Life After Uni | Guest Post by Azeez Kukz

Who knew adulting would be so difficult? As in…you’re officially an adult adult. Bills and bills. No more university or lectures to attend (or sleep in and miss). No more netflixing all day or waking up at 2pm in the afternoon...are you ready to be thrown into the deep end and take on real responsibility?

If you're in your last year of uni, congratulations for making it this far because not everyone did. Be proud of yourself, before you know it you'll be preparing for graduation! I recently finished university in May (on my 21st birthday in fact) which was a bittersweet experience because university itself was challenging and mentally draining. However with that being said, I met great lifelong friends and enhanced my skills. University taught me a lot. My time management got better, working towards deadlines improved and working with others I didn’t know or liked changed how I completed the work. You may think that it’s nothing right now and its cliché but in the real world, these are the skills you need in any job you work in.

The best thing to do is to start applying for graduate schemes as early as September because third year can become quite hectic and you might struggle to complete them. If you didn't start that early, don't worry. Many of the deadlines are in November - December so try to apply to at least 3 a week. It’s easy to procrastinate and say you will do it later, then you keep longing it out and it doesn’t get done. Start what you finish, because it will be too late when you realise. Find the role you want to go in for and then research the companies you may want to work for and get your cover letter/cv perfected before you submit any application. 

All universities have a careers department so use this to your full advantage before you leave. Book those sessions as they help students with interview tips, CV writing and loads more. They can even help you get a job! Take as much as you can from your lectures, lecturers, seminar leaders etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No question is too silly and remember you’ve taken out a loan so you better start asking! 

It’s a harsh reality but you are going to classed as another graduate with a 2:1/1st. The competition out there is TOUGH, you need to think about what makes YOU different from the 100,000 other students that will graduate too. Up and down the country. From London down to Norwich. It is so easy to get comfortable in your part time retail job that you’ve been in since studying but snap out of it. Come out of that comfort zone you rely on and start applying for graduate roles/schemes or any jobs within your chosen field. Even if the pay is whack, think about the experience and what can be added on your CV. Most entry level jobs are always going to be shit but it will push you to want to learn on the job and move on.

Be prepared for rejection but use it to your advantage and ALWAYS ask for feedback if you’re not successful. This way, you can work on yourself to do better for the next interview. What I find was helpful was researching the roles I wanted to go into, finding what those top skills needed in those roles are and teaching/adapting myself. I’m pretty competent with the use of MS Office but wasn't great at using Excel. Now in marketing, its essential to be able to use excel and I didn’t have a clue what pivot tables were and why they were needed. However, I taught myself. I knew this is what I wanted to go into, so I had to at least learn some of the basics and be confident with that. This allowed me to mention in interviews that, ‘I’m not 100% good with Excel however, I am teaching myself and learning in my spare time’ which sounded much better than a cold ‘I don’t know’ and looking clueless in the interview. Saying this shows you’re a self-starter which employees love to hear and you’re serious about wanting the role by showing you’re doing the extra work in your spare time. 

Let your personality show through interviews and be confident. The best way for you to stand out is to be you.  For the skills needed, you can teach yourself what you have access too. YouTube is there, so instead of watching your favourite influencers or whatever, teach yourself the necessary skills that you need to. Google is there too, download worksheets online for free and do them in your spare time. In this day and age, we have access to pretty much everything, use everything in your reach. Follow some industry leaders on LinkedIn and reach out to them. Ask them questions and their tips/advice on getting into the field. Don’t bombard them and make sure you keep it professional at all times. If you don’t have a LinkedIn already, make one! I don’t know how you’ve gone so long without one. It’s the best place as a graduate to get jobs and show employers who you are and what you’ve have done.

Someone could sit down and tell you word for word what to do but it’s always going to be down to the individual and how hard you want the challenge, the change and the job. You have to be confident in interviews, show you’re eager to grow and learn. You have to show them you can work there, you understand the company’s culture and work ethic and you love the work that they do. Hard work always pays off. Getting a 1st or a 2:1 in your degree is amazing but you need to have other skills to back yourself up. Employers want to know what you done outside of university whilst you’ve been studying. Have you been an ambassador for something, have you been a part of the community outside university, do you have a blog or If you have a YouTube channel? They want to know what your hobbies are. They want to know who you are. It’s hard to explain that within a CV but try and sell yourself as much as you can but also leaving some doors open for them to speak about when they interview you too. There’s no how to guide but here are a few things I did to land me in my first job:

1) Research into the field you want to go into. Write down all the skills and responsibilities that is being asked and match them with your existing skills / begin to work on them skills. 

2) Then create a new CV or update your existing one where the main focus is on the key skills that your role is asking of you. Bear in mind, your CV will need to be altered depending on the job role you apply for. (Example: If you CV is about business management – don’t use the same CV for a marketing assistant role) 

3) Create a cover letter template. A generic one you can always copy and paste and adapt it to the job specification. Main points:
- Introduce yourself- Mention the job you’re applying for- Show that your skills and experience match the skills and experienced needed for the job = important. Don’t blag just make your point, explain and move on.
- Encourage the read to read your CV = “Attached with the cover letter”
- Finish with a call to action = “Look forward to hearing from you soon to discuss my application in more detail.”

4) Create a LinkedIn account, update your profile, follow your classmates, industry leaders etc. Ask fellow classmates and old employees to write a recommendation for you and also endorse your skills.

5) Start looking for some jobs. The best place to look for is: Indeed, Grad Touch, Grad bay, Sphere, Milk round, inspiring interns and 

Remember, this is a tedious process so be prepared to hear “Unfortunately you’re not the right candidate”. Keep applying. The application process is long and overbearing but always remember to give yourself time to complete them. Again, don’t start one and say you’re going to come back, just finish it. Try and aim for at least 3-5 applications a week, depending on how badly you want to leave your current situation. 

Despite not getting a graduate scheme/job, I got an entry level job that was in my field. The job specification was everything I wanted to do and more. I’m currently a communications coordinator and I manage the social media and write up weekly newsletters (in general terms), the role allows me to be creative, think outside the box and meet great people! I’ve worked on a few projects and I am excited to work on some more. Unless I knew I was going into something I loved, I didn't plan on leaving my part time job. I wanted to come out of my circumstances and with prayer and hard work, I got there in the end. Most entry level jobs don’t expect a lot but its always about learning something new everyday and motivating yourself to do better. It will all make sense soon. Just keep doing what you’re doing and pray for the best!

Again, be proud of yourself for making it this far. You're almost at the finish line, good luck and all the best guys!

Special Thanks to Rashidah for letting me share my experience on her blog!

Feel free to follow me on twitter @AK_B100.