Dear Aspect, I am interested in doing a Post Grad scheme but I need advice on where to look and how to apply?
If you are looking to find a graduate role after you finish your degree then your university careers service is the best place to start. All Universities can offer a range of advice services and digital tools to help get you started, as well as often access to their own graduate job vacancy sites. Universities may be offering Spring Careers Fairs but remember that as a graduate you will also be able to attend the larger Autumn Fairs taking place at your institution in 2021 so look out for these as well. Universities will generally offer support for several years after graduation. If you are looking for a structured Graduate Scheme, rather than a graduate role, then these tend to be offered by the largest UK graduate employers. Many of these will advertise their opportunities on sites such as Target, Prospects and Milkround, often starting their hiring processes in the Autumn. In addition to advertising job roles, these sites also offer lots of useful advice around recruitment processes. Several, including Bright Network have also begun to offer virtual internship experience opportunities you can sign up for, usually for free, to gain more insight in to a particular sector, hear from employers and gain tips on the recruitment processes.
At Sheffield Hallam University we offer a lifetime offer of support to our graduates so we are here to help you with your applications for employment and/or further study. Please find more details Here.
What advice would you give to people who are unsure whether to go to a Post Grad degree or a Graduate scheme or job?
At this time of year it is totally acceptable to consider both options so don’t feel you have to make firm decisions about choosing PG study versus a job just yet. Having an offer for Postgraduate study, as long as you are genuinely interested in the course and committed to more time at University could be a good option to hold on to whilst you see how the graduate labour market evolves and what opportunities this presents for you.
What are your motivations for doing PG study? If it is primarily to avoid some daunting graduate job search then, whilst understandable, this wouldn’t be a great idea! However, if you identify a course that allows you to specialise in an area of specific interest and/or supports your future career plans then further study is definitely worth looking at. Most HE Instutions, like Sheffield Hallam University, are holding Virtual Open Days over the coming few months – you can find event listings on sites such as Find a Masters plus loads of useful PG info and advice on Prospects.
Whilst you may have decided to apply for PG study as a back-option, you may still feel that getting in to the world of work is what would really suit you. In any recession there will inevitably be more competition for any roles that are advertised – so keep in mind the following:
Resilience may be key – being able to accept a few knock backs, get feedback and act on any advice you receive is even more important than ever.
You are not on your own – as a University student and/or graduate you can access a whole range of individual and group support, digital tools and access to internships and other opportunities. Take full advantage of all the support available to you – we are here for you! Take a look at our Careers website for more details and if you are graduating this year then check out the SHU Class of 2021 offer
Have you got any top tips on how to write a successful cover letter? Is there anything that you should avoid?
Employers love cover letters as they allow candidates to articulate their motivation for working within their organisation specifically. They are also a great way for you to evidence your suitability for the role. If an employer likes your letter they are far more likely to give your CV serious consideration.
Top Tips: Length: One page is enough – keep it concise, well written with no spelling or grammar errors. Structure: Your Cover Letter should have 4 sections – Intro, Why Them, Why You and Conclusion. The Why Them part may be the trickiest but it is the one part that is unique to that employer and job role and shows your research and therefore commitment to the role. Ensure you evidence that you have researched the organisation and looked carefully at the job details, try not to make it too gushing or cheesy – aim instead to get your genuine interest across. Once you have written one, you will find it easier to approach this part. Finish strongly: Try not to just end with one line. Instead summarise your key messages – restate your interest and suitability and let them know you’d welcome the chance to discuss it further.
If an application does not specifically ask for a letter – should you bother writing one? If you really want the job then the answer is Yes. So if you can attach a cover letter along with your CV OR put the contents of a letter in to the body of an email then I would recommend doing this. More useful advice can be found on Cover Letters on our SHU Careers Website HERE.
How can I make the perfect job application for an interview?
The key with any application is to ensure that you provide evidence of what the employer is looking for. Convincing them that you meet the requirements for the role you are applying to gives you the best chance of making it through to the next stage of the recruitment process.
To start, always ensure you have the job description to hand and have clearly gone through the requirements listed. In addition to this, do any further research in to the company and role, for example on their website and any social media and be sure not to miss any graduate advice pages which may provide further details of the attributes being looked for.
If you are using a CV and Cover Letter to apply then check you have provided clear evidence of your relevant skills and experience within these. If you are providing a Supporting Statement then take each requirement stated and provide clear evidence below, showing how you fulfill each of the requirements. Providing evidence of ALL essential and as many of the desirable criteria as possible is key to making it through to the next round of the process. Please see our SHU Careers webpage on Applications for more advice.
What are your top tips for an online interview?
Covid 19 has confirmed to recruiters the usefulness/efficiency of online interviews and therefore they are likely to remain a key element of the recruitment process well beyond 2021. Whilst the practical issues may well be different, much of the advice around preparation for the interview remains the same. Do your research, be clear about why you really want this role AND why you are such a good fit. Get your professionalism, motivation and enthusiasm for the position across and ensure you are evidencing the qualities they are looking for.
In preparing for any interview there are always practical issues to be sorted out and online interviews have their own – go through these carefully well in advance of your interview time. Last minute technical problems are a stress you could do without.
Check the Tech: Adapting to a range of different interview packages presents its own challenges. Ensure that you have a good internet signal and that your webcam and audio/microphone are working well. Become familiar with the software you have been asked to sign in to: Where possible carry out a short mock interview with a friend/relation and check your sound and microphone are functioning. If you are also expected to do a presentation then try sharing your screen with someone so you are familiar with how to do this and to ensure this function is working fine. On the day don’t leave it until the last minute to do a final check. Be confident you are set up and ready in good time.
Optimise your environment: A well-lit and tidy room (check the background) will ensure the employer focusses on you and is not distracted OR drawing their first impressions about you from any debris they can see around you! Ensure you cannot be disturbed at any point during the interview, dress professionally and have a drink of water at your side.
Building Rapport: Look at the Webcam and…Smile! Compared with a face to face interview it can be tougher building rapport with a recruiter quickly online. Aim to look at the webcam rather than the screen and remember that the simple act of smiling allows the employer to see you expressing emotion in a positive way and can help build a connection. Avoid looking at your notes: Whilst you COULD have key words written down as prompts it is easy to tell if someone is reading from notes – aim wherever possible to avoid doing this by preparing thoroughly and practising answers in advance.
Asking for adjustments – should you need them: Please be aware that any employer is expected to make reasonable adjustments within the recruitment process should you have a disability or learning difficulty that require these. Aim to give the employers as much notice as you can of any requirements you have regarding the interview process and if you are unsure about how to proceed with this please get in touch with us here at Careers and Employability.
At SHU we are currently offering Practice Interviews on Zoom for candidates with an interview coming up: These are 45 minute appts offering a mock interview based around the job you have an interview for, followed by useful advice and constructive feedback. More useful resources on interviews and details of how to book a practice interview can be found on our SHU Careers Website
Should I be worried that the pandemic will impact on my Post Grad plans?
It’s perfectly natural to feel worried about your future. The Covid pandemic has thrown so many people’s plans in to disarray. Living with uncertainty is tough and concerns about the impact on your career goals is only to be expected. However, there are a few things worth remembering.
Graduate Labour Market: Whilst the labour market has clearly been significantly impacted by the pandemic, job roles for graduates have been less severely affected than internship/placement and non-graduate roles. Latest estimates from Prospects Luminate Higher Education Intelligence reports put graduate vacancies at approx. 70% of the same time last year. There are still jobs out there so please don’t stop looking.
Remember also that some sectors and roles have been more severely hit than others. Sectors such as Hospitality, Retail and the Arts have had it tough. In contrast Logistics, IT, Pharmaceuticals, Health, Education and some Finance have been holding up well. Are you able to look at roles within these areas for now? Do your research carefully and try to keep your options as broad as you can. A Marketing role within a logistics firm may give you invaluable experience which you could then build on in the future in the sector you originally had your eye on.
Finally, back up plans are worth considering. Options like PG study or choosing to spend time volunteering in an area of particular interest could provide you with useful additional qualifications or relevant experience and provide additional time for the labour market to settle.
If you are a SHU student or graduate and wish to talk through your plans with an Employability Adviser, please book an appt on Unihub.
Philippa Fairfax, Employability Adviser, Sheffield Hallam University Careers & Employability Service