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14 things you can do right now to give yourself the best chance possible after graduation

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Yes, it’s a scary old world out there – and if you’ve just started your final year of uni you’re probably feeling the fear creeping up right about now.

Quick, do a "stressed" face!

Don’t worry, though – there are loads of things you can do to put yourself in the best position possible before the lectures have ended and the real world has come crashing in. Here are 14 of them.

1. Narrow down your options

Not got the faintest clue about what you might want to do with the rest of your life? That’s ok. Start by thinking about what you’re good at, and then consider which aspects you enjoy. Having these two things at the forefront of your mind should be a good leveller when you’re researching possible careers that are available with your degree.

2. Test the waters

I.e., get some work experience. It’s the only way to know whether a classroom/newsroom/lab/ any number of other working environments is a good place for you to be. You might be convinced that teaching is for you, but you don’t really know it until you’ve stood up in front of a room of eye-rolling 11 year olds.

3. Attend this graduate fair

The National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition is taking place in Birmingham this Friday and Saturday, and will see hundreds of companies coming together under one roof to impart knowledge and opportunities to those nearing graduation.

Promising attendee review:

“Aside from the usual fair freebies and picking up corporate info, what was most valuable is the amazing advice and tips I got from speaking to people that have been through the same journey, and faced the same challenges as I have.

“There were thousands of students there, which reminded me of the vast competition, but also reassured me – I am not the only one struggling to get in the door with companies.”

Find out more here.

4. Keep your options open

Think you might want to go into marketing? There are tonnes of roles available in every company, from science and engineering to the arts – so make sure you’re aware of the many and varied roles that your skill set could qualify you for. Sometimes looking beyond the obvious can really take you to where you want to be.

5. Learn to code  

For so many jobs, this is now a no-brainer. Do it. Do it now, even if you’re not techy in the slightest.

6. Take career advice with a pinch of salt

Once, a career advisor told me to write on my CV that English literature graduates “bring colour to life”, so you can see why I’m more than a little bit distrustful of them. Research backs this up. Do not make careers offices your main source of information.

7. Instead, start following relevant people in your field

For every industry that you could possibly want to enter, you’ll need to know what topics of conversation are currently the most prominent. Paying close attention to thought-leaders in the field on Twitter is a good place to start. Informing yourself of conversations early is the best way to ensure you can contribute to them later.

8. Use your network wisely

Dreaming of being a journalist, but still slightly nervous of your auntie’s friend who works at the Guardian? Get over this. Using your network is more important than ever when you’re starting out, so drop even vague connections an email asking if you can chat over coffee (and make sure you pay for it.)

9. Find a mentor

Don’t harass people weekly, but if you want some advice on any aspect of the job hunt – from whether you’re a good fit for an industry to the right questions to ask in an interview – follow up with anyone you’ve spoken to earlier. People LOVE being asked for advice.

10. Create a LinkedIn account

LinkedIn, aka the social media channel for those that have grown up and those that are thinking about it. Use it.

11. Get someone to take a sensible picture of your face

You don’t want to spend the next five years scrolling through Facebook trying to find a picture where you’re not holding wine every time you’re asked for a professional headshot.

12. Look for events relevant to your sector

Woman studying a tech or science subject? Hey, we’ve got an event for you and it’s happening next week – and it’s just one of hundreds going on up and down the country every single week. Find out more information here.

13. Start logging your successes

You’re not going to remember that great project you received a tonne of praise for eight months from now. Log the details now, and keep them safe for when they’re needed.

14. Be aware that creative graduate schemes exist too

There’s a myth that all creative roles are low-paid and unstable, but the starving artist in a garret myth is not one that we subscribe to. Look far and wide, and don’t let the (untrue) notion that bankers are the only ones getting paid get you down.

Want more tips on how to prepare yourself for graduation? Click here.

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