Tips for bagging yourself a graduate job
BSc Computer Science graduate Laura shares her tops tips for securing a job after study.
“It was quite a shock to the system coming back to university after my year in industry. After having all my own time after work ended at 5 and at the weekends, coming back to a 24/7 student life took some time getting used to again. Despite the free time I had at work, I much prefer uni – completing my projects feels more satisfying and there’s nothing like a student social life. I must say though that I am an exception. Most people I speak to can’t wait to get back to work. Some of my friends worked in investment banks, often working 9-10 hours days and they still can’t wait to get back. So I guess it’s down to personal preference.
Upon returning to university, it was straight into looking for a graduate job. My top tip for researching jobs would be to look early. For both industrial placements and graduate jobs, start looking at recruiters websites during the summer. The applications won’t be open, but you get a good idea of the companies you’d like to apply for and can do research about the company over a longer period of time. That way, it doesn’t look like you’ve only been interested in the company since the applications opened and you saw the salary!
Also, if you do a year in industry, some companies let you apply early for a graduate job, which in itself, puts you at an advantage.
One of the most important things recruiters look for is extra curricular activities, especially for graduate jobs. Nearly all companies will ask for a 2:1 degree or higher (a 1st) which kind of equates to a B or A. This means companies expect a high level of degree, that you will have all the technical knowledge of computers you’ll need for the job and that you have soft and interpersonal skills. So, what makes you stand out from the crowd? Extra curricular activities. This worried me greatly because I don’t do that many activities outside of uni. I just don’t have the time. I spend all my time working and the little free time I get, I spend socialising or relaxing. As a consequence of this, I get the best grades I possibly can. At first, I thought this was very unfair – that people who put effectively ‘less’ effort into university would have more extra curricular activities and be favored for employment. But like I said, you need to stand out from the crowd. At the end of the day, a 1st class degree of 99% (not that that would ever happen!) compared to 71% is still a first class degree and that’s all you need to put on your CV. So, if there’s any advice I can give you, it’s to take up some new hobbies, at some expense of your grades.
Here are some suggestions for extra curricular activities: Obviously, extra curricular activities that are related to your subject area are going to be far more useful to talk about in an interview than something completely unrelated, so have more related activities than unrelated. Start a blog. I did: laurahk.com. Write your own software and host it on github. Write an Android/iPhone app and publish it to the store. Go to events held an university. We have a club called Man-Up, Manchester Ultimate Programming which hold meetings, organise events and hold all weekend programming “hackathons”. Go to company events. For example, I went to the BBC’s Women in Engineering Event at MediaCity in Salford. I’m sat in one of the chairs in the picture. How cool are those chairs?! They have them all around the edges of the walkways for people to have private meetings but in an open plan environment to encourage collaboration. I got talking to a very important, high up person who offered to get someone in her team to show me around. I ended up revisiting the BBC at a later date, having my own personal tour around the building, talking to developers as well as business people and finding out all about the work they do there. If you make an effort, and show a real interest, there’s every chance you can make contacts who can help you in the future. There’s also a place called Madlab that host events, for people of all levels for all kind of things technology related. Some of the popular ones are for the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Sometimes the events are free, ask for donations, or cost a small fee such as £4.
Other activities you can do is to get involved with clubs at the school – the Social Committee (CSSC) or the Staff Student Consultative Committee (SSCC). I continued my role on the SSCC, passing on my years opinions to the lectures twice a term. Being able to tell interviewers that I instigated changing the bathroom taps to mixer taps due to temperature complaints can demonstrate many soft skills such as determination and communication skills, depending how well I express myself.
Lastly, I really believe that Manchester’s Computer Science course has prepared me really well for any job I apply for. It’s given me all the technical and soft skills I need, the support to find a graduate job (holding careers fairs and activities within the school) and the opportunities to fill in any blanks on my CV with school, university and outside clubs and events.
I imagine my next post will be about my third year and third year project, which I’m currently writing my report for. As always, I am happy to answer to any questions.
To finish. I was walking past University Place the other day. They were doing free abseiling for well-being week!”