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Applying for graduate jobs

During third year, most people start looking at applying to graduate jobs to secure what they want to do after university. Some of these open up as soon as September, so it’s important to be ahead of the game and keep an eye out for relevant opportunities early. As I do English Literature, my degree can lead into a variety of different areas, which in some ways makes it even harder to narrow down exactly what I want to do when I graduate at the end of this year!

Practice makes perfect

At current, I’m looking for a graduate role in marketing, recruitment or HR, so most of my applications are tailored around the creative or communication skills areas. The first stage usually involves some questions on why you are the right fit for the job, plus your CV. It’s useful to have a solid CV to rely on, so there’s lots of help out there on either the Durham website, google or CV workshops run by the careers service here.

Getting through the initial stage results in psychometric testing, which are designed almost like online games, and test your skills in certain areas. They’re all different so they’re hard to prepare for: I find it best just to make sure you have the right set up of pen, paper, calculator and no interruptions. After this, there may be an online interview, before finally an assessment centre for those who make it through to the final stage. Assessment centres have been online for a while now, and seem to be staying that way this year, but I still dress up formally and make sure the background behind me is tidy. These can be very long days sometimes, but realistically there shouldn’t be too many of them as it’s unlikely you will get through every application – taking rejection well is just one step in the learning curve. These are probably the most nerve-wracking part of the application process, as it’s the first time you’re talking to the company directly rather than through AI, so it’s really important to prepare as much as you can and stay calm on the day. This usually involves things like looking up the company values and finding practice questions to do online around the area of the job.

I’m quite lucky with the experience of applying to graduate jobs as I spent some time last year applying for internships over the summer, which has walked me through a very similar process and my resulting marketing internship has given me something to talk about in my applications. If you are in the second year, going through the application process for internships is definitely something I’d recommend doing as it prepares you so much more for the time commitments, failure and recipes to success for the third year when the stakes are higher. I was quite busy in first term, but have applied to around five or six graduate jobs so far with the view to applying to more next term, and followed a similar system when applying for internships.

Help is at hand

If you are in need of assistance, Durham’s career service is really useful. Not only do they run specific events aimed at providing guidance on different areas of the application process, they also have a website with tailored opportunities (you can also opt in to have the best opportunities suited to your interests emailed to you weekly), and offer consultations. These have been online due to the pandemic but are still really useful in answering any questions you might have, especially as the process can seem really daunting for the first time.

Finally, good luck to all those reading this who are thinking of applying, and for those who have this some way ahead of them, I’d recommend starting to think about which areas interest you and how you might be able to get some experience or hone some skills for this, as it will definitely give you a head start. No question is a stupid question, so if you need to feel free to get in touch with the careers service and see how they can help you.

Discover more

To find put how the careers service can help you check out The Careers Employability and Enterprise webpages

Ruby Tomlinson

Hi, my name is Ruby, a final year English student at Van Mildert College. Whilst I'm in Durham I love getting outside to see the beauty spots the city has to offer, so you'll see many of my blogs offer recommendations! I take part in lots of extra-curriculars such as ball planning, sailing, dance and charity work, so I'm looking forward to sharing my experience and I hope you find it useful. Feel free to get in touch over Unibuddy if you have any questions.  

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