I recently attended a graduate jobs fair in Birmingham, UK. I was giving career advice and was seated at the start of the fair. I met just over 50 students in total and there was a common theme to their questions. Some of the questions were different but the majority of them were pretty similar. Two or three always seemed to come up. So, here’s what I learnt.
One of the most common career questions students ask:
1. I need some career advice – I have finished my degree, I don’t know what to do?
A) *I am speechless for 10s*
Honestly, what do you do in that case? First and foremost – that is not a question, it is a statement. There were people that had done all sorts of degrees making that statement – including but not limited to Law, Engineering, Marketing, etc.
So students, and a lot of them, are doing their degrees and graduating not knowing what to do. Umm… didn’t they have a careers service at university they could’ve spoken to?
I don’t want to be rude, but we need to be honest, and when the time comes, we need to tell students, “look, it will be too late if you start thinking about your career after you graduate”. I am not supporting careers services, but their case is similar to that of a restaurant. If I don’t go there, I wouldn’t know if the food is good or bad; but if the restaurant doesn’t advertise well, then it may never catch my attention.
To a few students and graduates, if not all, I did have to say, “you don’t expect me to make a decision for you, do you?”
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If you are a student, then remember that the best time to start thinking about your career is NOW! And this is not a cliche, it really is true. So when students or graduates ask what do to after finishing a degree, that is not a case of a need for career advice, it is a case of poor preparation. And I am being honest – I can gloss it over but I don’t do that, because I am sure that students have been sold enough hope at university!
2. I am finishing a degree but I don’t like it and don’t want to work in that field
It’s surprising how many students and graduates turned up with this question.
I have sympathy for those who asked this question. It isn’t all your mistake that you are finishing a degree and realise that you don’t want to work in that field.
However, it is not easy or reasonable to just ask what to do. The bottom line is you know you don’t want to do one thing. Then there are jobs which you can’t do because it is a specialist field, e.g. a lawyer cannot become a doctor or an engineer without re-educating. What you remain with are some broad fields like Management, Recruitment, Administration, Marketing, etc. But you can also look at Accountancy and other fields where employers are happy to consider graduates from different disciplines.
3. I am applying for jobs but not getting anything
Really? So you are applying for a lot of jobs but not receiving anything in return? Well, how are you applying for jobs? Is it just sending your CV wherever you see a vacancy advertised, or is it through an online application process?
And how many are you exactly applying for? Some say they do 2-3 applications per week, i.e. send their CV to someone and expect a job in return. No chance, nope! Unless you are lucky, you won’t get a job that way. Whether this is right or wrong shouldn’t matter to you, that’s how the recruiting model works and you need to adapt. Apply at 20 places a week and then I am happy to hear that you are applying and not hearing back.
If you do online applications and are not hearing back, then more often than not it is because you are not answering the questions correctly. For this you need to know about the STAR technique of answering questions and what systems run these application forms – get information on applicant tracking systems.
Recruitment has progressed and become cleverer. You may think you are good, but good isn’t good enough any more! You need to be better. Apply smartly.
There were a lot more valid careers questions. And I was glad I could help. As job seekers don’t get carried away with what a job fair is. No one is going to take your CV and give you a job. This is not what the fair is all about.
And next time when you have a chance to take career advice from me – come up a bit prepared. Email me beforehand and we can get talking; I even do a careers helpout so you can chat with me over that. But don’t turn up somewhat professionally dressed, polished shoes and then ask a dumb question.
I don’t want to make you feel low. I could charge you $200 an hour and be all philosophical and out of touch, but I don’t do that. For me – I want to help you, but I can only do that if you take a step forward.
So take that step and if you are not getting anywhere or need help with your career, comment below and we could chat.
P.s. I have also written a small guide on how you can get started with your jobsearch. No sign-up or money required 🙂
P.p.s here’s a pic of the Career Geek stand at the Birmingham job fair 🙂