Standing out from the crowd – a guide for graduates

Standing out from the crowd – a guide for graduates



By Andy Taylor, Director of Financial Services Recruitment at Exchange Street

Coming to the end of your time in education can be one of the toughest periods you will face. The certainty you have had to date, the knowledge that how you do is largely down to yourself, the security that being in education provides, will soon disappear and you will face the daunting prospect of joining the working world.

Having been there it was a time of worry, not excitement, and trying to decipher what I wanted to do with my career seemed impossible given the bewildering number of industries out there. Not to mention trying to get to grips with application forms, competency questions and interviews.

When applying though there are ways that you can stand out and I will outline some of these below. And, please, try not to worry, you will secure work. And you will likely end up with a rewarding career, potentially in an arena that you would not currently imagine being on the agenda (telling a shy, 21-year-old me that by 27 I would run my own recruitment business would be met with howls of laughter. Well I am not laughing now).

Here are my tips:

Don’t be entitled – I have spoken to graduates who have had hugely unrealistic expectations regarding status and money with their attitude not doing much to convince me to put them in front of employers. Of course you want to be well rewarded, but you will be in a much better position to negotiate better terms after you have interviewed and impressed.

Look beyond a starting salary – I am not suggesting that you take minimum wage, but any salary is a starting one. If you feel confident that a company will invest in you and have talked openly about rewarding you better as you advance then factor this into your decision.

Be prepared – it is a tough, competitive market out there. You will get knock backs, you will be disappointed, you will feel at times helpless and disenfranchised. But you will get there if you preserve.

Think laterally – don’t just think about what your dream job looks like. Think about what sectors are growing, think about what industries will provide opportunity for advancement. It may not start out as your “dream” sector but it may become one.

Don’t just focus on the Blue Chips – the vast majority of graduate roles are with SMEs, public sector bodies and charities. Working for a blue chip company has a certain grandeur about it, but your chances of joining one are more limited.

Take advantage of what you’ve got – you will probably have IT skills that most of us can only dream of. When I left school we had two computers that I never went on (they will never catch on, right?). And I am only 37. Could you help a business with marketing/social media etc. alongside the day job? Make note of your IT skills on the CV.

Use LinkedIn – you’d be surprised by how many people are prepared to point you in the right direction if you approach them about work. But be polite and say thank you. Manners will get you far in life.

But… remember that employers will google you. Your Twitter and Facebook accounts will inform decisions so exercise some caution. And please, no jokey email addresses!

Life experience is good experience – lots of graduate CVs can look the same so it is the little things that can mark you out. We want to know if you love cricket, or photography, or have a passion for a certain band. Don’t be afraid to have a personality and be interesting.

For more information and guidance please speak to the team at Exchange Street.

And good luck!