It is no secret that times have rarely been tougher for new graduates. All too often I hear about students who are failing to land graduate-level roles more than two years after university, and many end up taking part-time jobs just to make ends meet. But surely the burgeoning British start-up scene is racing to get their hands on all this raw talent?
Not necessarily, according to a new survey of 300 business decision makers. In fact, 81% of start-ups do not look specifically for a strong academic background while almost half (47%) rank work experience as the most important aspect of an ideal candidate. This shift in focus from academia to work experience is particularly worrying as university applications start to recover after the initial slump in 2012 following the introduction of higher fees.
The days when a degree guaranteed a student a cushy, well-paid job are long gone. They’ve now been replaced by an increasingly competitive market, with the supply of candidates far exceeding demand. This has led to the very modern phenomenon of applicants turning to stunts and gimmicks, such as hiring billboards or buying specific Google AdWords, to get themselves noticed by potential employers.
For some this has worked, but for the majority this technique is now viewed about as favourably as phone hacking for exclusive stories. In fact, the majority (88%) of businesses rejected gimmicky applications in favour of eye-catching, digital or interactive CVs or a well-maintained personal blog or website.
In today’s ultra-competitive business climate, start-ups have the luxury of choice amongst candidates. They look for entrepreneurialism and creativity in new employees as a matter of course, but increasingly they are also looking for candidates with tech woven into their DNA. 62% of respondents to our survey looked for software skills in potential employees, while a fifth went further and demanded proficiency in coding or programming.
What’s more, businesses across the board now expect that new employees will come with ready-made digital marketing skills and will act as online brand ambassadors. This all adds up to a significantly enhanced job spec for new graduates compared to their predecessors and an enormously competitive environment where even the slightest differentiator could be an advantage.
Here are my five top tips for new graduates looking for a foothold in the start-up scene:
1. Get some work experience – As our survey confirmed, good grades just isn’t enough anymore. To be successful and land the job you want, candidates need to have real-life experience of the business world under their belt well before they think of applying. Work experience, internships or apprenticeships are great ways of gaining insight into the business world, while they also provide businesses with an invaluable source of potential future employees. Even that part time job you had at uni, could demonstrate invaluable skills like time management, and organisational skills.
2. Find yourself a mentor – In the absence of suitable work placements, mentoring from an experienced professional in a graduate’s chosen field can be just as valuable. Mentors can provide advice, insight, introductions and feedback on everything from interviews to CVs, and will often act as a guiding hand through the early stages of a career. For mentors themselves the experience of giving back should be incredibly rewarding, and the chances are you could be advising the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Personally, I’ve experienced both sides of mentorship and have learned equal amounts from both.
3. Learn to network – The old adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is, for better or for worse, still true today. Whilst few graduates will land a job on the strength of their relationships alone, who you know can often help enormously. At the very least you are more likely to hear of jobs on the grapevine that may not be widely advertised.
4. Think about additional skills – 39% of start-ups in our survey felt that financial competency ranks higher in the skills expected of a start-up employee than an awareness of legal matters or communications challenges. Any extra skills will be a valuable string to your bow.
5. Be clever with social media – Take as much care of your Facebook profile as you do of your Linkedin profile. Businesses across the board (of all sizes) are ignoring the digital footprint of potential candidates: only 17% would consider searching for candidates’ backgrounds on Google. Those that are combing social media for background information favour Facebook as a source of information over LinkedIn with only 23% consulting the professional network. Graduates today should be one step ahead of their employers in this, after all, you’ve grown up with social media – we’re just getting to grips with it!
Originally Posted On: thebigchoice.com
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