What would I tell my graduate self? I thought answering this question would be a fairly straightforward task given the benefit of hindsight. However to narrow things down to my top five topics has taken a lot of thought, especially as I am still on a learning journey. Anyway here goes...
1. Choose wisely
The end is nigh, you’ve just finished your finals and your university life is about to come to an end. If you have means to take a gap year this could be a one-off opportunity as once in the workplace it will be difficult for you to take the time out in the future. However, use it to achieve an ambition or spend some time getting to know another culture so that you have something to show for the time out.
You don’t necessarily have to follow the path you chose when you opted for your degree course so try to pick something you enjoy and will be happy working hard at. You aren’t always restricted by the degree you chose; at the risk of sounding like someone from a Monty Python sketch I am a Chartered Accountant but my degree is in Physics with Business Management. However in many professions industry-specific qualifications are critical, so if appropriate devote yourself to attaining these quickly.
2. Sell yourself
Your curriculum vitae and application form are the first things a prospective employer will see. Strike the right balance between keeping them succinct while standing out from other applicants. Make sure you include key achievements, skills and interests that differentiate you from the rest of the crowd. Whether you captained the school hockey team or were a key player in the university debating team, all these activities give the employer an idea of what kind of person you are, i.e. a team player, a leader and someone who will fit in their company.
It may be a cliché but at interview ensure you dress to impress. Take your time when answering questions, make sure you have insightful questions lined up and don’t talk about salary unless asked. Do thorough research beforehand on your prospective employer. Many employers nowadays pay particular attention to how you portray yourself on social media so now is a good time to tidy up the Facebook profile and get rid of those compromising photographs…
3. “PMA” – Positive Mental Attitude
You’ve landed yourself your dream job, or so you think! On your first day you are asked to photocopy a mountain of documents and make endless cups of tea for your team. Your initial reaction is one of disbelief – you didn’t spend all that time revising for exams in order to do this! Accept that this is part and parcel of working your way to the top and that the best leaders are those who aren’t afraid to get stuck in.
Having the right attitude is paramount and will help you progress further than qualifications alone. As a leader it is far better to have a team of people who are still learning but display the right attitude than a team of experts who would rather be doing something else. Be a team player but don’t be afraid to show initiative or ask questions if you don’t understand.
4. Show loyalty
There is nothing more off-putting for a potential employer than to see a candidate who has numerous jobs on their CV and can offer no better reason for moving companies than money. Don’t leave because you’ve heard the salary may be better at a rival firm, talk to your line manager. Companies spend considerable time and resource making sure their employees are happy whether this is through salary, work/life balance, training, personal development or social events. It is better for reputation, client satisfaction and morale to have continuity in staff so companies will try to retain their best employees. If you are looking for a different experience look internally first.
5. Find the right mentors
Once you’re settled in the workplace, look to those people who are achieving at the level to which you aspire in the short and longer term – and those with other qualities you admire. Learn from them, ask for advice and if appropriate ask them if they would mentor you. Remember there is always more to learn.
So in conclusion: show the right attitude, be prepared and stand out from the crowd. Good luck!
(Andrew Ruddy is First Names Group’s Finance Director. He is married with three young children and returned to Jersey in 2015 after spending three years working in our Isle of Man office.)