You’ve worked so hard to graduate with a good degree. You can recite your CV and personal statement verbatim. Yet, getting into your first graduate position seems like getting a camel through the eye of a needle! Worse still, you seem to be caught in the ‘Catch 22’ of ‘No work without experience and no experience without work’. In today’s article, Zohra shares her journey to landing her first graduate position with one of the world’s top pharmaceutical firms.
APH: Congratulations on getting first graduate role, please can you share your educational background?
ZA: Thank you. I recently achieved a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Pharmacology from Kingston University. Prior to this, I studied Biology, Chemistry and Maths at college.
You shared with the Aspiring Professionals Hub about how a lack of experience seemed to be a giant hurdle towards getting employed. How were you able to break through this barrier?
I have been fortunate to be given a great opportunity with a fantastic company, who were willing to give me a chance. Often graduates believe starting in a small company will expose them to more opportunities and they are also more likely to be given a chance. This may be true to some extent but it was not the case for me. My CV and skills stood out to the global company – something I thought would never happen straight after leaving university.
If you can still remember…how many applications did you have to send out before getting your job?
I would be lying if I said I was able to keep track of the amount. But in the space of 5 months it was well into the hundreds. There would be times when I would search for jobs, just to find I had already applied for all jobs relevant to me. After getting so many rejections, it is hard to keep trying to apply but it is important not to feel defeated and carry on trying.
Can you share how you prepared for your interview?
I went through a recruitment agency so I had to pass through different stages – telephone interviews with the recruiters as well as managers at the company followed by a face to face interview. While preparing for all my interviews, I made sure I had examples of competency based questions usually asked at interviews. I provided evidence to explain how, when and where I had previously applied my skills and what I would do in certain situations. I also studied the job description and did a lot of research into what my job role entailed, as well as studying the overall company and the department I hoped to be working for.
Any tips or advice for recent graduates who are still trying to get that first graduate job?
Don’t give up trying. Don’t be afraid to broaden your job search. I applied to very limited jobs as I wasn’t open to the idea of changing my ideal job description but I soon came to realise that to achieve the perfect job, you have to start somewhere within the field and grow. Don’t limit yourself to jobs which only advertise they are recruiting graduates. Many jobs are willing to take on students who have no or little previous experience, as long as they have a passion and they are willing to learn and train to the required standards. Don’t be put off by the “experience preferred” comment, you can always prove your skills in your CV and during the interview.
Did you utilise the service of your University’s Career Advice Unit at any point before or after graduation?
Whilst at university, I did use the Careers unit for help in preparing for previous video interviews as well as face to face. They are experienced and could help me in ways my colleagues couldn’t.
How was your first day? As expected? What are your future career plans?
My first day was great, everybody was very friendly and helpful. I was lucky enough to start two weeks after a group of new starters had begun, so it was a great way to make new friends. I hope to stay at the company and further progress my career.
APH: It is tough out there in today’s employers market but there is a job out there for you if you don’t give up. For more information, please read our articles on Graduate Employment, Interviews and Networking.
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