Alistair Cox, CEO of Hays says the advice available to undergraduates is failing to keep pace with the changing employment landscape. The process of securing a first job can involve applying for hundreds of openings before finding the perfect role, sometimes leaving the jobseeker feeling frustrated and demoralised. Professional advice at this stage of a person’s career can be vital in helping to navigate these daunting first few steps, however, as the role of technology, changing employer appetites and talent flows have helped to alter the environment dramatically, Alistair questions how useful some of this advice may be.
Alistair explains, “We owe it to the next generation to give them the most relevant advice so that they have the best possible chance of making the best decisions at this early stage in their careers – a stage, I’m sure you would agree, which is often the most influential for so many reasons.”
If you are entering the world of work or know someone who is, Alistair’s advice might make the difference.
1. Be open minded and adaptable now, and in the future
The most obvious direction to take when looking for a first job would be to look toward a role that naturally leads on from a person’s degree. However, Alistair states jobseekers must think about the areas they are passionate about instead, as jobs are constantly evolving and new professions are being created all the time.
Alistair adds, “So, rather than being pigeon-holed by your degree, really think about how the skills you’ve acquired throughout your studies can be applied to a field that you’re intrigued by. The recent integration of skills that I've witnessed in technology, marketing, design and engineering for example throws up opportunities to move into areas that previously may not have seemed logical.”
2. Take your time to really consider your options
While the end goal is find a job, it is important jobseekers consider their options before rather than choosing the first role that is available to them. As Alistair states after a person finishes their studies it can feel like a race to secure their first role, but during the early stages of a career the choices made will help to mould that person into the professional they will eventually become.
Alistair offered this advice; “Don't fall into the trap of assuming that 'starter' job is anything more than just an entree into the world of work and use it to the fullest to get the role you really want, because that ‘right’ job will build the foundations of your long-term career, equip you for the future, and ensure you stand head and shoulders above the rest, in an increasingly competitive job market.
3. Learning doesn’t stop just because you’ve graduated
Education and self-improvement shouldn’t end just because they have left university, set out on a path of lifelong learning to keep your skills relevant. Every sector is likely to be affected by continued discoveries and developments in technology, so you jobseekers must adapt with the changing world around them.
Alistair says, “You should never allow yourself to stop learning. Ultimately, continuous upskilling should feel like a habit, rather than a chore. And this is something you and only you can instil in yourself – so it's never too early to start. There are a host of online courses, live events or even teach-yourself podcasts available across a variety of subjects. My advice would be to read widely, consider how your chosen industry is likely to change over the next five years and what you can learn from other sectors that may point to the future of your own.”
4. Appreciate the benefits temp or contract roles could bring you
Alistair advises that temporary work can be the perfect stop gap when looking for a permanent position, especially if you have only just left university, as this is a great way of improving your skill base while adding valuable experience to your CV.
Alistair states, “Temp or contract roles are much more than simply providing convenient stop-gap jobs while searching for a permanent position. If you’re fresh out of university, temp or contract work can be a fantastic way to refine your skillset and sample different opportunities.”
5. Don’t ever lose your sense of adventure
While at university the majority of people will have learnt many things and eyes opened to the world and everything there is on offer. Alistair states it’s important jobseekers don’t lose this passion and excitement.
Alistair says, “Never lose that sense of adventure that you’ve no doubt developed over the past few years. Approach this next stage of your career journey with enthusiasm, creativity and an unwavering positive spirit. All of these things will stand you in good stead to stand above the rest in what is, and will continue to be, an unpredictable world of work.”
Alistair concludes by advising undergraduates to understand what they’re passionate about and what really interests them. Once the jobseeker has a clearer idea of what their career plan might look like they should then consider what they need to do to get there, including approaching people who already work in that sector or at the particular company they would like to seek an opportunity at. To stand themselves in good stead jobseekers should also take the chance to look at the challenges the sector faces and take the time to understand them, as this will help them to stand out from the crowd.
Alistair explains, “The candidates who grasp the issues of today are often those invited for an interview tomorrow and more than likely the ones who enjoy a varied and fulfilling career.”