Find out what’s going on in the marketplace for graduates jobs and the latest news about employment prospects. We also use this page to share our ideas about what graduates can be doing now to improve their prospects of landing the job they’re looking for, either now or whilst they are still at university.

Assessment day coming up? Brush up on aptitude tests

Photograph: Alamy

The likelihood is that at some point in your job search as a graduate, you’ll be asked to complete an aptitude test. Virtually all large graduate recruitment schemes use psychometric testing at some stage, and although it can be anxiety provoking, this can be greatly reduced by PRACTISING. There are plenty of practice verbal and numerical tests available online, and they will help you familiarise yourself with the style of questions used by employers.

Applicants tend to be most apprehensive about numerical reasoning tests, which assess your aptitude for interpreting graphical and tabular data, and performing numerical operations with the data. Numerical reasoning tests are measuring your innate numerical potential and not your learned mathematical knowledge. They are also designed to be used for a broad cross-section of candidates. According to online assessment experts Assessment Day, the level of the maths involved in a numerical reasoning test is about GCSE level. The tricky part is interpreting the numerical data and figuring out what calculation is required, under the pressure of the count-down timer. The most common calculations you can expect in your numerical test are: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages and ratios.

So check out these other useful sites and get practising!
Brush up on maths at BBC Skillswise, try out tests on Numerical Reasoning Tests and Practice Aptitude Tests

Exam time? Let stress be your friend

Stressing over exams? Take 15 minutes out, have a coffee and watch this great TED talk about how to use stress to your advantage. Changing the way you feel about stress can make you healthier, more confident and able to rise to the challenge ahead of you.

For example, during times of stress, the hormone Oxytocin is released and that fine-tunes the brain’s social instincts, motivating you to talk to others and seek support as well as helping regenerate heart cells. Result – improved resilience and a stronger you!

Fake it till you become it – using the power of body language

Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist and in this TED talk she explains how her research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves.

She shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Why not use the technique when you’re about to go into that interview or difficult meeting? The science proves it really works!

Applying for a job? Don’t forget the cover letter!

Signing the deal

Will a good cover letter land you the job? Well, that might be asking too much but you should aim to write a cover letter that gets your CV read — or even plays a key role in getting you that interview.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good cover letter as part of your job search toolkit. You can use it to communicate information that doesn’t have a place on your CV — and it gives you the opportunity to show what a great fit you are for the job.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Research what’s important to the employer.

Set out the benefits that you can bring. The best cover letters illustrate the benefits you can bring to the employer. For example, customer care may be a real priority for the organisation, so being able to provide an example such as ‘I had positive feedback from customers when I had a Saturday job at….’ shows you understand what is important and have experience in that area so the employer can see the benefit you can offer their company.

Dig deep to understand what employers are really looking for in the role. The job ad will generally set out their priorities – make sure you address them and use the cover letter to provide examples of your relevant skills and experience.

Add a personal touch. Some really good cover letters have given a personal reason for the applicant’s interest in the position. For example:

‘Coming from York and as a graduate of the University of York, I’m very excited about the Marketing Officer position within the University and the possibility of returning to my home city.’
This also shows the employer you’re personally invested in the opportunity, and it’s a good move for them to consider someone who’s not just applying to everything they see on the job boards.

It takes time to customise you cover letter — but the employer will appreciate it and it will help you stand out from the crowd.

Studying vs Job Hunting – what’s the right balance?

This is a particular dilemma for final year students – you want to achieve the best result you can in your degree, yet are becoming increasingly aware that your degree isn’t an end in itself, but a stepping stone as you transition to the world of work.

The graduate social networking site Kloodle carried out some research which revealed that 32% of students believe that finding a job whilst at university is a hindrance and is interrupting the amount of studying done for exams and 56% of respondents felt they lack the right kind of advice from their university on how to manage job hunting so it doesn’t interfere with exams

So – do you put the thought of planning your career on hold and just concentrate on passing your exams? Our resounding response to this is NO! Landing your first job is challenging, but you want to give yourself the best chance of getting the job you want after you graduate and it’s unlikely to fall into your lap.

Take control of your job search and start planning now – it’s never too late

Here are some steps to take to get started:

Put some job planning time into your overall revision timetable and

– make use of your careers service whilst you’re still on campus.
– use the resources available to research industry sectors you might be interested in
– make time to attend careers events
– update your cv, see where you have gaps and look to fill them
– set up a Linked In profile
– start looking for jobs and APPLY

Resilience

A reminder of the importance of resilience, of ‘bouncing back’ as you navigate your career.

Resilience

Brand New You

‘You need to create your own personal brand.’ ‘You must develop an elevator pitch.’ You may have read about this as you prepare to apply for jobs. What does it actually mean? These phrases may sound clichéd but an effective elevator pitch is a useful part of your job seeking toolkit (and beyond).

It’s about finding your voice and telling your story in a succinct, punchy way.

Your elevator pitch should last about 30 seconds and it takes time to develop (“I’m going to make a long speech because I’ve not had the time to prepare a short one.” Churchill) so it’s never too early to start. You can change it and improve it as you gain more experience and reaction.

Getting started:
1 – write down everything you think you might want to say as it comes to mind, then refine.
Think about your purpose – what do you want to achieve and why? what do you offer(with examples), what problems do you solve, why you are interested in your listener, what are the benefits or advantages of working with you, what are your qualities, why should your listener care
2 – remove any jargon and create strong, short and powerful sentences. Eliminate unnecessary words yet use language that interests and excites your listener, not merely facts and figures.
3 – connect the sentences so they begin to flow and use language that feels right for you.
4 – make sure you have answered your listener’s question: What’s in it for me?
5 – memorise the key points and practice, practice practice – in front of a mirror, with a friend or family member. Just make sure you say it out loud as part of your practice and you will become comfortable telling your unique story.
6 – finally, what’s your ‘call to action’? What do you want your listener to do as a result of hearing your elevator pitch? Have a question ready. Do you want an interview? Do you want the name of the best person for you to speak to in the organisation?

When you’ve created your ‘elevator pitch’, you’ll find it useful in many ways – from careers fairs, to networking, to interviews. And it’s a powerful technique to have under your belt when you have started your career in any organisation.

Why you shouldn’t forget those softer skills

85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Only 15% is due to technical knowledge.

Carnegie Institute of Technology

Should I stay or should I go?

Graduates fall into one of four categories when it comes to where they take their first job:

Regional loyals study in the region where they were domiciled (i.e. where they lived before going to study) and remain in that region to work.
Regional returners move out of their domicile region to study, but return to their domicile to work.
Regional stayers travel away to study, and stay there to work.
Regional incomers find work in a region where they didn’t study or were domiciled.

Which category do you see yourself falling into ?

The majority of graduates (over 70%) are ‘loyals’ or ‘returners’. Graduates in these groups are more likely to be women, more likely to have studied part time and and to have a job in education. ‘Loyals’ tend to be based in Scotland or Northern Ireland and of ‘returners’, East of England and the South East are the most popular regions.
Nearly 1 in 6 ‘stayers’ work as health professionals, as a group they are more likely to work in the Arts and they tend to be the youngest graduates (age 21-24). 18% of the graduates were ‘incomers’, and they often move to a new area looking for higher paid work, such as management, business or engineering. Unsurprisingly, London is the most popular destination for graduates in this category.

The data is of particular interest to universities and employers as they look to retain graduate talent in their region.

This analysis was carried out by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit – read the full report here

Emotional Intelligence? What’s that about? And why do I need it?

Studies have shown that there’s a positive correlation between Emotional Intelligence (EI) and graduate employability, but what is it? The term, and much of the thinking, has been popularised by Daniel Goleman, who defines it as ‘the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.’

According to a model developed by Goleman and used by the Hay Group (the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory), Emotional Intelligence has four key characteristics:

Graduates should work on developing their Emotional Intelligence to achieve their maximum employability potential

Self awareness is about knowing yourself and the ability to gauge your emotions. If you understand why you respond in a particular way to a situation, then you can manage it better and so reduce stress. The other side of the self awareness coin is understanding the way others respond to you.
Self-management is the capacity to manage any impulsive feelings you might have. This includes how you adapt to changing situations in a positive way and making sure you don’t overreact.
Social awareness is about understanding the needs and worries that others might have. This is all about empathy and having this competence enables you to relate to others, making them feel you understand where they are coming from – putting yourself in their shoes.
Relationship management is a talent for developing relationships, influencing others, and with leaders, it is the ability to inspire those around you.

What you can do about it? In effect, if you’re interacting at all with others (customer or client facing, or as part of a team) then you need to have a high level of Emotional Intelligence. The good news is that EI can be learned or developed; it’s not part of your hard-wiring. A starting point for graduates is to look at your interpersonal skills. Why not ask a trusted friend/ relative to give you some feedback about how they think you come across in the four EI characteristics mentioned above? Then pick one area where you want to make a simple change – and practise. Let the person who gave you feedback know you are working on this change and ask them to let you know how you’re doing.

Make that experience work for you

Although your focus is understandably on getting a good degree, today’s employers are looking for a balance, no matter what job sector you are interested in. So think about working in the bar at the union, volunteering in your local charity shop or organising events for one of the societies you are a member of. And don’t forget the Saturday job you had when you were sixteen or the mentoring programme you helped out with when you were still at school or the part time job you had stacking shelves in a supermarket when you were saving up to go travelling.

Put yourself in an employer’s shoes

What skills did you learn? Were you customer facing? What did you learn about dealing with people? Were there any challenges you had to deal with? How did it feel to be part of a team? Were you given training? Were you given any specific responsibilities? Did some of that experience make you realise what you didn’t want to do?

Think about how you you can use your experience to demonstrate the qualities employers are looking for, and make your examples relevant to the job you are applying for.

The importance of work experience

Many of the top 100 recruiters couldn’t be clearer –
if graduates have had no previous work experience at all, they are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes.

The gender gap is alive and kicking

You’re at university, doing well, working towards your finals, feeling somewhat nervous, but generally confident in your ability. You attend a careers fair, not 100% sure where your career path might lie, still feeling somewhat nervous yet now less confident in your ability. What happened? This is where the sexes diverge.

confidence and aspiration make the difference

Where male students might apply for a job if they feel they can do about 30% of it, females tend to want to make sure they can tick every box of the job requirements, and this plays out in the workplace. Career Study, commissioned by Oxford University, looked at 7 universities and found that 90% of male leavers ended up in graduate level jobs 6 months after graduation, whereas the corresponding figure for women was 81%. There were differences in pay too – starting salaries for males were £25,000 and for females, £21,000.
What’s behind these outcomes? Most of it comes down to a lack of confidence, a lack of aspiration and a struggle to move beyond the stereotypes.

What you can do about it? (This is relevant to males and females.) When you’re thinking about the right career for you, take a step back from peer pressure, family expectations, media representations. What are YOUR strengths, where are YOUR interests? Believe in yourself and believe that you really CAN go for that role.

It’s not all about academic performance

Employers are looking for rounded employees who can offer their business more than academic or technical knowledge – they’re also putting a premium on what have been traditionally thought of as ‘soft skills’, including communication, time management, respect for others and enthusiasm in your approach to work.

soft skills = essential skills

And there’s economic data to support the financial value of these skills to the UK economy from the Development Economics research group. Their analysis comes out at £88bn per year in terms of increased productivity, a reduction in operating costs and competitive advantage.

What do graduates need to think about? Getting experience that brings out those qualities. Have you had a Saturday job, a summer job, been involved in organising social events at school or uni? They are all great ways to show you have those essential skills.

Generation Z think it will be tougher to find a good career…..

students feel that much of the information just isn’t practical enough

…..compared to their parents, that is.  Over 75% of students believe they’ll find it more difficult than their parents did to achieve a good career, according to research carried out by the CII (Chartered Insurance Institute). More than 1500 sixth formers and university students were questioned and although they were confident in finding a job, there were less so about finding a graduate level job. Careers departments are seen as providing lots of information about various careers, but students feel that much of the information just isn’t practical enough. Unsurprisingly, work experience and internships stand out as the best ways of helping students identify the career they want to pursue.

So what to do? Take every chance you can to experience the working environment, when you’re at school, university and when you graduate, if you haven’t found the job you’re looking for. It will show initiative, look good on your cv, give you something relevant to talk about at interviews and will help you work out if that’s the type of job you want to pursue.