So a few days ago, I was lucky to attend an interview at the Science Media Centre, an independent press office that promotes accurate science stories in the media. Whilst I didn’t get the job, I was assured that I had the potential to contribute to science communication, so that definitely made it feel better.
I’m still relatively new to the graduate job rodeo, but even from just a few applications, I’ve been learning some tips:
I’ve been finding lots of different job adverts on a number of different websites and it’s always a good idea to have a wide search range. Here are a few websites where I’ve seen lots of jobs:
Twitter (I follow journalism and media jobs and they regularly tweet new opportunities)
Gorkana Jobs (an excellent website for journalists and PR people)
I know that after having gone through years of university, we all know exactly what job title we would like to have and what the ‘dream job’ is. But broaden those horizons a little bit, because there are all sorts of job titles out there, and if you have a good look at the description, you might be surprised by how good it sounds!
In theory, they’re easy. In practice, job applications can be far from that. We all want to show potential employers how amazing we are with our CVs and cover letters, but what can you do to stand out?
- Be clear and concise – don’t waffle! You need to be short and snappy, otherwise the person reading it may just dismiss it.
- Don’t play with fonts and colours – by all means, make headers bold to have them stand out, but going crazy with the colours of the rainbow will make your CV look untidy and unprofessional.
- If you’re a graduate like me, start with education and then work experience – don’t be afraid to list random jobs either, it shows variety and you can state what you have learned from it.
- When it comes to writing a cover letter, you must first know who to address – if you definitely know that name of the person going through applications, start with ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss X’ but don’t use their first name, because that’s too informal. If you don’t know their name, start with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. Finally, the way you finish your letter must reflect how you start it, so if you know your name, the letter ends with ‘Yours Sincerely’, if you don’t use ‘Yours Faithfully’. This may be basic English, but you’d be surprised by the number of people who have forgotten these rules.
- Reference the job that you are applying for in the opening sentence, don’t just assume that they will know because they might be recruiting for more than just that one job!
- Really read through the job description and write your cover letter based on that. There will be key skills and responsibilities outlined, and they take priority above anything else in the letter. If the employer doesn’t see how you can do the job in the cover letter, how will they ever know (because you won’t even get to the interview!)?
- Make a new cover letter every time. If you’re rewording a template every time, then the odds are that you’ll forget to change a bit and this glaring mistake could cost you an interview.
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. The odds are that there have been dozens of people applying for this job, and you’ve made it into the final few.
- Dress for the part – it might sound obvious, but dress for the job that you want. It’s always better to come in slightly over dressed than under, as it means that you really want to impress.
- Research, research, research – trawl through the company website and if you know the names of your interviewers, look them up! Preparation is key to a successful interview because they are bound to ask you what attracted you to this company.
- Go through common questions – at least a couple of them will be asked such as “where do you see yourself in five years time?” or “can you give us an example of when you used your initiative for a difficult task?”. Also, go through the questions with some friends, they could tell you things about yourself that you might never have thought of.
Finally, just remember, finding a full-time job can sometimes be a full-time job. If you get rejected for a job which you thought was perfect for you, don’t get too down. Keep looking and most importantly, learn from failures. Ask for feedback from your applications if you were unsuccessful and improve future applications with this knowledge.
So to all my fellow graduates (especially you journalists), good luck!