A Graduate’s Guide to Finding a First Job


1. Work out what you want to do

You don’t need to have everything figured out before you leave university and start in the world of work.

But as a soon-to-be graduate, it’s easy to think ‘any job will do’, and to find yourself settling for whatever’s available simply for the sake of getting on the employment ladder.

However, in our experience, feeling as though your first job out of university is leading somewhere is key – as is knowing that ‘somewhere’ is where you want to be.

Having at least an idea of what you’re interested in and what you could see yourself doing before you start looking could save you years in the wrong job. Websites like www.prospects.ac.uk are a great starting point.

2. Do your research

Saying you want to be a Software Developer/Business Analyst/Lion Tamer is one thing, but it’s important that you get an idea of what’s involved in these roles day-to-day.

LinkedIn is a great place to start. Company pages and professional profiles both give you valuable information on what’s out there in your chosen industry and you can start to understand what backgrounds, skills and experiences people in those industries have.

Read job adverts and descriptions. They are all over LinkedIn, on company websites, and on countless job-boards. You don’t need to apply to every one of the hundreds you come across, but they can provide good insight as to what to expect.

3. Know what you bring to the table

A little self-reflection goes a long way. Everyone’s got something to offer, and it’s important that you’re clear about where your strengths lie.

Think about your degree and where you were really shone – for Technology, that might be Front-End Web Development, Databases, Machine Learning/Data Science, or anything else. Working out what these areas are is important to make sure you are applying to jobs where you’ll succeed.

4. Soft skills are important

Communication skills, presentation skills, ability to work well in a team, ability to meet tight deadlines – to name a few – are highly prized at all levels of employment.

Know what your soft skills are. Often, if choosing between two equally-qualified people, these can be the difference in giving one an edge over the other.

5. Don’t underestimate the value of extra-curriculars

Of course, you shouldn’t devote more time on your CV to extra-curriculars than to your more relevant skills and experience – just a couple of sentences will do. But showing that you’re well-rounded, with interests beyond academics and work is no bad thing.

I’ve gone into more detail on this in another blog, which can be found here. Ultimately, people want to know that you’re more than just an academic record, so show them that.

6. Know what your weaknesses are – but don’t stress about them

Don’t be discouraged by what you don’t know. No hiring manager is going to expect you to tick every single box. It’s good to be aware of what your shortcomings are, but don’t dwell on them.

In an interview, asking about learning opportunities and how to best go about filling in the gaps is a great idea – but you have to know what those gaps are first.

7. Write a strong CV

A good CV is one that clearly and concisely highlights your skills (both hard and soft) and your experience, while also giving a little bit of insight as to what you are like as a person. For a graduate, I’d say two pages is plenty – and if you can fit it onto one, then you should.

For every single thing you write, down to the last comma, think about the message you are trying to send to the reader, if you’ve written it, it should have a purpose. If it doesn’t, leave it out.

For more detail, I recommend reading a blog by Saragossa’s own Rory Gaston.

8. Update your LinkedIn

Having a good CV just isn’t enough. Anyone who meets or hears about you will almost certainly look you up online.

You probably already have a LinkedIn profile, but make sure it’s not empty or out of date. Take all of the information on your CV and build that into your page.

Employers are busy people, and if they think they can gain a better understanding of you from looking at LinkedIn, they will.

9. Reach out to relevant people

This may feel awkward, but you’ll be surprised both at how wide your network actually is, and how many of the people in it will be willing to help you.

Reach out with bespoke messages to old university alumni, friends, family, acquaintances or anyone you vaguely know in relevant positions and ask for advice. They may provide you with some insight, or they may be able to introduce you to someone who can. Results may vary, but provided you go about it in the appropriate way, you lose nothing by trying.

10. Talk to recruiters

You may already have some reservations about recruiters but honestly, we’re here to help.

Want to know how much you should be looking for as a starting salary? Or how many years’ experience you need at entry-level before you can progress? Maybe you’re concerned that you haven’t quite got all the skills required for the job you want, and you need an unbiased opinion.

Most of the recruiters I know love getting the chance to share that their knowledge around. If you ever spend time with us outside the office, you’ll quickly realise we love talking about what we do!

The more knowledge someone has, the more likely they are to find a job that suits them – and ultimately, helping people to find roles in which they can succeed is what we’re here to do.

Saragossa are a talent provider specialising in the Financial Technology, Financial Operations and Data Science sectors. Our role is to match clients with high calibre candidates. Our work encompasses filling temporary contracts along with building permanent teams and resourcing projects. To find out more, please contact enquiries@saragossa.co.uk or call 020 7871 3666.