As a recent business grad currently working for an executive recruitment firm, I find myself reflecting on how it is I ended up in such a fortunate position.  Being a typical millennial I spend my fair share of time on the internet and have recently found myself reading articles and blogs highlighting just how hard it is for recent graduates to find employment. Again this prompted to ask how I ended up here?! After some considerable reflection time, I narrowed it down to a few key things that I think are possible for everyone to achieve and therefore have the following advice for current and future university students. 

1. Find yourself some mentors whose opinions you respect

I believe that this is key to building the foundations of your career. I was fortunate to be surrounded by some great mentors who were happy to share their knowledge with me about things they had learned throughout their careers, particularly some things they wish they had known at my age. Let’s face it when you’re at University (having finally become an adult) you can get caught up in your independence. But it’s important to remember that there are a lot of people out there with some great advice who are just waiting to help you! I found receiving their advice invaluable and was able to bounce ideas off them about where my career was headed and how I would add value to a future employer at the end of my degree. This leads me to my next point….

2. Start working while studying!

This was a key thing that was drilled into me by my mentors. I was a business student, one of thousands who would gain their degree and enter the workforce, I needed to stand out and working while studying was a great way to do this. I set about this task as early as possible and by the last year of my degree I was working 4 days a week as a recruitment consultant and studying full time. While this was of course challenging at times, my grades actually improved as being so busy pushed me to be organised and additionally I was learning on the job.

Now I know that being a student is a “full time” occupation, but as I’m sure many business students can attest to, I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands. While what you are learning at university is good, a lot of employers look for practical experience.  I know how daunting it can be going for those job interviews, having sat of both sides of the table in the recent past. Especially when you have the added pressures of exams and classes to attend. I know that the idea of working while studying may seem to go against the typical idea of “relaxed student life” that we only get to experience once. However I also know that the earlier you take the leap, the easier it will be, and the more “real” experience you will gain.  And I also know that this will put you ahead of the game when it comes to securing those coveted graduate program positions. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes, if they are presented with two recent graduates and one person has practical experience as well as their formal qualification, who are they going to pick?! It’s a no-brainer!

3. Surround yourself with like-minded people

As the old saying goes successful people surround themselves with other successful people. Now I’m not saying that I am successful (yet) I have a long way to go, but I will say that all of my friends and colleagues are ambitious and driven, and this pushes me to be so as well. My friends and I all have our own individual plans and goals in our respective fields and are extremely supportive of each other when it comes to achieving these. While I’m sure you don’t always want to talk about work with your friends, they can be great sounding boards when you’re facing difficult decisions. And let’s be honest, everyone has a little competitive streak within them, you don’t want to be that one person sitting at the table silently wishing you’d done things differently, while your friends talk about their great new careers. Surrounding yourself with successful people will push you to reach your potential.

Realistically finding a job post-degree is hard in the current market and you need to be aware of this from the start. I believe that the three points I’ve mentioned above can help you be prepared for this and are achievable for everyone. Remember to be proactive and make a plan! Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you when you’ve finished your study because it probably won’t happen! Trust your mentors, gain practical experience, bounce plans off friends and colleagues and ultimately set yourself apart from your graduating class!