Get prepared before you start
The summer before you enter your final year is your chance to do some all-important career planning and prepare for when employers open up their opportunities in the Autumn.
If you haven’t already, try to establish which industry sectors you might like to work in; the Gradcracker Toolkit is a good place to begin.
Explore our Company Hubs to identify which employers you’d particularly like to work for. Here you can often find out when an employer intends to open to applications. Give yourself ample time to look into the company, decide whether it’s right for you, and gather the information you need to put together an impressive application.
Before September comes around, make sure you are following the companies you’d particularly like to work for once you graduate, and are receiving their graduate job alerts (you can manage your Follow list and update your alert preferences in your Dashboard.) This will ensure you don’t miss out on any graduate opportunities when applications open in the Autumn.
September starts with a bang
Most university courses begin in September and October, which is also when employers start to open their graduate and undergraduate vacancies. This means that, if you’re hoping to secure a job for when you graduate, you can apply to opportunities from the moment your final year begins.
It’s best to start applying as soon as possible. The more tailored and thoroughly researched applications you send out in the first few months of the academic year, the less pressure you’ll be under when you get into the thick of your final projects and exams.
At Gradcracker, we refer to the 31st of January as ‘Deadline Day’. From January through to April many of our employers start to close their recruitment campaigns, especially their graduate programmes.
I’d keep an eye on which opportunities are closing from January onwards – and remember, you can order your Job Search results on Gradcracker by ‘Deadline’. This will enable you to prioritise your applications and will make sure you don’t miss out on any ideal opportunities.
Over the summer
Many opportunities are still to be found from May to July, though these are more likely to be individual jobs as opposed to programmes. (See my article on the difference between individual graduate jobs and graduate programmes here).
Because large companies usually recruit in cohorts – and therefore offer programmes rather than single-vacancy jobs – the opportunities you see on Gradcracker at this time of year are more likely to be from smaller companies, and may also be immediate starts. These kinds of opportunities might well suit you better, depending on your circumstances and what you’re looking for. (If you want to learn more about large and small employers, see Large and global, or small and local?)
Become a successful job-hunter
Graduate programmes are very competitive and have thorough recruitment processes. Therefore, it’s very likely that you’ll be completing applications and online tests, and attending interviews and assessment centres, at various points throughout the year.
Managing job applications alongside your studies can be challenging, but it is do-able (I promise!).
I’d recommend designating yourself a certain number of hours a week to search, research and apply for jobs. Alternatively, you might want to set yourself a target of completing x applications per month.
These targets will look different for everybody. What’s important is that you find a way to slot this new priority into your schedule in a way that works for you.
Develop your application skills
If you want to secure a graduate job, it’s not only important that you remain resilient, but also that you continue to develop and improve your application skills as you go.
The Gradcracker CareerCentre will walk you through the various stages of the application process, and features advice from many of our employers on how to succeed every step of the way.
Each stage of the application process is a learning experience, and asking for feedback is key to making progress. It’s important that you know what you did well, and what you did not do so well, so that you can build on your strengths, identify areas for improvement and succeed next time round.
Now we’ve got a plan…
I understand the difficulty of balancing your workload and priorities whilst at university – I’ve been there myself – but hopefully this guide will help you organise your time, meet deadlines and plan for the year ahead.
You can do this – best of luck!