclusion on the right sector for you it’s time to start your research. The type of role you might want to apply for will often fall back to your checklist of attributes you want from your job, but you can ask yourself other questions too.

For instance, if you’re looking at moving into marketing you need to consider whether you’re more analytical or creative, whether you want to work visually, or you want to write.

There will be a vast range of entry-level roles that someone with your experience would normally expect to apply for, but don’t be afraid to apply above that. Even if you’re rejected, you will have learnt something about your shortcomings and how to improve for the next application.

6. What do you want long term?

Work out whether you’ve got any longer term career aspirations. If you aren’t having success in finding any graduate jobs that appeal to you, but can find a senior management job that’s right up your street, take a look at the job requirements for your ideal role.

This is an easy way of finding the right entry-level role for you, as you’ll find a list of the kind of skills and experience you’ll need to attain to get there. Often you’ll find that once in a role your aspirations shift, but it’s a good way of motivating yourself if you find you have to do a less than ideal role to begin with.

7. Will I enjoy it?

Still the most useful careers advice I’ve ever received was on the importance of enjoying whatever you’re doing. If you enjoy what you do, you’ll find that you’re motivated to be good at it, and when you’re good at something, you can make money at it.

Yes this may seem over simplified, but at the end of the day you’ll need to find fulfilment in the thing you’ll be spending 5/7ths of your time doing. If you’re loving what you’re doing day in day out, or even just a part of it, then you’re far more likely to progress and succeed.

Do you have any other answers to these questions? Let us know in the comments below.

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