One of the biggest worries for most students approaching the end of their studies is getting a job. Everyone has seen the scary headlines of so many graduates leaving university and not being able to find work. Even more so in our field of marine biology, with stories of people doing endless volunteering, unpaid internships and some paying companies to gain work experience even after having degrees and masters behind them. So instead of waiting until I graduated and left Plymouth, I started applying for jobs in April, a full 6 months before my course finishes. With 3 months of my course left I successfully applied for a 12 month contract with a marine based charity to start a couple of weeks after my course finished. It’s a huge success for me but it’s not been easy. Hopefully though I can pass on some tips to other University of Plymouth job seekers. So here are my top tips for students who are starting to think about applying for jobs:
1. Set up a new email address
Bet you didn’t think that would be the first one. How many people’s personal email address are still the stupid and embarrassing email addresses that they created when they were 10 years old? Way too many. It takes just a few minutes to make a sensible email address, stick to your name, or initials, remember this is the address you are going to be giving to a potential boss.
DON’T USE YOUR UNIVERISTY EMAIL! Yes this might not seem to be a problem now, you may even use it as your primary email account but if you are still looking after you graduate and your email account closes all those applications you wrote are now pointless. They can’t find you anymore, even the ones that rejected you might have something else come up that they want to contact you about. It’s also good to have an address purely for your job applications then nothing will get lost amongst your everyday emails.
2. Start early
I would recommend to start at least 3 months before you’ll need a job, but the earlier the better. If you start 6 months before, like I did, most of the jobs you’ll find will want you to start sooner than 6 months - but don’t let this put you off. Get in contact with the company and ask how flexible the start date is, or ask if there is a set start date? I did this, applied and got all the way to interview with a company who had told me they wanted someone to start before September, but they really liked me at interview. They said they would be looking to expand their staff in the next few months and could they contact me then. Getting your name out early shows that you are proactive and starts getting you connected.
LinkedIn is a great platform because it is basically an online CV. A lot of the companies I applied to then looked me up on LinkedIn; you can use it to show off everything and not be restricted to the two pages of a CV or application form. You can also use it to search for jobs and, again, connect with people. If you do get an interview you’ll often be told who you’ll be seeing, then you can do a bit of stalking on LinkedIn and find out if you have things in common that you can talk about. LinkedIn can also provide a timeline of your success for potential employer to check out so each time you get results from exams, present your work somewhere or do any kind of work experience post about it on LinkedIn.
4. Tailor your CV for each job
It’s hard work and it’s frustrating but you can’t just send a standard CV out to multiple jobs. You need to stand out, make it easy for the employers, spell it out to them, whatever is required of that job make sure it is clearly there and preferably top of the list. Don’t make the reader search for it, because they won’t bother. I found it useful to have a ‘Master CV’ - it’s several pages long with everything that I’ve ever done written out and a selection of references, then when I needed a CV for an application I would cut out the unnecessary things until it fits on 2 sides of A4.
5. University of Plymouth’s Career Service
The University has a really supportive careers service; whenever I had an application I had it read through by a careers adviser. They would advise on wording, things I was missing and provided an extra pair of eyes for those silly spelling mistakes. They run loads of workshops targeting common problems students face, and can also help with preparing you for interviews, setting up a LinkedIn account and improving your CV. They’re also wonderful if you have no clue what job you actually want to do; you’d be surprised how many people come to them with that problem, so they are great at providing ideas and places to look. They even brought a photographer in to take professional office photos of you that you could use on your LinkedIn account.
There is a lot of support available at the careers hub and this really should be almost your first port of call when you start thinking about jobs, you’ll get quite friendly with them as well because I was going in at least once a week for help with applications.