11 Things You Can do Right Now to Prepare For Life as a Graduate

job search skills

This article is sponsored by StudyPerth

We’ve talked you through preparation in studying overseas, navigating international student life, and how to make the most of your study abroad experience, but what about when you’ve finished studying? It might seem daunting to even think about finding a job after graduation, but this can be the start of an exciting and inspiring adventure as you begin to shape your future and start the next chapter in your life. Here are some of the top job search skills to master – ahead of your graduation.

Get to know the local job market

While there are certain jobs that are in-demand across Australia (the Government website Job Outlook is a great spot for finding out what these jobs are, and how much demand there is), each city can have its own specific jobs they need people for. Getting to know the local job market is an important first step, as it will show you what kinds of opportunities are available to you as a graduate, which employers are hiring, and simply how many jobs are available. Take a look at employment websites relevant to your state to get an idea of what to expect. In Perth, for example, you can use websites like Jobs & Skills WA, the StudyPerth Jobs Board or even Seek and LinkedIn, to gauge what’s out there.

Understand what employers want

Knowing and understanding what employers are looking for is a great place to start. Consider the type of employers you’re keen to work with and the roles your qualifications and skills match. Then, really get to know how their business works and the problems they might face. You can do this in lots of different ways. Maybe you know someone who works in a similar field or workplace. Invite them for a coffee and ask them everything they know about the role, the business, and the employer. 

On the other hand, an option to learn more could be to volunteer for an internship, or you could even reach out to someone in your community via LinkedIn. Think of any important questions, such as: 

  • What problems could you fix? 
  • How could your skills be of benefit to their team? 
  • Which of your personality traits could add value to their business? 

This method of researching the job market will also help you prepare for interviews, so you’re multitasking! Not sure which industry or role might be a good fit for you? Check out StudyPerth ProsPER, which includes a free Career Personality Questionnaire here.

Job search like a pro

Use all the tools you’ve gained while studying to discover, research, talk to your mentors and advisors, and attend networking events designed for the spaces you’d like to work in. It’s estimated that a large percentage of job vacancies aren’t advertised on the usual job boards. Instead, they’re found through word-of-mouth recommendations or people introducing each other. Start talking to people about what you’d like to do, where, and with whom.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at platforms like SeekLinkedIn, and Pedestrian Jobs;  it just means you need to think bigger! Look at state- or city-specific websites, such as Jobs WA for WA-based graduates. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to directly reach out to a company if there’s a specific job you’re interested in either. Taking the initiative and going the extra mile are key qualities that lots of employers are looking out for. 

Craft a good resume  

First impressions matter. Hopefully you’ve been able to arrange an introduction, or talk to the hiring manager directly, but if not, your CV (or resume) is incredibly important. If you’re unsure where to start you might consider finding out if your education provider has a student services CV writing service. There are also plenty of good online guides to compiling all the necessary elements.  

The basic principles include keeping it concise, easy-to-read and relevant. For example, you generally don’t need to include your high school education. If you feel your CV is lacking, you might consider looking for an internship or work experience – see next section.

It’s also helpful to remember that most job postings ask you to include a cover letter, which gives you the ideal opportunity to talk about your willingness to learn, your other important skills and how you could help their business.

Undertake internships

Internships give you direct experience within businesses that you want to work for in the future. In short, an internship is experience and CV gold! It’s a particularly great way to break into sought-after industries like media or technology, and can set you up with industry contacts for the future. Make a good impression while you’re there and hopefully you’ll be top of the list when the next entry-level position pops up. 

If you’re not sure where to start or feel you’re not quite prepared for an internship you can find StudyPerth’s free course on internship preparation here. And, if you’re studying in Perth and want to gain some on-the-job training, you can check out StudyPerth’s guide to internships and work experience.

Learn to interview

Prepare, prepare, prepare! This is the first and most effective interview technique out there. Know the company, look at their website, understand their business and more importantly the role you’re applying for and that’ll help you answer interview questions without missing a beat. A great way to have well thought out answers at the ready, is to write down the questions they might ask you and then craft your answers while you have time to really think about them.

If you’re feeling nervous, work on your confidence by asking a friend or mentor to role-play an interview situation with you, or failing that, film yourself answering questions so you can see how you might improve. Finally, it goes without saying that you should dress for the role you’d like to be chosen for and make sure you’re polite, professional and personable. 

Master your communication skills

It’s often assumed that confidence and clear communication are personality traits rather than learned behaviours, but we’re here to tell you that’s not the case. Confidence can be built and communication skills can be learned! It might take a bit of effort and a willingness to be vulnerable, but it can certainly be done and there are so many resources to help you do just that.

Most education providers have language skill courses running alongside their other services, as well as written language refreshers, group study classes, and cultural clubs. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, reach out to someone you know who could help. Practising the skills you’d like to improve is the best way to boost your confidence and help you feel capable communicating with those around you. 

Improve your soft skills 

Working with others requires more than just the right qualification. Soft skills include teamwork, creativity, problem-solving and leadership, and depending on your area of expertise, could be valued more than conventional competence markers. The good news is that these skills are things you’re always working on and learning about. If you’re worried you might need to work on these skills more, you can do so many things to improve them. 

Volunteer, sign up to play with a sports team, join a local group, put your hand up for a committee role, get involved organising an event, take on a physical challenge or enter a team competition with friends. All of these opportunities will help you learn and build on your soft skills. Your cover letter is a great place to talk about these experiences and how they could complement the role you’re applying for. 

Establish good references 

While it’s helpful for a reference to be from a person you have worked for, if you’re applying for an entry-level position, you could perhaps cast the net a little wider. People who you have volunteered for, the captain of your sports team, your study advisor, your internship manager, or your mentor are all good examples of referees. It’s a good idea to tell them what you’re applying for and help them understand what you think the person reading the reference might be looking for.

It’s also common for employers to call and ask referees about you, so make sure they know about it and ensure that you thank them. 

Network

So many people from entry-level students right through to people who have years of workplace experience are terrified of networking. It’s understandable given no-one likes to go to an event where they don’t know anyone. If this applies to you, if it’s appropriate grab a good friend and go along together. Most of the time these events are good fun and are full of the kinds of people you’d like to connect with. Try to approach them with the idea that these people will probably be like-minded, open-minded and keen to meet other people given they work in the industry you’re interested in and have attended the event in the first place. 

There’s likely to be other people there who have never attended before, so you’ll find people to talk to and you’ll likely end up making contacts that benefit you for a long time to come. There are networking events across every state and territory in Australia. In Perth, for example, you’ll find each area has a Chamber of Commerce that usually runs monthly events, but there are also lots of specific groups to choose from, such as the Women’s Network AustraliaPerth Small Business (if you’ve launched your own business!) and Startup WA

Curate your online profile

It’s common practice for hiring managers to research potential candidates online. Be mindful that everything you put on social media can be found and seen by employers. It’s also recommended that you consider creating a LinkedIn profile so that managers can find you, see that you’re who you say you are. Include online portfolios, professional blogs and websites you curate if you have them so they can sample your handiwork.

If your social channels are full of content you’d rather your future employer didn’t see, have a serious think about making those channels private or taking down that content. 

For international students who are close to graduation or planning their future, StudyPerth’s ProsPER is a great online tool to help you get job-ready and stand out from the crowd.