Entering the jobs market and securing your ideal job is tougher than ever. While recent Association of Graduate Recruiters figures predict an increase in graduate vacancies and starting salaries for the first time in two years, graduates face a record level of competition for jobs and need a well planned career strategy to reach their goals.

Getting your ideal job is heavily dependent on how clear you are about what you want to do and how realistic you are about your abilities and aspirations. Becoming an Investment Banker at a top tier bank may be your ideal job, but do you have the skill set, experience and thoroughly researched career strategy you need to succeed?

The good news is the UK’s leading employers intend to increase their graduate recruitment by almost 10% in 2012 and starting salaries for graduate jobs are set to increase by up to 6%. There will also be substantial increases to the graduate intake at the City’s top investment banks and the high street banks. (High Fliers/AGR 2012)

On average each vacancy is attracting around 70 applications, Some industries are seeing a steep increase in applications. Consultant organisations, for example, have had an increase of graduate applications by an average of 75% when compared to a year ago. During these competitive times it’s worth noting the importance of presenting a high-quality CV.

With so many applicants competing for the same positions, employers are increasingly using a variety of methods to seek out the best candidates and discerning graduates are rising to the challenge to secure their ideal job. The majority of employers don’t limit their search to online applications and local advertising, but also actively market their graduate vacancies at university careers fairs and campus recruitment presentations.

Alexander Dubost met his current employer ICAP at the Cass Business School Careers Fair during his MSc in Finance programme last year. He was invited to interview after making a good impression on company representatives at this invaluable networking opportunity.

Gaining industry contacts was one of the key reasons Michael Voice opted to undertake a postgraduate MSc course in Shipping, Supply Chain and Energy at Cass Business School. Voice admits he had to rethink his strategy of using the usual online methods of job seeking in order to find his ideal job. He contacted his Careers Service even before beginning his programme to see what he could do to boost his prospects upon graduating.

“I was advised to join the Shipping Society, which helps with industry knowledge and networking and also to look at doing an internship for practical experience. I just spent two weeks with a Greek Shipping company and I really learnt a lot about the industry and how to take my career to the next stage.”

Postgraduate study

Postgraduate study is one option to improve your chances but be prepared to maximise any opportunities as it’s a big investment of your time and resources and there is no guarantee of a job when you graduate. Reasons people site for choosing postgraduate study include increasing knowledge, professional experience and skills, to increase chance of employment in a chosen field and to progress their career.

There are many UK postgraduate courses to choose from for professions within City & Finance, Engineering & Technology and Business & Management so it is important to do your research to select the right course for you.

For instance, Cass Business School offers specialist MSc programmes in areas including; Actuarial, Finance, Insurance & Risk Management, Shipping, Supply Chain & Management. Ranked 3rd in the UK by the Financial Times, the Cass MSc in Management is popular for many students for the broad range of career options it can open up – from consulting to entrepreneurial opportunities.

Postgraduate study can help students focus on specific paths they may be interested in – but students have to be prepared to meet recruitment deadlines which now fall from as early as August.

Funding

How to fund your postgraduate study is a huge consideration for most people, but there are various ways to pay your way including awards from government-funded agencies, institutional scholarship and award schemes, plus learning funds, graduate teaching and research assistantships, charities, foundations and trusts – and if you can balance it, part-time work.

When choosing a programme, it’s well worth researching programmes that offer practical career development, industry contacts and opportunities to network. You may fit the role on paper, but recruiters continue to look for candidates with outstanding soft skills and excellent business etiquette that is in line with their company values and services. Graduates need to research what the company is looking for, what skills they can offer – and swiftly close the gap to show they are the best fit for the job.

Work experience

Having some work experience is now seen as a real benefit, if not a requirement, by employers. Particularly now that the trend is for most employers to offer work experience. Graduate recruiters emphasised the importance of work experience and the value it adds to job applications. A number of recruiters commented it would be difficult for candidates to demonstrate the skills and competencies that they were looking for if they did not have any prior work experience. Most of the UK’s leading graduate employers are offering paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates during the academic year 2011-2012 (High Fliers 2012).

Although the numbers of vacancies are set to increase, almost half the entry-level vacancies advertised this year by City investment banks and the leading law firms are likely to be filled by graduates who have already completed work experience with the employer. (High Fliers 2012)

If you haven’t undertaken an industrial placement or internship as an undergraduate, work experience gained indirectly in your desired sector is still a valuable way to develop the relevant skills required by a prospective employer. It gives you specific examples to talk about in interview about real life situations which you have responded to in a constructive and positive way to demonstrate you can add value to the company.

Joining clubs and societies, volunteering and part-time work, or a short-term placement, perhaps over the summer or one day a week, can help you hone tangible skills and open doors to future vacancies and more networking opportunities. Transferrable skills such as communication, problem solving and team work, and knowledge of the UK business etiquette are vital to any role, but do try and target specific projects that align with your future aspirations and be sure to discuss with the employer what you want to achieve during your time with them.

Career Coach Jenny Portalska at Cass Business School advises taking the time to focus on what you want to achieve in your career. “To ensure success you need to spend time reflecting on what really is your ‘ideal job’; think about what your interests, values and skills are; what are you really looking for? Having a well thought out career plan that has a clear goal in mind is very important to ensure that you make the right decisions along the way.”

About the Author

  • About Sara Newman: Sara is an online and print editor for Cass Business School. She specialises in careers and marketing content.

Sara Newman

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