Will Potterton of Leavers Hoodies looks at how university and college leavers can enter employment.

Youth employment has been a cause for concern over the past decade, with evidence of rising unemployment rates as well as fears of sector-specific skills gaps. However, it seems as if there is some good news around career prospects for college and university leavers – at least if the statistics are to be believed.

The House of Commons Youth Unemployment Statistics Briefing Paper released earlier this year reported that unemployment rates for the college/university leaver age group (18 to 24-year olds) had fallen by 0.6% between November 2017 and January 2018, with a total of 3.5 million in employment. This positive outlook has been reinforced by a study from not-for-profit member organisation the Institute of Student Employers, which says that there will be a 11% rise in graduate vacancies during 2018.

So, if you are about to graduate from sixth form, college or university, there’s nothing to worry about is there?

Well, just because things are looking up doesn’t mean young job seekers can be complacent. Competition is still fierce for the best jobs and employers can still afford to pick and choose within most industries.

Starting the job search

So, where do you start looking and how do you go about finding your perfect job? The chances, your first employment role may well not be your dream job. Aim high but be realistic. You may have the knowledge, skills and passion that make you a perfect fit for that ideal job – but inevitably you will lack experience.

Creating the right digital footprint

How you present yourself doesn’t just relate to your appearance or CV; it’s also about your digital footprint. Make sure you have a professional sounding email address - not the one you set up at secondary school. First impressions count and if a prospective employer receives an email from [email protected] they may not even open the email, let alone see you as a serious-minded professional. Set up an email address that uses your full name only – use characters like underscores or numbers if your name is already taken in a Gmail account or similar, but don’t put anything in your email address that could allude to your private personality.

Go for a social media detox

Employers are likely to look you up online before they invite you for interview. Even just googling your name could bring up pictures that you or your friends have posted and tagged on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Make sure that anything an employer can find is something that you wouldn’t mind them seeing. If you have embarrassing or inappropriate photographs or posts delete them.

Online job opportunities

There are more ways than ever before to search for job opportunities – from the more traditional careers advisory service (which is still well worth investigating – good ones will have useful links to local businesses), to job search websites and social sites like LinkedIn.

There are many different types of job sites. Some will have a wide reach, including all industries and locations while others will have a more niche approach, for example jobs in the legal, education, healthcare or marketing sectors. Sign up to as many as you think are relevant to what you would like to do, and as well as taking time to look through the latest jobs, you’ll soon start receiving emails with relevant job opportunities to apply for.

Recruitment agencies

Recruitment agents are another useful source of employment which are free for candidates to use. They often have a specialist area or industry and work with a range of similar employers to recruit candidates for roles of varied seniority. Some employers will only use recruitment agents so it’s worthwhile doing your research and taking the time to meet with recruiters, so that you are on their radar for relevant job opportunities.

Graduate schemes and internships

If you know which sector you want to work in graduate schemes and internships are a great way in. Graduate schemes combine work with training and are predominantly offered by larger companies. They may include the completion of a professional qualification, alongside getting paid for carrying out work, and often result in a permanent job.

An internship usually only lasts for a fixed amount of time, ranging from weeks to months. Some internships can also be unpaid, especially if they are specifically defined as work experience. The main benefit of participating in an internship is to gain experience in a given field or industry and having done so, to build a CV.

Social media as a job seeking tool

An article by The Undercover Recruiter states that in 2016 84% of companies were recruiting via social media globally. This means that they’re advertising the vacancies that they want to fill to specific markets using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. To make the most of this opportunity, make sure that the information on your profiles represent you in a professional manner, in case you need to apply by responding to an advert or social media post using your profile. Do your research and follow the companies that you’re interested in working for and which you know take on graduates so that their advertisement will be displayed in your news feeds.

Social networking

Social media is a network, so use it. If you have gained some experience in a certain industry, perhaps through volunteering or work experience, say so. Publish a review of what you have done on LinkedIn or write a post with a photo on Facebook. Do the same if you’re looking for a certain job and most importantly, in both cases, ask people in your networks to share your post in case any employers are looking for someone with your skills, experience and drive. Business owners and recruiting managers will be using social media for their own business purposes, so the chances are they make up a good proportion of the over 35s on social media.

Be your own boss

Finally, who says you have to work for someone else? If you have the skills and the desire to work for yourself, try your hand at freelancing or becoming a sole trader. There are websites that post jobs for freelancers, so whilst you’re looking for a job, or to help with gaining experience try writing, designing or something else that requires a specialist skill. Websites to take a look at include Freelancer and People Per Hour.

It’s a daunting but exciting step finding your first job but there are great opportunities for young people, so make the most of the tools at your disposal.

About Will Potterton: Will is Director of leavershoodiescompany.co.uk, a company which provides high quality, personalised leavers hoodies to the teachers and parents of school leavers, as well as directly to the students themselves.

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