Finding a Graduate Job

by | Jul 9, 2024 | Coaching Blog

The UK graduate employment market

Employers are still hiring despite the economic downturn and the forecast is that the demand for graduates will continue to increase in the coming years. The job market for graduates currently is strong and according to the UK Universities ‘Jobs of the future’ report more than 11 million graduates will be needed to fill graduate jobs by 2035 in the following employment areas:

  • Senior managers
  • STEM professionals, including computing and engineering
  • Teaching and education professionals
  • Business services such as lawyers, accountants, actuaries, architects and surveyors
  • Business services associate professionals such as data analysts, HR professionals, advertising, marketing and sales
  • Health and social care associate professionals such as opticians, medical technicians, housing officers and youth and community workers
  • Health professionals including doctors and nurses

That is not to say that securing a job is easy. According to the ‘What do graduates do’ report of 2023, graduates still compete with an average of 61 other applicants per job. Graduate schemes are also very competitive. As a result, securing employment requires time, commitment and a proactive approach.

What are employers looking for?

Hiring managers look for passion for the role, problem-solving ability, strong communication skills, organisational and time management skills, and curiosity. They also look for an understanding of their business, product or service and an enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

The graduate careers service, Prospects, says that to stand out to employers it is important to demonstrate strong communication, critical thinking and interpersonal skills as well as build a rapport with potential employers.

Finding the right job for you – focus on the process, not the end goal

 Recent neuroscience studies demonstrate that when we set out to achieve a goal, our focus is on the reward. We visualise achieving the reward, and what it will feel like when we do. This propels us into action. However, once we get started, we begin to focus on the effort required to achieve it! The more we focus on the effort, the more likely we are to struggle. Finding the right career or the right specific job takes time and will be full of ups and downs. Instead of visualising the end goal, visualise the process, knowing that success will come from all the daily hard work and effort.

 See below for the six key steps in the process:

1. Know and understand your values.

There are all sorts of pressures on you as a graduate and you may find yourself looking for jobs that don’t match your values. This can happen as a result of peer or parental pressures or because of what you feel is expected of you. It’s no good going into a sales job because it comes with a good starting salary if one of your top values is helping others – you’ll quickly become unhappy and want to change career.

Knowing your values will help guide you on finding the right career for you. Values help you harness greater levels of willpower and stop you from negatively comparing yourself to others. Set your own direction according to what matters to you.

Values-based decision-making will enable you to step towards a future that resonates with who you really are and allow you to be authentic. Furthermore, knowing your values will help you in your job search and application process – you will quickly see if you resonate with an organisation’s values and be able to highlight what’s important to you in your applications for jobs.

To get to know your work values try the following values tests:

Work values test (free)

Barrett values test ($19.95)

2. Know your strengths.

 We often think of strengths as what we’re good at doing but strengths are more than that – they are things we love to do and want to do more of.  Write a list of your key strengths and then ask a few friends and family members what they think your strengths are. Compare the lists – are there any new insights?  Do any themes emerge?

You may also find the following strengths tests useful (they’re all free!):




VIA Survey of Character Strengths

3. Step out of your comfort zone.

Volunteer, do a work placement or internship, or seek opportunities to work shadow to gain valuable insights, experience, and develop transferable skills. If you’re already clear on what you want to do, then gaining experience will demonstrate your commitment to working in a particular field or industry and will give you new contacts. If you’re not yet clear on what you want to do then gaining experience will help you test out potential career paths whilst still developing skills that will be invaluable in the future.

Most answers reveal themselves through doing, not thinking. Trying new things such as volunteering can be daunting, but it’s also a great step towards finding work that you’ll enjoy. When you begin to act, you may take wrong turns, but you’ll be able to test and validate potential interests or it will help you confirm your calling for a particular future career path.

4. Build and leverage a professional network.

 Networking can lead to opportunities for short-term projects, apprenticeships, and informational interviews. Talking to people about what they do will give you fresh insights and spark your curiosity about jobs and careers that you may not have known about or considered before.

Begin by thinking about people you know who have a career that interests you – family members, friends, or friends of friends.  Once you start, one person will put you in touch with another who will then put you in touch with another, and so on. When you share your ambitions with people already in the field that you’re interested in they may consider you for work experience opportunities or job vacancies.

It takes confidence to network but remember that those you’re talking to have been in your position at one time. When approaching someone let them know that you have a shared passion for what they’re doing. Make it clear in your request that you’re seeking to learn more about the work that they do so that you can be more informed about your career choices. People will be very happy to talk to you if you show that you’re genuinely interested in their work.

5. Start your job search

Go to careers fairs and events, look at the government’s ‘Find a job’ service, jobs boards, recruitment agencies, and sector specific websites. Contact your university careers and employment services and if you’re not already on LinkedIn, then sign up and create your profile so that recruiters can find you.

6. Apply for jobs

Make sure that your CV is up to date and tailor it for each application you make, being sure to include examples of your experience and skills that are listed in the job description. You may be required to include a cover letter which is your opportunity to explain what motivates you and why you’re passionate about the role. It is important to demonstrate that you’ve researched the organisation or company and that you have a good understanding of their business, service or product.

Being invited to an interview will feel both exciting and daunting. Take time to prepare beforehand so that you feel confident and able to shine. Interviews often begin with ‘Tell me about yourself’ and ‘Why do you want this role?’ so prepare your responses to these questions in advance. It is important to practice but not learn your answers off by heart – think of 3 key things you want to discuss for each answer and keep your responses to approximately 3 minutes long. Other interview questions will be more specific to your experience – draw on examples from your work experience, volunteering, or interests and hobbies to highlight your skills in communication, teamwork and leadership. Structure your responses carefully and highlight the value you will bring to the organisation or company.


Finding a job takes time, dedication, and resilience. You may face numerous setbacks during the process. Remember – rejection from one employer doesn’t mean that there’s not a job out there for you. If you’ve been turned down after an interview ask for feedback so that you can learn how to improve for future interviews. Keep applying, keep networking and continue to build your experience so that you put yourself in the best position possible for the next role that comes up.