For graduates setting off on their early career paths post-university, the outlook looks a lot rosier than it did just a couple of years ago. As businesses recover from the after-effects of the pandemic and employment rates continue to rise, there are more opportunities for graduates to secure their dream first roles.
But while employers are offering more entry-level positions, there’s a concern that pandemic-affected graduates leave university less work-ready and with fewer employment experiences than many of their predecessors, meaning employers may need a bit of extra convincing before taking on a recent graduate.
If you’re a graduate struggling to grab the attention of recruiters, one effective way to make yourself more employable in the eyes of a hiring manager is by ‘upskilling’. Expanding your skill set and boosting your experience will show a potential employer you’re proactive, highly-motivated and career-driven, and it can often teach the kind of skills an employer is looking for.
In this post, we’ve taken a look at what you can do as a graduate to upskill yourself and appeal to recruiters post-COVID.
Find out what skills you need
If you’re set on a particular role or want to work in a certain industry, it’s a good idea to take a look at some relevant job adverts. Find out what recruiters and businesses are actually looking for; responsibilities will vary depending on the company and demands of the role, of course, but most will be looking for similar skills and competencies.
Even if you’ve just completed a degree in that area, there are plenty of other skills that will be needed in the job that you might not have learnt during your course — not everything can be taught in a classroom or over Zoom, after all. Many job adverts will include a list of extra things the employer is looking for, and if you can tick even a few of them off you stand a better chance of securing the position than less-prepped candidates.
If you don’t know exactly what you want to do (and that’s okay, many graduates take a while to figure out their career aspirations), have a look at what jobs are being advertised to help you narrow down what you’re aiming for and start picking up some skills.
Once you know what recruiters are looking for, you’ll have an understanding of the gaps in your skills and knowledge. Most entry-level positions won’t expect you to have bundles of experience (and it’s likely you’ll have little to none-at-all at this stage), but there are likely to be some key skills you can teach yourself to help your application stand out among the rest.
It might be as simple as brushing up on your spreadsheet skills, or you might want to learn how to use a piece of software that most businesses in that industry use — if you’re a graphic designer, for instance, try to find out what design software the company uses and find some tutorials on how it works. You may even need to go in with a basic understanding of a whole new area you’ve never explored before.
Fortunately there are thousands of online courses available that can help you — just take a look at somewhere like Skillshare. Additional qualifications will not only help to make your CV look more impressive, but they’ll show you’re proactive and keen to learn — important traits that any hiring manager should look upon favorably.
Set up your own website
It’s easier than ever to create and manage a website these days, with drag-and-drop website builders, easy-to-navigate content management systems and fully-managed hosting services meaning almost anyone can have a great-looking site up and running in no time.
It’s also a great way to showcase your talents to prospective employers: even if you’re not an aspiring web developer, a personal website shows you mean business. You could set up any of the following types of sites to boost your employability, for example:
- A blog: blogging is a great way to express your creativity but also refine a number of key skills that can help to boost your CV.
- A portfolio: creating an online portfolio of your previous work is the ideal way to showcase your skills to potential employers.
- An ecommerce store: it might sound like a stretch, but setting up your own ecommerce store is a great way to gain some real-life work experience and valuable business skills.
WordPress is a great platform for beginners (it’s easy to use and comes with thousands of pre-built themes) and when hosted through a fast and reliable hosting provider you won’t have to worry about your site going down or loading slowly — neither of those will look very good in the eyes of an employer.
Take on temporary employment
Often, graduates face a seemingly impossible dilemma when going for their first roles — the company will say they want experience, but how are you supposed to gain experience if no one is willing to offer you a role without it? It’s the ultimate catch-22.
One way to combat that is by taking on temporary work in the interim; even if it’s not the type of role you’re looking for (or even if it’s in a completely different industry), there are always plenty of temporary and part-time roles available that can help you gain experience of the working world and start to build some important skills that an employer will be looking for.
It’ll mean you’re earning money in the short-term too, of course, and while the work may not be particularly enriching or inspiring, it’ll give you a better chance of securing the job you really want in the not-too-distant future.
Another way to upskill yourself and stand out to recruiters is to volunteer for a charity or non-profit organization, especially if you’re thinking of working in the charity sector in the future. Even if you’re not, there are a huge range of volunteering opportunities, from admin and office work to teaching, conservation, research, or fundraising.
If you’re not ready to jump straight into employment post-graduation, why not take some time out and volunteer abroad? You could help teach English in a foreign country, for example, or participate in conservation projects overseas. This will be an impressive addition to your CV, but it’ll also teach you important life skills that’ll be valuable to an employer.
Even volunteering part-time for a day or two each week can give you some invaluable skills and experience, and you’ll also start to build up a network of contacts who might be able to help you with your job search in the future.
There’s a lot of competition for graduate jobs post-COVID, but there are plenty of ways that you can upskill yourself so that you stand out to recruiters. Focus on the industry or role that you want to pursue and teach yourself, volunteer, and gain as much experience as you can.