Getting your first job: What every graduate needs to know

Jobs. They’re on the mind of every graduate when they finish their studies. But successfully landing one can be difficult for so many reasons and sometimes, you might not even realise that there are little mistakes you’ve made in the process that inhibit you from truly reaching out to potential employers.

So if you’re currently in the job-hunting phase or wish to prepare for life after studying, here are a few things to keep in mind when you start your career.

Designing your CV

Acquiring work experience during student life is certainly important but how these experiences are communicated on paper is just as crucial.

Information provided on a CV should be succinct and clear to understand while the layout of a CV should also look visually appealing. A well designed CV makes it easier for an employer to read and helps them get a clearer image of who has applied. Furthermore, a well-designed CV that doesn’t look like it has been borrowed from a generic layout on the internet will help graduates stand out as potential candidates.

In Australia, a two-page CV is generally the way to go so try and keep this in mind when constructing a CV for local employers.

Setting up a clear goal

Recent graduates may think that simply finding a job is a good enough goal but some mightn’t consider what their true ambition and future direction may be.

Having a goal helps an employer or recruiter understand more about the kind of person that is applying and determine whether an applicant is suited for a potentially longer career in that industry. For example, if someone applying for a law firm dealing specifically with environmental rights can’t demonstrate a long-standing passion for protecting nature, they might not be the right fit for a role.

Having a goal demonstrates ambition and those with ambition often have a plan to meet those goals so be sure to have something clear and let interviews know more about it. Graduates can start by understanding who they are and what they stand for. They can volunteer their time to commit to other causes which in turn will help build a better image of themselves whilst gaining more experience!

Network! Meet new people and expand your connections

Networking and connections are often underemphasised to fresh graduates. International students especially may be more likely focused on their academic performance but getting out there and meeting new people can really help graduates land their first job.

To illustrate, let’s say a student were to join an organisation on their campus and this student began making friends with older students in that group. When that older student graduates and finds a job, that same student who is now on the cusp of graduating can re-connect and get in touch with the recently recruited graduate who may help them find a role.

When the elder students are getting position on their job, this person can use her networking to make her easier to get that particular job.

Having a wide network of friends is also adventurous in that students may even benefit from the experiences of others. Stories from graduates who’ve made mistakes in their job-search that a student may come across will no doubt aid their own search.

Make an amazing first impression

Applying for jobs is one thing but actually doing your job interview is another.

First impressions are everything in the job interview and how a job seeker presents themselves to an employer will either instil confidence in them or deter them from hiring.

Dressing for the interview is important and while not all job interviews will require applicants to dress formally in business-wear, graduates should do a bit of research beforehand to know what would look ideal and presentable for the job they’re applying for. When in doubt, overdressing isn’t as bad but what we do recommend if you’re unsure are the following:

  • Avoid bright colours: Loud or fluorescent colours might be a deterrent for an interviewer so play it safe and dress in minimal fashion. Colours are fine and a monochrome look is definitely safe but extreme patterning might not be the way to go.
  • Speak to the recruiting officer of the company’s HR: Sometimes you’ll be able to get in touch with the recruiter before the interview and clarify with them what the dress code for an interview will be if you’re unsure.

In terms of speaking, remain calm and answer the recruiter’s questions clearly and in a relaxed manner. A professional tone will again instil confidence both in the interviewer and the job applicant.

Ways that fresh graduates and students can improve their speaking by staging interviews with friends or presenting in front of a mirror. Applicants should also avoid speaking about badmouthing past employers and over-talking as well.

Follow up! 

If you’ve gone through the interview process and find out that you’re unsuccessful, it’s not the end of the world. One common mistake recent graduates make when after a job interview is that they don’t follow up.

It is important that after applying for a job, students keep maintaining their contact with that particular employer. Ask questions to the recruiter on ways to improve and try to maintain a good, professional relationship with them if possible. You might not get the job now but later on, if an en employer remembers you, they’re likely to ask you instead of the other way around!

For those who are successful, maintaining a good relationship with an employer is also beneficial in that it helps one’s standing in their company. It helps an employer know that you’re serious about the job and may help an employee rise in the company.


This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via meld@meldmagazine.com.au.

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