Graduate Lewis Powell tells us how he navigated post-university life for prospects in the job market.
‘This time last year I graduated from the University of Kent and headed to Las Vegas to report at the World Series of Poker for PokerNews for seven weeks. Little did I know that I would be working as a freelancer for PokerNews for almost a year. However, I was determined to put my Economics degree into use and wasn’t satisfied reporting on poker tournaments. Eventually after taking a step back from poker reporting, I managed to secure a job as a graduate economist at Ofwat.
In this article I will discuss my five tips to navigating post university life as a new graduate on the job market.
1) Only Apply for Jobs You’re Genuinely Interested In
This may sound obvious but work is going to be a dominant component in your life for the next 40 years so you may as well do something which interests you or that you think you’ll be good at. It can be tempting to take the first job offer which comes your way, but time is on your side. You should use this time to evaluate your skillset and abilities, which you have learnt from your time in education, and apply for roles where these characteristics are desirable. Furthermore, if you are not motivated intrinsically it will show up in the interview/assessment centre and it will be more difficult to show enthusiasm for the role. It is also important to have a few options. For example, I wanted to be an Economist but was exploring other avenues such as Data Consulting or Data Science roles as these made use of my problem-solving skills I learnt in my degree. Don’t tunnel vision on only one type of job.
2) Don’t Let Setbacks Paralyse You
In life its very rare that you succeed first time (especially when there’s competition involved) so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed on your first assessment centre/interview (you probably won’t). Try to reflect on the experience and think critically about what you did well and what areas could be improved. Some companies will offer feedback, and some won’t so its up to you to try and reflect yourself. A personal example for me was I didn’t think I performed well in group activities so I spoke to my career advisor for some advice on how to excel in these tasks and focused in on how I could improve. One thing I decided on was to try and keep the team on track by reminding us of how much time we had on the task left as well as being active by trying to move the project on when we were spending too much time debating on one part of the task. This is an example of me trying to improve in order to be more successful for next time. It took until my fourth assessment centre to land a job, but it could be less or more for you. All you can do is control your inputs (time, presentation preparation, reflection, industry research) in order to try and get a successful outcome. If you do feel somewhat overwhelmed/disappointed by the whole job application process, then take a few days off. It is important allow yourself time to reset and realign focus, I myself would take time out when I felt my mental health deteriorating. Its important to look after yourself in the job search process.
3) Look After Your Mental Health
As stressed in my last point, it is vital to look after your mental health in this period. Don’t tunnel vision your life around getting a job and associate your self-worth to a job. I’d recommend getting into a good sleep schedule (don’t stay on your phone until 12 p.m.), exercising regularly and meeting up with your friends every week to help throughout this adjustment period. If you find you are struggling, reach out to a health care professional.
4) Focus on Hobbies
Don’t spend 8 hours a day applying for jobs (I rarely spent more than 3 hours a day). That will not be sustainable and will not be enjoyable for you. Use this time to focus on hobbies which you haven’t done in a while. For example, I played more poker after university as I had more free time and I also started going to the gym regularly again as well as playing more football. Having these extra components in your life will have spillover effects into your job search by making you feel good and more well balanced. There may be withdrawals from exiting the university bubble. Make sure that community is filled either by friends from home or from a hobby you’ve been pursuing. Don’t isolate yourself in your bedroom applying for jobs for 40 hours a week. This won’t be optimal.
5) Prepare Thoroughly
This is arguably the most important point in this article. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. It is important to stress that the job market is competitive. This means you can’t just walk into the interview/assessment centre with no preparation and expect to be hired. In order to succeed you must research and practice. This means putting as much time as possible into researching the company. This includes what the company does; what values they have and what their mission is. For my interview at Ofwat I ensured I read all the articles I could find about the water sector and the challenges it had. I also researched their workplace values, learning them thoroughly. I would make sure I would mention each of them in my interview and explicitly mention how these values relate to my abilities, skills and character. It’s important to remember that the job advert tells you how to be successful, you just need to prepare and give evidence.
Utilise all your available resources, such as the careers service which is free for Kent alumni up to 3 years. Here, you can schedule appointments with a career advisor for practice interviews based on job specifications. Continuity with one advisor can really enhance your progress and efficiency. Plus. the immediate feedback after each question helps to aid your improvement. Another tip I would recomment is using Chat GPT to generate and evaluate questions, using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Response) technique for answers, which again is helpful due to its instant feedback for interview practise.
My final tips would be to go into the interview/assessment centre with a strong mindset. Go in confident. Confidence comes from preparation. “Winging it” is not a winning strategy when it comes to competitive endeavours. I’d also recommend hyping yourself up before the assessment centre/interview. I personally for my final interview would watch motivational videos from Eric Thomas in order to get me in a high energy, high confidence mood. It is not an optimal strategy to go into the interview process timid or lacking in self-belief.
If you do have any questions, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn.’
Lewis Powell studied for and acquired a Bsc in Economics with Econometrics