As a new graduate, looking for your very first job can be exhilarating. 

But the reality many fresh graduates face when trying to get a foot in the door is that the real world is highly competitive, and you often have a small window to make a great impression

So if you want to land your dream job, you will need to find fresh ways to stand out from the crowd, show employers what all those years of study have taught you and establish how you can apply this knowledge at work.

Whilst some career sectors such as medicine, science and engineering require you to have very specific skills and technical abilities, being able to complement your learned assets with general competencies and behaviours will increase your chances of employment immensely.

Here’s what you need to stand out as a graduate and demonstrate to employers you’re worth investing in.

1. Strong soft skills

Also referred to as employability or transferable skills, soft skills include the ability to effectively communicate, think critically, problem-solve, and work in teams.

A common critique that employers often have with young graduates is that technology and automation have decreased their levels of interpersonal verbal capabilities and grammar skills, which in turn, has impacted the way they interpret information.

To demonstrate to a prospective employer that you have these soft skills, be prepared to talk about a time when you were a key part of a team and really think about your answer in the context of soft skills before proffering it. If you can, give an example of a time when you had to multitask, or had to delegate a task in order to get a job done. And don't forget to read our tips on how to demonstrate your soft skills during an interview.

RELATED: How to develop the most valuable transferable skills

2. Initiative

Initiative is one of the most important attributes an employer looks for – in some cases, even more important than your degree because it contributes to your overall potential and success for the job you are applying for.

The best way you can convince an interviewer that you have these skills is by telling them about a time when you successfully demonstrated some initiative. It doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate. As a fresh grad, companies don’t expect you to have solid workplace examples.

Maybe you were the mediator in a team project at university, anticipated a problem, and had planned for solutions, or you volunteered to lead a class project one time. Whatever it is, big or small, make sure you can explain how you used initiative to get the job done, what difficult decisions you may have had to make, and the results and outcomes.

3. Cultural fit

Being a good cultural fit for a company is a major signal that you will get on well with other employees, enjoy your work, and honour the values of the business.

While you can’t change your personality to fit in, you can do your research prior to an interview and make sure you are aware of the brand values.

Most businesses look for employees who are innovative and entrepreneurial, and who will fit seamlessly into the team. Be prepared with an answer just in case they ask what kind of environment you thrive in and what qualities you have which align with their values.

How to nail your graduate job search

Recently graduated and/or finishing your studies in the near future? Try these practical suggestions to help you make a smooth and successful transition from study to the workforce.

Be flexible

Competition is strong for the best graduate opportunities, with many applicants competing from a relatively level playing field. It is important to keep your options open and consider a variety of roles, with a degree of flexibility in terms of salary expectations. Think about where you want to be in 2-3 years’ time and make a list of potential roles that will help you get there.

RELATED: How to achieve flexibility at work

Start your job search early

Start scanning graduate job opportunities as early as you can. Internet job boards, LinkedIn, trade publications, newspapers and your network are great sources of potential openings. Not only will you get a good indication of the type of roles available, including the skills required and salaries on offer, but you may also be among the first to uncover a great job opportunity.

RELATED: Overcoming setbacks in your job search

Be well prepared

To have an edge in a competitive job market, it’s essential to be as well prepared as possible. Identify target companies and research graduate recruitment programs so that you can make contact prior to completing your studies. 

Make a list of the job types and salary you are looking for and register with recruitment agencies that specialise in your market. You should also start rehearsing common interview questions to polish your technique. Thorough preparation will mean that you can quickly and comfortably seize any opportunities that arise.

Build your professional network

One of the most effective ways to find a role is through networking. Inform your family, friends, lecturers and peers about your job search so they can stay alert for relevant opportunities. 

Get involved in professional associations and attend events to begin meeting potential employers. Networking at these events can provide you with job leads and start building your reputation in the industry as an engaged, enthusiastic and well-connected young professional.

RELATED: Top 12 benefits of professional networking and how to get started

Searching for graduate jobs? Search through our latest opportunities, or speak to a Michael Page recruitment specialist today.

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