It’s What’s Outside That Counts


It’s What’s Outside That Counts

As I explained in a previous blog, few people in my generation had the opportunity to study coding languages like Java, C++ and Python before university. Most technology enthusiasts like myself had to wait until university before we could be taught skills which, as it turned out, would be relevant to almost every industry in the world.

Because of this, as a recent or soon-to-be graduate looking for a technical role, you may be somewhat anxious. Having only three or four years of quantifiable coding experience might not seem like much, and you may be unsure of how to parlay that experience into a career.

Many graduates express concern that they will lose out on opportunities due to having anything less than first-rate academics. However, the good news is that generally, technical companies looking to hire recent or new graduates are much less preoccupied with academic records than you might think.

A statement I often hear from new professionals is how much they learned in their first role. The stated cliché is that you learn more relevant knowledge in the first six months of your career than in your entire time at university – particularly for technical roles.

That’s not exactly surprising. A 2017 Telegraph article claimed that STEM students at UK Universities received an average of between 20 to 25 contact hours per week (with other subjects coming in even lower). Staggeringly, that’s only 12 to 15% of your time at university actually spent – well, at university.

Now, you probably (maybe) studied independently on top of that, and we need to account for basic things like food, sleep and some kind of social life. But that still leaves a sizeable chunk of time left unaccounted for – and it’s how you use THAT time that will be the key factor in securing your first job.

That’s not supposed to intimidate you – on the contrary, you should find that encouraging.

The best advice I could give recent or soon-to-be graduates is this: show that you’ve got interests, and that you are interesting.

Having a great degree is obviously not going to hurt your chances – but it’s not everything. Having a part-time bar job, entering Kaggle competitions, attending tech meet ups, contributing to open source projects on GitHub, learning a foreign language, joining a sports team, even going travelling – they all give you useful and quantifiable experience you can bring to the workplace, and employers know it.

Giving someone an interview for a software development job because you saw on their CV they played hockey or taught themselves Mandarin might sound ridiculous. But there’s no better way to convince someone you can cope with a high pace of learning in your first 6 months than showing you’ve successfully juggled your studies with other worthwhile endeavours.

With so much almost indistinguishable talent on the market at the moment, people don’t simply want to hire someone who will plug in, work for as long as they’re told to and then go home. People want their colleagues to be interesting, well-rounded people with whom they will enjoy spending 40+ hours per week.

Ultimately, employers want to know that you are willing and able to be taught. Nobody is expecting their junior professionals to be the finished product – not even close. In fact, most companies usually expect to have to start from scratch, because only in rare cases does a degree link perfectly to one specific career.

Saying you performed well at university is great.  But if you really want people to look at your CV differently to the others, then it’s what you’ve done outside of education that matters most.

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 or call 020 7871 3666.

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