Hats off to everyone graduating this summer – a guide for graduates getting their first placement

Summer graduation is underway with ceremonies taking place across the country.  It’s such a great occasion to celebrate with friends and family.  Graduates are full of hopes and dreams and the world is their oyster.  They are our future leaders.  Yet waking up the day after their graduation, a sobering reality looms ahead – more graduates are graduating with top grades.   

over 40,000 more students graduated with firsts last summer than in the cohort of seven years before.  92% of students at The University of Bristol were awarded either a first or 2:1.  To add to this there were record numbers of 18-year-olds in England that have applied for a place at university.  Over the weekend I have been reading about how up to half of graduates are experiencing lows after leaving the uni bubble and unable to immediately find work. 

I have previously written about how our students need a fighting chance and it’s frightening to think that almost half of Durham graduates were awarded first-class degrees!! 

I know the struggle well as over the last few months I have been working closely with graduating teachers helping them to find Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) positions across the UK.  Most are currently enjoying their graduation ceremonies whilst I am  helping them to find long term placements for September.  The prospect of them securing long term employment is difficult and full of challenges, especially when you have scenarios of 20 NQTs going for 1 position.  I have provided these future teaching stars with Career Readiness support, employability skill development, and advice on employment search and applications.  As it stands, they are positioned well with most already offered and accepted teaching roles starting in September. 

Working with them, I have developed a guide below for the graduates I am yet to speak with:

Here’s the real-world scenario – thousands are graduating with the same experience, qualifications, and grades.  Everyone uses the same buzz words on their CV, have identical LinkedIn Profiles with the same boring graduate profile photo, and use cover letter templates.  Everyone is saying the same thing and selling the same stuff.

People ask me if I have limited or no experience, what can I do to stand out?

Develop your Personal Brand

How long does it take you to choose your cereal at the supermarket when abroad?

At your local Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s you usually only need a couple of seconds because you already know what your ‘go to’ cereal looks like.  Yet when you are abroad you can spend minutes looking for something that resembles what you usually have.  Most cereals are the same, they are just packaged differently.

I have previously written about the importance developing your Personal Brand to stand out in a crowded marketplace.  Even as a Graduate, you can differentiate yourself from the rest; it’s how you package yourself to your target audience

This is the first step to getting your application to the top of the list.  You need to tailor yourself like Cocoa Pops/Coca Krispies/Cocoa Puffs do for children.  Use your personality to define your uniqueness and convey this through your CV, cover letters, and Social Media profiles.  For more information have a read of The one CV to rule them all and Chuck Norris’s advice for your LinkedIn Profile

Know your stuff

Before applying for any job, research the company.  This doesn’t mean just googling the company.

Companies are becoming more aware of the importance of using social media to attract millennials.  Take a look at their company profiles and also what information they have for graduates across their different social media platforms.

A trick I learnt a few years ago was to look at LinkedIn profiles of employees working at a company I would recruit for.  This would give me great insight into the type of people they were looking for and also what realistic progression opportunities there were.

Glassdoor can provide insight into how employees feel, although don’t take the feedback too literally as some use it as a medium to vent their frustration.


Do your research and network

LinkedIn is a great tool to learn more about your industry.  Don’t be afraid to connect with people and ask for advice.  When interviewing, nothing is stronger as a motivation indicator if you can provide examples given by people already in positions you are going for.

Understand what the expectations are for entry level graduate positions, what responsibilities you should have, and what the expected salary is for graduates.


Practice interviewing – practice makes perfect

The NQTs I have been meeting with, I can tell within 5 seconds whether they will be successful in an interview.  This is all it takes.  You cannot hide nerves and self-doubt.  With more practice, you can approach questions with confidence and demonstrating competence.

If you need more advice on interviewing take a look at approaching banana skin questions and competency-based questions.

Know your worth

Take this step with a bit of caution. 

You can say no; it’s important for you to define your career and not be defined by other’s expectations.  You worked hard for your Degree, therefore don’t feel pressured to take a job you’re not comfortable with – this could quickly derail your career.

Here’s one last piece of advice from my cousin CJ, who is graduating from Bath University:


If you don’t quite have the confidence CJ does or if you need help, please reach out to me.  For the rest of summer, I am running special online Personal Branding Workshops for graduates at only £35 and online Mock Interviews for only £35

Good luck to everyone graduating!!

Have a great day everyone,


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