September 23

How to get a good job after university

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Take it from me. University is no guarantee of a good job after.

After all, I graduated with a first-class honours, was shortlisted for the Global Graduate Prize, and was even on a board of directors for a £7m charity.

How to get a good job after university
Yes, I got awards, but so what? It didn’t get me a great job after university.

But all the prizes I got failed to prepare me for the multiple rejections from interviews and applications. Now, I even struggled to get HR to call back.

Wanting to find better answers, I interviewed 21 luminaries across different industries to find out some answers to this key question.

Why do some transit so well to life after university, whilst others don’t?

Here are some myths that we hold as gospel truth in getting great jobs after university, but which rarely work.

The myths

Network your way to success, just sucks

For those who tell you to network, they are probably from HR. Name me the last CEO you remember who was a HR officer.

Can you remember any?

Not likely.

Spending your time sipping coffees and having inspired conversations with the likes of HR in a lecture hall, and trying to exchange name cards, is probably not the way you’re going to get a great job.

Why?

how to get a good job after university
Having many coffees with people may not work

Not because these events don’t work, but they are primarily a publicity event. The event is there to show the company’s face, and to attract you to apply for them.

Not to hire you.

Honestly, how much importance do you think managers give to whether you attended the company’s networking event?

The networking event is probably staffed by HR personnel, not managers who can hire you.

Besides, you’re wasting your time. You could actually be doing some actual work that proves your credibility and ability at work.

Academics don’t matter

For those who tell you results don’t matter, that’s wrong. Just try turning up to an interview with a third-class honours.

You won’t even get the interview.

Whilst we can argue that results aren’t the best way to determine a candidate’s ability, unfortunately not many people are as enlightened as you are.

Results show you’re at least able to follow instructions and write well in class.

Try explaining why you got the third class honours. Most interviewers won’t even give you the chance.

Your co-curricular activities matter

There’s a hierarchy of importance for interviewers.

  1. Skillset
  2. Skill level
  3. Results
  4. What you do outside of school

If you can’t get your basic results, quit playing soccer, unless you’re going to the Premier League.

Brash, I know.

But imagine this. Are you going to turn up at an interview and say,

Sorry, I know I didn’t score well.

But I can play good soccer.

Will your interviewer care?

Nope. He cares if you can do the job, and how well you will do it.

What can you do?

Take what I say with many handfuls of salt. After all, I went through 103 job applications, and 26 rejections from interviews.

It seems like I can’t get a good job after university.

But those mistakes have shown me how the conventional wisdom hasn’t worked, and what works better.

Work on your relational skills

I used to have a colleague. She was the badass on diplomacy. If you wanted anything to happen, you would have to go to her. She was the corporate diplomat. She could go to warring factions, and make them smile.

Incredible.

How?

She intentionally worked on her relational skills. She deliberately took courses. She learnt to smile. She learnt how to disarm people.

You too, can, in university.

How? Spend some time working in a customer service job.

If you have time, doing this will teach you how to please customers, even if they can be complete dorks.

You will learn the greatest patience just serving them.

Build a life outside of university

As much as university results matter, it also matters that you take time to find something outside of university to grow.

Business. A hobby. A skill. Learn to teach yoga.

how to get a good job after university
maybe dancing, and focusing on life outside of university will get you a better job

You get the idea.

But building independence outside of university can give you added wings to your career after university.

There’s a lot of time in university. You don’t honestly expect your employer to believe you spent 8 hours a day holed up in the library, reading lecture notes.

He went to university too.

If you didn’t know that already.

You will realise that aside from the solid 5 hours a day you may need on your work in university, you will have time to pursue other things. So build that.

Strength focused

Build on a foundation of strength. You will be amazed at how many people think their purpose at university is to grow ‘holistically’.

Throw that out of the window.

Holistic development is for losers.

Oops. Let me say that a little more nicely.

Holistic development won’t work. It will take you eons to move your weakness to average, whilst not that much time to move from good to great.

Duckworth on how people move from just good, to the inspiration you see at the Olympics. A big reason? Grit.
Duckworth on how people move from just good, to the inspiration you see at the Olympics. A big reason? Grit.

Focusing on your strengths in university will be the biggest value add you can do for your life after university.

At university, I honed my talent at speaking. From speaking like a goldfish (boop, bop, bop – you get the idea), I finally found myself speaking in front of crowds.

And getting paid for it. Owning the stage eventually became why employers wanted to hire me.

Not many could enthral a stage.

But how did I get there?

I understood my strength.

I worked on it like a dog. Every Monday, even during the Great Beast of the East, with snowstorms brewing, I would turn up in a little classroom and practice public speaking.

I paid £200 an hour for a coach to help me.

I put myself in stretch situations, constantly asking people if I could speak.

You can get better, if you focus on your talent.

Stop looking at what you’re bad at.

Getting a great job, maybe isn’t everything

For all the dreams you may have about working for Google, maybe that isn’t for you. Relax. You won’t die if you didn’t work for them.

Finding a great job, perhaps, is just realising that you are worth more than a great job.

You could perhaps build your own.

That’s an idea, eh?


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