It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Dickens probably didn’t have new graduates in mind when he wrote these immortal lines, but his mixture of hope and despair will be familiar to anyone trying to break into the job market.
Luckily, there is good news for student bookworms: not only does reading makes you smarter, it turns out that some of our most celebrated authors had a couple of job tips hidden up their (book) sleeves all along …
(1) Harry Potter: Stay Positive
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light”
Graduate jobs are competitive, and even the best resume can meet with rejection. Don’t lose heart if it takes you a little longer to get on the career ladder that you had hoped. If job applications are getting you down, take a break to recharge and refocus. If you’re really struggling to get anywhere, consider undertaking a training course or internship to give your CV that extra sparkle.
(2) Hamlet: Realise Your Potential
"We know what we are but know not what we may be."
The world of work can be intimidating to a new entrant. At first, it seems like everyone is more experienced, more professional and more capable than you. Relax! It takes time to become good at anything, and no employer expects you to ‘get’ everything straight away. Set small, straightforward career goals each day and you’ll find yourself progressing without even realising it.
(3) Charlie & The Chocolate Factory: Follow Your Dreams
“I've heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true.”
Just because landing your dream job is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. This is probably the best time in your entire life to take risks and go for what you really want. Persistence and passion are often more important than talent, so if you really want something, try, try, try again until you get it.
(4) Emma: Preparation is Key
“Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.”
Those that fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you’ve been lucky enough to score an interview, don’t mess it up by not adequately preparing for it! Research the company and show off your knowledge – nobody will believe you want to work at a place you know nothing about. Reread the job spec carefully as well, and be sure to play up all the qualities they specify that they’re looking for.
(5) David Copperfield: Treat Job Applications Like a Job
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”
When you’re sat at home applying for jobs it’s easy to get distracted – by the TV, by Facebook, by a pub invitation from your mates. But the best way to succeed in landing an awesome job is to treat the application process like a job itself – set yourself a certain number of hours each day to apply to jobs, and stick to them. If you end up procrastinating too much at home, consider going to a nearby library or taking your laptop to a coffee shop to improve your focus.
(6) The Picture of Dorian Grey: Learn From Your Mistakes
“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
Mistakes are inevitable. Rather than getting upset when something goes wrong, treat them as learning experiences and improve yourself from them. If you cannot easily fix a mistake yourself, always own up to them, but try to suggest a solution to the problem when you do so – it will show managers that you are seizing the opportunity to develop yourself.
(7) Catcher in the Rye: Learn Office Politics
“I am always saying ‘Glad to've met you’ to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
In any workplace, they will inevitably be colleagues or managers you find yourself clashing with, and unlike in the real world it’s difficult to simply walk away. Always try to keep your work and personal life separate, and maintain a professional air at work no matter how much someone is getting on your nerves. Picking up a rep for being difficult to work with is not a good idea.
(8) The Lord of the Rings: Not Only The Skilled Succeed
"This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong."
So you didn’t go to Oxbridge, didn’t get a first, and your work experience so far has been limited to stacking supermarket shelves? So what! Successful people come from all walks of life. The trick is to find a way to bring your personal strengths and talents to any job. If you think you would be perfect for a role, never be put off applying because you think you’re underqualified. The worst someone can say is no, but if you can convince them of your drive and potential, who is to say they won’t say yes?
(9) 1984: Believe In Yourself
“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad.”
Both job applications and the workplace itself can be incredibly demoralising. Always be your own personal cheerleader. No matter how much criticism or rejection may come your way, keep reminding yourself of your potential, your strengths, and everything you can bring to any workplace. You’re awesome, and one day you’re going to have a stellar career. Promise.
Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm. For an internship London (or beyond!) check out their graduate jobs London. They can also help employers hire graduates.
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