Hello! My name is Amie Godward and I’m currently a Graduate Intern (Social Enterprise/ UnLtd SEE Change Programme) at the University of Cumbria. I studied Drama at the Lancaster campus and graduated in July 2013. I was elected to be the Student Life Sabbatical at the Students’ Union where I worked for one year. This was a paid position and in this role I represented student views on health, wellbeing, student groups, housing, finance within the union, the university, in the community and nationally. I also ran projects and events, developed and ran training sessions, assisted volunteers, minuted meetings, wrote and presented reports, and was a member of the board of trustees for the students’ union.
After being unsuccessful in my re-election campaign, I began looking for work, naively thinking my experience as a sabbatical would land me a job immediately. It actually took me just over 7 months from finding out I wouldn’t be continuing at the students’ union to find a job.
At first I was only looking for jobs in students’ unions. I had a few positive interviews where I just missed getting it, or was the second choice, even travelling for over 13 hours for an interview in Norwich, to be told they would have hired me if their first choice had turned down the offer.
After finishing at the SU in June, I moved into my partner’s parents’ house in North West Cumbria. I began to run out of money pretty fast, and so the idea of moving to a different location became impossible. This narrowed the work I could look for, as I was only searching in Cumbria and around my home town in West Yorkshire. I was predominantly looking at working in the charity sector, and I seemed to be applying for loads of jobs all the time. It got to the point where I had to register as unemployed and claim Jobseekers Allowance, which meant I now had strict criteria for my job searching, and certain ‘targets’ to reach on a weekly basis.
Again, in my complete ignorance, I presumed being on JSA would mean I’d find a job straight away as I was now applying for everything and anything, but I was wrong, and I was searching and applying for 35 hours a week for 3 months before I found my current job.
Don’t let that panic you though! I was far from the perfect job searcher. Although towards the end I had learnt some pretty important things about looking for work.
- Always have a plan. I had no real idea what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to do it, which made it nearly impossible to job search. Speak to the careers service, they’re there to help you. Speak to your friends, find out what they are doing. It’s fine to not know what you want to do straight away, but if you can have some idea of area, whether that’s geographical or career wise, then it’ll definitely help.
- Tailor your CVs. This is on every single CV guidance website and job searching site but it’s absolutely true. Having a few different CVs depending on what job you’re applying for is great. You might be applying for one job where they’re looking for someone with event planning skills, and you might have never done that in your last job at Tesco, but when you volunteered for that local music festival, you gained loads of event planning expertise.
- Prepare your answers. A great piece of advice I got from an old boss was to think of the questions you would ask if you were on the interview panel. You can look online and find examples of general questions, but really think about the role, look at the person specific, what are they going to need information about? What things do you want to tell the interviewer? You don’t need to memorise your answers word for word, but there are general things that will come up time and time again. Be confident in your answers too, have someone ask you them and practice how you will say them out loud.
- Consider your weaknesses. Another tip from my old boss (a very wise man) was to recognise what the interviewer might see as a weakness, and turn it into a positive. For example, the main negative for graduates might be lack of experience, but flip that on its head; you’ve gained an enormous amount of skills at university, you aren’t going to need to completely readjust or learn different processes, you are eager to learn and work hard, the employer has the opportunity to work with a ‘blank canvas’ so to speak. I didn’t see the question come up that often, but the first time I was totally stumped, the second time I was prepared.
- Write ‘stock’ statements. I wrote and re-wrote so many similar statements in applications towards the beginning of my job search, then I realised I was just repeating myself. I saved statements in sections depending on the kind of job I was applying for, and just edited them according to the person spec and job description. It saved me tonnes of time and made the whole process less daunting knowing I didn’t have to re-write statements every time. For example, for jobs working with student groups, I saved a paragraph where I talked specifically about the projects I worked on with student groups, and an introduction that focussed on that area of work. For jobs that focussed on volunteer coordinating, I saved a paragraph about working with volunteers in the SU, and a paragraph as my time as a volunteer. This is particularly helpful if you’re applying for lots of similar jobs. Remember though; don’t just copy and paste, make it personal to the job!
Thanks for your great article Amie! If any current students or alumni would like to volunteer a post for the blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org