As a graduate student, knowing I wanted to start making money after I graduated, I began my job search about eight months before I could feasibly start. This might be a little early for some industries and late for others. I knew I wanted to work in museums or events, with marketing as my fall back, which meant most jobs I wouldn’t need to apply for more than four months out from my start date. However, there are some jobs, especially grad schemes, that require you to apply almost a year in advance. So this advice may not be for everyone, but I am hoping it can help some.
First, I narrowed down the career paths I would be happy with – museums and events, ideally events in museums. My two degrees also helped narrow down this field, but there are many people who get jobs in areas that have nothing to do with their college degrees, just depends. Once I had an idea of what type of jobs I wanted and companies I was interested in, I got on Indeed and LinkedIn for some cursory searches of jobs available and what I could be qualified for. I started this quite early, seeing what was coming up, how competitive jobs were, and thinking about the job titles I would be most interested in. Surprisingly, development positions in museums were what I ended up applying to most, which I wasn’t expecting when I first started my job search. Don’t be nervous to branch out and explore positions you hadn’t thought of before. Also, don’t narrow yourself too much too soon, since most industries are extremely competitive these days.
During my actual cycle of applications, I was pumping out at least five a day, and this was on top of classes and my dissertation. It was intense and my advisor said I spent too much time focusing on applications rather than my coursework. Well, I wanted to be employed by the time I graduated so 🙂 I sent a lot of applications through the easy apply features on LinkedIn and Indeed. I was rejected from every single one of those. BUT, they took less than a minute to complete so I figured I might as well throw as many fishhooks into the sea as I could. Most of my time was spent on online application portals, refilling all of my resume details into online systems (I basically have my resume memorized word for word now) and writing cover letters.
Ah yes, cover letters – everyone’s favorite part of applying for jobs. Cover letters can make or break you, especially if you’ve already met most of the qualifications listed on the job description. I spent a lot of time on cover letters for some jobs, and not so much on others. It all depends on the company and the position. However, I wrote a new cover letter for each job – always personalize! Of course, I copy and pasted a lot of the information about myself and my skills, but I specifically tailored my cover letters to the job description. I literally listed out the bullet point qualifications from the job description and then described my skills and experience under each one – that way they know I definitely meet the requirements. I also added in information about why I wanted the job with the specific company in a beginning or ending paragraph. This means research – reading the website, mission statements, past reports, and bios of people in the department you’re applying to. In all, a really good application could take me about two hours. In one day, I was able to do two, maybe three on the weekend, plus any new easy applies.
Additionally, I registered with a lot of graduate agencies. These are people who find jobs for you, which is dope. They took my resume and asked a few questions about what type of job I wanted, salary range, and location. If a job came across their desk that I was a good fit for, they would call me and see if I was interested. This was another easy way to be throwing as many fishhooks out as possible. And interesting enough, this is how I found my job.
Interviewing was a whole other beast that I will write a separate post on, but I will summarize here. Be proud of yourself for just getting an interview, even if you don’t get the job. There’s some statistic out there that most people interview twelve times before they get their first offer. So stay strong. And always ask for feedback! I interviewed at four different museums for similar positions. Each time I was rejected I asked for feedback. Most of the time, I just wasn’t as qualified, but there was one interviewer who emailed me a massive email about my interview and specific things I could do better, giving me links to the STAR method. It was really great advice and the next interview I had I used the feedback to do better. In the end, I got my first offer after my fourth interview. Doing serious prep for the interviews really helped me shine in the interviews. This means more research – going deeper on the goals and aims of the company overall (most have reports about this), knowing who is in the department, how your role fits into the company and its overall aims. As well, know your resume and know how to explain all the incredible things you have done. Then connect them to the skills needed for the position. How does your role as treasurer for your May Ball relate to the advertising position? Transferrable skills! It’s a lot to remember and get a handle on. It definitely took me a few interviews before I felt super confident in explaining how my experience would transfer to the role.
It is not an easy process and there were quite a few times I cried after getting the rejection email. The job market right now for graduating students is TOUGH. There aren’t enough jobs for the number of grads, and definitely not enough that pay well enough to sustain a living in cities like London. But there are jobs out there, so keep your head up!
- Keep a positive attitude and be proud of yourself for getting through!
- Always personalize the cover letter.
- Do serious prep for the interview, it pays off.
In the spirit of transparency and because money is never talked about enough with regards to jobs, my current role as Production Assistant pays 28k. I negotiated through the agency for this salary, so I can’t give advice about salary negotiation, but can advise that you do research about the average salary someone in that position would be making so you can negotiate with the stats to back you up. Glassdoor is one great website for this.