The dream of sending your children to university can become a nightmare if they fail to land a well-paid job after graduating. Here, leading graduate employment expert Chris Davies explains how parents can help their kids stay ahead and ensure they never come knocking at the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Chris Davies

Chris Davies

It’s perhaps unsurprising that 97 per cent of British mothers dream of their children going to university. Who wouldn’t?

But as competition for entry-level jobs reaches an all-time high, more graduates than ever before are stuck in unskilled – and underpaid – careers. With average debts of more than £30,000, many will return to the nest from which they flew.

Obtaining a decent grade is no longer enough. Today, savvy students – and their parents - must go one better and take proactive steps before graduating. The following seven factors, as detailed in The Student Book, are in my experience key to landing well-paid, graduate level employment.

1. Grab free career advice: A third of graduates aren’t matched to the jobs that most suit their skills, often because of poor (or non-existent) careers advice. Indeed, fewer final year students than ever before are utilising their university’s invaluable – and free - career service.

To get ahead, students must access career services at the earliest possible opportunity.

Careers advice is more than simply coming up with a list of jobs – they need to understand the industry, how it is developing, and how to acquire the practical and technical skills they need to be successful in your chosen career.

2. Gain work experience: Work experience has never been more important, yet few undergraduates bother to gain the vocational skills that employers value so highly. Students can build a solid work experience portfolio through part-time work and voluntary positions, but also through less traditional (and more ‘fun’) pursuits such as debating clubs.

3. Get clued up about the career you want: My career guidance service, Graduate Coach, has supported more than 400 graduates. Few knew what they wanted to do when they sought our help; fewer still had a concrete plan about how to achieve it. Graduates can avoid ping-ponging from one dead-end job to another by understanding what they really want – by reflecting on their own skills, interests and qualifications.

Parents can provide some support, perhaps by referring a young person to colleagues, friends and family members who can help with job advice. A student should also check out the plethora of tools and advice available online.

4. Understand the competition: In today’s global marketplace, it’s not uncommon for blue-chip companies to receive more than 50,000 applications for fewer than 50 entry-level jobs. If an applicant doesn’t have work experience, regardless of his or her degree grade, then he or she isn’t even in the race. Graduates must instead wow potential employers with a work experience portfolio that sets them out from the maddening crowd.

5. Create an employer-friendly CV: Most CVs submitted by graduates are rejected because they are inadequate. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors aren’t the only problem. Many of these graduates don’t know how to sell themselves and don’t know what employers are looking for.

Writing a good CV is a matter of knowing our own skills, strengths and goals, and understanding what employers are looking for. Graduates should tailor their CVs to each job they apply for.

6. Prepare for online tests: Online tests have become a major part of the selection process. They are often used to weed out weak candidates before the interview stage. The type of test can include employability or psychometric tests, and tests to check your spelling and numeracy skills.

Many graduates are not prepared for the battery of questions they will face and the speed at which they must answer them. To be successful, a candidate must practice these tests well in advance. There are many free examples to practise online.

7. Interview preparation: Recent research shows that a graduate spends an average of 36 minutes preparing for an interview. This is not enough. My experience shows that a person needs at least 16 hours (or two days) to prepare for an interview. A successful interview can have a profoundly enriching effect on the rest of a graduate’s life and should be approached with the same level of seriousness.

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Chris Davies is the CEO of Graduate Coach, a London-based graduate coaching consultancy that has helped more than 400 students achieve graduate-level jobs with employers including Amazon, Coca-Cola, Deloittes, EY, Google, Goldman Sachs, Network Rail, PWC and Tesco. His new books, The Student Book and The Graduate Book are out now. Further free support can be found at www.graduatecoach.co.uk


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