A couple of weeks ago on my evening commute, I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed. I stumbled upon numerous job advertisements. Some of the ads were marvellously tailored to my experience and specialisations (well done, LinkedIn algorithms!), while others completely missed the mark.
Further delving into what jobs LinkedIn ‘recommended’ for me, I was hit with a mild case of PTSD. I was taken back to the days I so wish to go back to. Until I remembered the struggle of being an optimistic, fresh-faced university graduate, trying to navigate myself into the world of full-time work.
I remember catching up for drinks with other recent graduates discussing our dire entry level job opportunities. The words “It says entry-level, but 1-2 years work experience is required” became all too familiar.
I was always desperate to reach out to professionals, to seek advice where I could. Here’s some of the best advice I received for landing an entry-level job with no experience.
1) Put yourself out there
Sure, a bit of flare in a freshly written cover letter can go a long way, but consider other avenues. LinkedIn’s specific purpose is for professionals to network. Go further than adding potential employers on LinkedIn. For example, directly emailing potential employers expressing your eagerness to gain exposure to their firm’s operations has been known to go a long way. Whether the company is advertising for a role or not, getting your name out there and sending through your resume for them to keep on file can definitely pay off.
For example, several months after personally messaging a director for a firm I was interested in working at, I was contacted for the opportunity to interview for a role that had eventually arisen. This is not uncommon.
Networking events should not be overlooked either. There are a number of associations and social groups that are accessible through universities or a quick google search. You don’t need to be working in your field to start building your professional network. This will connect you with like-minded professionals and open doors to endless opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to put your name out there – you have nothing to lose!
2) Grades are, unfortunately, actually important…
Sure getting ‘passes’ will get you a degree, but passes certainly won’t get you paid internships or graduate roles. Leading up to the penultimate year of my degree, we were faced with a required year of paid Work-Integrated Learning. What is the first thing potential employers asked for? My wish-I-knew-this-sooner transcript.
Every year, employers are flooded with very similar applications for these roles. And often a transcript is the first thing they look at to separate you from your peers. Everyone in university is stretched too thin – balancing studying, part-time work and a social life is just the beginning. If one thing has to suffer, try not to let it be your grades!
3) If you want experience, you might have to do it for free
For those who don’t have the grades to get them across the line for paid internships or graduate roles – consider an unpaid internship. I understand it takes a certain level of privilege to be able to take a couple of days out of your working week to work for free, but it is definitely something to consider if you can stretch the rest of your wage far enough. Perhaps even consider dropping the number of classes you’re taking in one semester, to leave a day or two to intern or volunteer. This is a great way to get experience on your resume for those entry-level roles.
One thing to be careful of, however, is that you’re not being taken advantage of. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of a potential unpaid position, there are a number of government websites outlining what are reasonable tasks that can be asked of you as an unpaid intern.
4) You might not like your title
Applications process at different time frames than others. Where some might be turned around in a week, others might take months. If you do feel, however, that you’re not generating as much interest as you might have anticipated, consider alternative business titles. A number of people are turned off roles due to their titles, but titles are nowhere near as important as your actual duties at the company. In Marketing, for example, a Marketing Assistant can take on more responsibility than a Marketing Coordinator. It is all dependent on the firm’s structure.
Broaden your search with alternative titles, and pay most attention to the duties you will potentially be undertaking. This initial period of getting your foot in the door is the hardest part, but know you are not alone!
Remain positive, persistent and take comfort in the fact that one day you will be looking back on these days with nostalgia. This in-between period of post-study and pre-full time work can be an incredibly daunting time, but it is also a right of passage. Sleep in, travel, wear your pyjamas all day (just wear a shirt for video interviews) and bathe in your no-responsibility bliss. You will be marching into your first day of your career all too soon.