This year, the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) reported that the number of graduate jobs dropped by 4 per cent. As if that’s not worrying enough, the number of students studying at university has risen by 9 per cent to 386,000. So what can you do to make yourself stand out?
While your biggest concern right now might be about what colour to go to the traffic light party in, one of the ways you can really get yourself noticed by a top City employer is to instead use some of your spare time to build up your CV.
The easiest thing you can possibly do to add that little extra sparkle to your CV is to get involved in a club or society. As one graduate recruitment officer at Goldman Sachs says: “Students should make the most of the opportunities presented to them. In addition to focusing on academic study, taking an active role in societies can be an enjoyable and useful way to help secure a job.”
But bear in mind that membership of the Hummus Appreciation Society (yes, it really does exist), isn’t necessarily the kind of thing City employers are looking for. They’re more interested in what transferrable skills you’ve developed while a member of a society, rather than your uncanny ability to tell the difference between moroccan and red pepper hummus in a blindfold test. One graduate recruiter at EY says joining a society “could help you discover or develop skills and strengths you didn’t know you had and build a useful network”.
Many societies have events such as balls and evening drinks that are sponsored by City employers such as investment banks and law firms. It’s good news if you want to bag yourself a free drink. But, most importantly, these events are a great opportunity for networking with recent graduates and recruiters. They’re an informal process where you get the chance to learn a little bit more about what qualities and skills employers are looking for from applicants – rather than, say, plunging head first into an internship. Also, you’ll get the opportunity to find out what working life is really like from some of your university’s alumni who now work in the City.
It’s also worth getting involved in your society’s committee, as the role will help develop some of the skills such as leadership, time management and communication skills that City employers look for. Hopefully, at the same time you’ll have a laugh and meet some great like-minded people.
Not everyone has the luxury of living off of their student loan and it’s more than likely you’ll be looking for that summer temp job to keep you going in between university. That might mean that you don’t have much time to take an active role in a society, or an internship.
If that sounds like you, then listen up. If you fancy working for an accountancy firm, then gaining work experience is just as important as attending insight days or spring week schemes. A graduate recruiter at EY says: “Any role will provide skills like communication and time management that you can transfer to any job and mention in your interviews.” So don’t ditch the summer job just yet.
“Work experience – whether it be part-time, full time or temporary – can be valuable and help you build real life skills,” says a graduate recruiter at Goldman Sachs. Real-life work experience is also valued by City law firms, as a Freshfields recruiter points out: “Internships, insight days or workshops are unlikely to develop all of the skills needed for a successful career in law. Depending on the nature of the part-time work communication skills, team working, time management and customer service could all be developed in this way, which are vital to a career in law.”
So when you finally start writing the first draft of your CV, don’t be ashamed of including that waitressing job you did down the pub when you were in sixth form, or the supermarket shelf stacking you did over the summer before university. As long as you can show what skills you learnt from that role, and how they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for, then you’ll be well on your way to impressing your potential employer.
Just because you didn’t get elected as head of the business society, or bag that summer job, it doesn’t mean you’ll never get a job in the City. And remember that while there are, of course, benefits to thinking about your career in your first year, none of your extracurricular activities will count towards your career unless you also take the time to focus on the most important thing – your degree.