Graduate success: my experience

Hi, I’m Vincent, a Masters student at Southampton Business School and I recently received a graduate job offer as an auditing trainee!

The aim of this post is to shed light on some of the application process from my own perspective. I understand many students who are reading this post are looking for a placement or internship, but much of the same process applies. So hopefully, my experience and understanding can provide a better guideline for those who are still  “job-hunting”.

My involvement in societies - here in the Taekwondo championship - really helped my job applications.

My involvement in societies – here in the Taekwondo championship – really helped my job applications.

Before Application

This stage is all about thinking ahead and trying to design your career blueprint. Instead of following what others have applied to, you should establish your own goals. I have used the following questions to assess myself. I suggest you do the same before filling in any application form:

  • What are my biggest skills and interest?
  • What type of jobs best match my above requirements?
  • How can joining this company fit into my long-term career goal? ( Your first job does not have to be your last job, but it should fit your future plan).

These three questions have twofold functions. First, you can avoid many unsuitable graduate employers that will neither be able to capitalise on your valuable talents and skill sets, nor which you can contribute significantly to (you don’t want to waste your precious summer time on some irrelevant job!) . Secondly, having thoroughly gone through these questions, you will have pre-empted the typical motivational questions of “Why this industry’ or ‘why this company’ in the later interview stage.

Kick-starting your job-hunting this way can really make your whole application a lot easier. The tactics of firing hundreds of CV to all kinds of roles without contemplation is not the most effective, as this is not only very time-consuming but it can also make your application appear hasty.

At the end of the day, these questions allow you to narrow down your search criteria and choose the right companies! (Remember this is a two way process, it’s not just the companies that are assessing you, it is also you scrutinising the company). If you have no clue of what you want to do for your internship, placement, or graduate role, I would recommend consulting your family, friends, or friendly Placements Office! Attending career fairs and reading the news provides a general picture for what is out there.

Application Forms and Interview

“Selective applying” would be the overall strategy I would recommend for graduate roles. It is better to apply to just a few companies with a great application (from the company ‘pool’ you have created from last part), than it is to send off loads of poorer applications. This also allows you time to examine and research your future employers.

Next, to pass the online tests, practice is the key. You can take advantage of the sample tests provided on the career department’s website. The thing about these online tests is that they are not technically difficult, so you just need sufficient practice to score better than the average candidate.

In terms of the interview, a nice thing you can do is to slowly build your own “competency library” which is grounded on your CV. Practice each example with your friends and in mock interviews with the placement team.

The bottom line is, do not expect to get an offer in your first attempt, but rather think of the whole thing as a learning process. Another student has discussed about this in a previous post “Fake it ’til you make it”. There is a learning curve that you will have to go through here. Hence, if you do get rejected, remember to ask for feedback from the recruiter, so that your next application can be improved based on the previous ones.

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