As the academic year draws to a close, university students around the country are preparing for the changes that will ensue over the coming summer. For different students this means different thing: most first-years should be fervently preparing for the end of year exams (if you’re not, you really should), second-years are normally finalizing details for their placements (check MyGateway for placements), while third-years are toiling away at their dissertations (our thoughts and prayers are with you, guys). Regardless of your situation at the moment, there are many things about working in a professional environment, not including retail and other part-time jobs you may have had, that you may be unaware of. To make it easier for you (as the helpful bunch that we are), we’ve decided to share a few things we feel that you should be aware of as you prepare for the most important step in your career.
Know your worth
So you’re finishing up an interview with a potential employer, they’re impressed with your detailed and comprehensive experience (seriously, check MyGateway for placement opportunities), the fact that you speak 5 languages including Latin and have a number 1 chart-topping single. The last question they ask you is “Do you have any salary demands?” What many people won’t tell you is that the answer to this question can determine your relative pay for the next 4/5+ years. Any promotions you receive, perhaps even if you decide to apply for a new job, your first salary will provide the baseline. So it would be foolish not to extensively research average salaries in your chosen field. Furthermore, from a negotiating perspective, you can gain the upper hand by trying to get the interviewer to give you a number first, perhaps asking, “If you found the perfect candidate for this role, how would you reward them to ensure they took the job?”
Step outside your comfort zone
Your first graduate job will probably be so far out of your comfort zone that you probably won’t be able to crawl back into it. I say its best to use this unfamiliarity to your advantage to push yourself to do things you might not have done if you were in a more comfortable predicament. You may have been hearing it throughout, well, since GCSEs most probably, but networking doesn’t stop once you’ve landed the job. Get to know the key players in your industry, who they know, when they’re at public engagement, etc. Don’t be fooled into thinking that networking is just handing out a bunch of business cards; it’s about creating meaningful relationships that can hopefully be beneficial somewhere down the line.
Don’t be afraid to leave
There might be instances when you end up in a job where you hate your boss, the work is unfulfilling and uninspiring or maybe you just don’t see yourself spending the next few years in that particular company. While the fear of uncertainty might be overwhelming, your long-term happiness is way more important. When you’re young, without children or a mortgage, you have far more mobility than your slightly older colleagues. A new job will have far less of an impact on your overall life the younger you are, generally speaking. This is where you reach out to that thriving network you have built for yourself and trust that there is something out there much better for you.