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You've Got a Degree, Why Can't You Get a Job?

Jul 17, 2008
In some ways it can be harder to get a job when you have a degree, as you are considered over-qualified for many positions. The type of jobs you should be applying for are probably better paid with better prospects for learning and promotion, but they also attract a higher volume of applicants, many with degrees. How can you distinguish yourself?

Your CV

The first thing to get right is your CV. A badly written CV reflects very badly upon you. Imagine you are compiling a document for an employer; A CV needs to be immaculately written and compiled with the specific role in mind. If you are listing communication skills then your CV and covering letter are your first chance to impress a prospective employer.

Employers are unlikely to be bowled over your degree; most of their applicants probably have degrees of some sort. You need to distinguish yourself from the thousands of other graduates; even including GCSE results can make a difference. More importantly you need to display personal skills such as organisation, self-promotion, teamwork, social awareness, flexibility and networking, preferably through some experience other than University.

If you're straight out of university with little employment or other experience, do some work experience or work placements, they will enhance your CV and make it clear that you are an enthusiastic and committed individual. You should also list any specialist skills or knowledge you have gained either through education or experience. For this reason it can often be helpful to group skills gained through education and experience together.

Be Interested

Show an interest in the industry and the company you are applying to. You can't expect employers just to jump at the chance to employ you simply because you have a degree. Employers are looking for someone who is enthusiastic about the role and company, and someone who has taken the time to look into the industry they are trying to enter. This will also help you to ask useful questions in an interview.

Know the competition, where the company stands in the marketplace and take an interest in the company's performance. Read relevant newspapers and remain marketable in a competitive job market.

Aim High, but Realistic

You should consider carefully the type of jobs you are applying for. You might feel qualified to edit or manage people, but these types of jobs require hands on experience. Your degree greatly increases your chances of being promoted to these kinds of roles, but don't expect to enter at this level. Apply for specific 'graduate' positions, as these are tailored to take entry level applicants and fast-track the high performers to the top.

However, don't expect immediate promotion. Promotion is more likely to be horizontal than vertical, with career progression focusing on responsibilities held and subtle changes.

It's important for you to maintain your employability by continuing your training and development. Update your CV even when you're in employment, to stay competitive in the job market.
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