Recent graduates will be turning their heads to job hunting in earnest after the summer break. It can be exciting and daunting. Each year, you hear stats of graduates’ struggles in finding working. Stories like “a third of grads took cleaning jobs”, “over 15k remain unemployed for 6+ months” and so on. The experience gap is often a barrier in the graduate job hunt. What can you do to overcome it and to show the relevance of your experience?
Having graduated in 2009, in the aftermath of the recession, I was fortunate enough to experience “the struggles of the graduate job hunt” first hand. No one was hiring graduates at that time. Even in 2014, seven years after the recession, the Guardian was still reporting on the impact on graduates.
While we may be clear of the recession, there’s still a lot of competition out there and landing your first job can be tough.
Of course, there are those who know exactly what career they want and have spent their lives building towards a single-minded goal. On the flip-side, there are many others who don’t know really what avenue to take after Uni and this poses a huge challenge.
It’s hard to apply and interview with conviction when you have only vague notions of the relevance of your experience or abilities in a professional space.
So, how can you overcome this?
Is degree-relevance important for your chosen career?
According to research, only half of UK graduates work in their respective field of study. So, arguably not that important. Rather than focusing on specific job skills, the “other half” will have relied on transferable skills acquired at Uni, joining the dots between their education and attributes needed to perform the required tasks.
These transferable skills come in many forms, from basic literacy and numeracy to more abstract skills like creative problem solving and social skills like being able to “read a room”.
If you haven’t identified your transferable skills, it’s time to do so. Otherwise, you may not know how uniquely qualified you really are, nor how marketable your CV is.
To give you some idea of how your degree can be made relevant to roles outside of your field, and what transferable skills you likely have, take a look at the digital marketing industry and examples below.
Maths, Computer science, Economics, Statistics, IT (Excel)
Digital Marketing is all about data. The one thing that sets digital apart from traditional Marketing is the ability to track, measure, compare, quantify and so on. Being analytically minded will put you in good stead whether you’re assessing budgets, reporting on performance, or providing insight to decision-makers.
Numeracy skills are so transferable that you could apply for any of the following exec roles: Pay-per-click (PPC), display advertising, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), email, online sales manager (e-commerce), digital analyst as well as “generic” marketing exec. The E-commerce world is especially reliant on data so applying your skills there could see your career skyrocket in no time.
Behavioural Sciences, Psychology, Sociology
People are at the heart of Marketing. Customer intent, persuasive writing, brand messaging and so on, are all about understanding behaviour and what motivates people.
For example, when posting on Facebook as a Social Media Manager, you have to consider the audience and how they will interpret the message. It must be crafted perfectly in order to get the intended result, while sense checked to avoid a backlash.
Influencer Outreach is all about persuasive written communication. You have to put yourself in the recipients’ shoes and consider their motivations, what will interest them, and how to effectively grab their attention in a short window of opportunity.
PPC, SEO & Content Marketing are all about customer intent. Specifically, when someone is searching Google, what are they really after and how can you best serve their needs? What will attract them to click, browse, purchase, share, and interact?
If none of these is your thing, then Account Management may be. Again, it’s a people-centric role. Building strong relationships with clients, getting under the hood of their problems, working together to provide solutions, solve challenges, and optimise results.
Art, Design, Graphic Design, Multimedia
While we can all dream about being the next Banksy, what better personal interest to turn into a career than art. At least, while waiting for that all-important break into the art scene.
As a graphic designer, you play both interpreter and visionary. You’ll be expected to push boundaries, deliver something cutting edge, wow and inspire people. All while getting a reliable pay-cheque.
Furthermore, you’ll be creating assets to be handed over to the Marketing teams to promote. You can see your work shared, liked, tweeted and featured across leading online publications – which, to be fair is more attention than most aspiring artists receive.
Creativity is far more than just design. Fancy yourself as an “ideas person”? The industry needs people who can come up, on demand, with engaging campaigns, shareable ideas, inspiring concepts, and innovative solutions.
English, English Literature, Media, Journalism, Creative Writing, PR
Content is the cornerstone of online marketing. After all, the internet IS content and you often hear the phrase “content is king”. Candidates with strong written communications are sought after for many roles. So, don’t settle for library work when you can be crafting your own mini masterpieces.
A mission-critical role is becoming a copywriter. From website copy to guest posts on leading blogs, from captivating slogans to press releases, you’ll have every opportunity to make an impact and showcase the power of the written word.
The role of someone in Content Marketing is so much more than just copy. It’s about interpreting brand values, defining “tone of voice”, researching new ideas and topics, generating exciting editorial calendars designed to engage a target audience, all while cultivating an online following.
We all have transferable skills
The examples above cover a huge range of academic areas that are applicable to digital marketing. You will have more relevant transferable skills and experience than you think.
Hardly anyone in Digital Marketing learned their specialist channels while at University. It’s a relatively new industry and we learn on the job, reading industry blogs, attending conferences and taking advice from our peers. Digital Marketing offers a huge range of roles for people will all sorts of degrees and backgrounds. And the same can also be said about many other industries.
In my experience as a hiring manager, candidates with enough experience to hit the ground running are hard to come by, so it’s an unrealistic expectation. Those who do have it, come at a premium rate (and with no guarantees). For this reason, many hiring managers look beyond the role criteria when assessing you and your CV.
Attitude is as important as experience
Displaying a positive attitude in the job hunt goes a long way. Don’t worry about role specifics and what you don’t know. Instead, show a willingness to learn in the face of lack of knowledge and experience gaps. That’s all most hiring managers want to see from a graduate.
If you’re stuck in an interview, it’s ok to say “I don’t really know, but it sounds really exciting” and even “can I research the question and get back to you?”
Struggling to get a foot in the door? Review your job hunt approach
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Not Einstein, but still a valid quote!
Don’t do what I once did and waste your time blasting your CV to every job going. Take a step back and reassess your job hunt approach. Read between the lines when looking at job descriptions. Work out how to showcase your transferable skills like the examples above. Then, weave these seamlessly into a perfect application.
Finally, don’t overlook SME’s and local businesses. According to a recent recruitment survey, smaller firms offer fantastic opportunities for graduates. They tend to advertise more discreetly and get fewer applications, therefore, are more likely to read CVs. To attract candidates in a competitive jobs market, they’re more likely to promote hands-on training and offer strong career progression.
No matter where you apply after graduation, the trick in the job hunt is to showcase your relevance through transferable skills.
Thanks for this post go to Dave Clough who heads up the Digital PR team at Belfast-based consultancy Glaze Digital. His background includes Marketing Management at Argos and senior positions for numerous leading digital agencies in London.