Back when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed English undergraduate at the University of Nottingham in first year, I always vowed that I wouldn't stay in Notts beyond my degree, as it had a place in my heart as my student city and I couldn't see myself being a working professional here. "I couldn't live here and not be a student!", I used to say. Yet now I am doing exactly that!
What I wanted to do was end up in London, working for a huge corporation (any, I wasn't fussy) and living in a suit. Over the course of my degree, however, I have worked both in the capital and for a well-known engineering business outside of London, and these experiences are massive factors as to why I am now doing the opposite of what I always said I would. I love London, but didn't feel the need to jump on the graduate bandwagon and go to work there the moment my degree ended. My time working for an engineering business was so incredibly valuable and I loved it, but it made me realise that I needed experience doing something in a more creative industry.
With a huge amount of gratitude to a friend who sent me the link for the Nottingham Internship Scheme, and an enormous amount of thanks to the Careers and Employability Service at the university, I started working at Distinction as a Digital Marketing Executive a week after finishing my last exam. I began along with three other interns and the time has flown by since our first days. I have personally found it unforgettable so far; working for a smaller company means that there is nowhere to hide, which therefore means you're doing things that you know will be truly helpful and appreciated by the team. It also means that I've benefited from targeted and tailored support and training. I've been learning tons of new things every day and I know that these are skills that I will consistently use in our growing digital world. Most importantly though, the social aspect is great! Working for a smaller company means that it's tight-knit and so friendly; I felt welcomed straight away.
On a more general level, the Nottingham Internship Scheme itself shows how committed the local companies and agencies are to recognising and recruiting fresh graduates that have studied nearby. This is a program that benefits the community in a fundamental way, as it provides amazing opportunities to graduates that are straight out of university, as well as giving local businesses access to young and passionate individuals. Us grads are, as some might say, 'raw talent' (Greg Bloor's words at the Creative Class 2016 event, not mine).
On an even more general level, it's a competitive market out there for graduates, with the rate of high-skilled employment for us lot dropping between 2014 and 2015. This can lend a sense of panic to some and cause them to apply for anything and everything so that they can start earning money ASAP. Although I started working before I even knew my degree result, this is simply because I saw something that matched what I was looking for, then I applied and was lucky enough to receive an offer at the end of it. I'm not in a position to be doling out advice as it's still early days (I only graduated a month ago), but I do have a few pointers that will hopefully put some graduate minds at ease:
- Don't be desperate to be professionally employed straight out of university, otherwise you might end up fighting others for a job that you don't particularly want. Take your time to have a think about what you really want to do. The best way to do this is consider your previous experiences and what you did and didn't like about them.
- Another great starting point is to begin looking for jobs – just looking, not necessarily applying – to help you get an idea of what is out there, narrow down what you're actually looking for and what skills and experience you need for each role.
- Be critical and pedantic when reading job descriptions and person specifications; what do you love about the sound of that job, and what parts don't sound so great? You are allowed to be picky and you should be picky, because your first working experiences out of university will be crucial in guiding the path of the rest of your professional life.
- Get LinkedIn if you haven't already! It's such an important platform to be connected to if you'd like to start being part of a professional environment, even if you aren't employed yet. 'Like' some companies you think you'd like to work for in the future and register for job alerts which are specific to the geographical location where you'd like to work.
I would also highly recommend going down the internship route to any graduate. For me, it has been an extremely worthwhile experience due to the simple fact that it has landed me in full-time employment, as my managers at Distinction have been kind enough to offer me a permanent position. This has given me a huge sense of security and relief, as it now means that I do not need to worry about finding another job. I believe that the process that I have been through, from internship to employment, was an advantageous way to go about finding a job after university. Applying for a full-time, permanent position straight away would have been far too daunting for me personally, especially as I was not sure what I wanted to do. Completing an internship gave me the opportunity to try new things and see if I was any good at them and, more importantly, whether or not I enjoyed doing them. It also gave me the chance to see whether I felt as though the company was the right environment for me to be in (which, thankfully, it was!).
Finally, over the course of my time at Distinction, I was able to begin building a new skillset which is valuable for obvious reasons, but even if I had decided not to accept the offer of a permanent position for whatever reason, what I have learnt would have been of huge benefit to me if I had decided to start seeking employment elsewhere.
I would like to finish by saying congratulations to my fellow Class of 2016 across the globe on their graduations; it's time for us to change the world!