Smart moves: Full-time job, please mate

Graduates looking for employment face a long search, so it's best to try every approach, says Ayse Durmush. And be prepared to go it alone and do some door-stepping
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The Independent Online
THE Government's imminent welfare-to-work legislation will undoubtedly put pressure on the under-25s to find full-time jobs. But what hope do jobless graduates have of ensuring that they don't become just another square peg in a round hole?

Many people still labour under the illusion that graduates will automatically fall into their first job; education, they argue, is the key to employment. These days, however, it is not that straightforward. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule and occasionally graduates do find their dream job at the first attempt. The reality for most though is a lot of hard work and gritty determination.

Trawling through every appointment page is hardly the right answer. Increasingly, more and more jobs are not being advertised at all because the competition is so fierce.

Some universities offer a careers advice pack to graduates, which includes a contact telephone number offering advice. This is also available from your local careers advisers office. Either of these should be the first contact a graduate makes, especially those who are unsure in which direction to go.

For those who do know which path they want to follow but are unsuccessful in getting interviews then "cold calling" is an option. Jason Coughlin, an architecture graduate, got his first job in this way. "The best way [to find a job] is by turning up on the doorstep. The beauty of cold calling is it's hard for firms to say no outright because you're harder to get rid of than a letter is." Mr Coughlin claims that the problem with job hunting is "there is so much nepotism. Most firms are quite incestuous in who they employ. It's all about who you know."

The long-term unemployed often lose motivation in achieving their goals because job hunting can be a solitary, time-consuming process. Temping agencies are a good way of meeting people who can offer advice; besides, such an experience will help to fill up date gaps in your CV.

Recruitment agencies such as Reed Graduates or the Graduate Register can find positions which are specifically suited to a graduate's needs and experiences. The application forms can be quite extensive but are definitely worth completing.

For those who are unemployed for six months or more, there are government- run programmes to help you find full-time employment. JobClub, for example, teaches the skills of CV writing, interview techniques and even provides stationery. Colin Hyne of Barnet JobClub says: "My role as JobClub leader is to motivate people into finding full-time work. Over the initial two weeks I see people change from the pessimistic jobless to optimistic job hunters."

Many graduates find they enjoy working in a different field to that of their degree. Anna Banks graduated in media production and is now working as a receptionist in a firm of architects. "When I finished university I tried to get radio broadcast and production assistant jobs. I was getting nowhere because I had no experience and was given no chance of getting any. At university I did some secretarial training, so I thought about going into PR and organising events."

Companies such as British Airways and the Guinness Corporation offer graduate training schemes. These operate just like modern apprenticeships: they fund new employees in the job and offer them training. These schemes are very competitive, and successful candidates often have to endure rigorous application procedures involving numeracy and psychological tests.

There are also graduate fairs held annually at the Business Design School in London. An extensive range of companies advertise jobs as diverse as managers for Boots Opticians to officers in the RAF. It is important to make a good impression since some companies require graduates to attend an on-the-spot interview.

Alternatively, career development loans can fund students into further education. Limited government funding for education means that graduates will have to consider seriously their financial situation. Many wait until they can fund themselves properly before embarking on a postgraduate course.

Cheaper alternatives include studying at the Open University, which offers flexibility of learning while giving graduates time to continue in part- time work or to find full-time employment.

Lack of experience is one of the major hurdles that graduates have to overcome. Work experience is a useful way of proving your abilities to a prospective employer. Although usually unpaid, it can give invaluable experience and ensure your suitability for working in the industry. Occasionally these placements can lead to full-time jobs but this is quite rare; instead it should be viewed as a learning experience.

Self-employment is possibly the most daunting option but for people aged between 18-30 there is financial and legal help available from organisations such as Shell's Livewire or The Prince's Trust.

A degree is the key to opening doors to countless fields and the choice of occupation is endless. With a little thought everyone will find the right solution to suit them and start reaping the benefits which three years of study prepared you for.