Ecology and Conservation final year student Jenny Bell chats to us about her role for after graduation where she will be working with Invasive Species at Hultons Landscapes in Cheshire. She shares her tips for the graduate job search, and demonstrates how rejection shouldn’t dampen your spirits.
How many roles did you apply to before you secured a job? What did you learn from this process?
I applied for 20+ jobs including graduate schemes before I secured a job.
The first thing I learned is that an applicant’s first impression is key. It is necessary to sell yourself within your CV and fully tailor it to each job. I realised that if my CV did not show that my skills and experience were transferable to the job role requirements, I would not get past stage 1.
The second thing I learned is that confidence is key. I realised that the companies were not expecting me to know what to do in the job straight away; they just wanted me to show confidence in the subject and willingness to learn more. Therefore, after struggling in interviews trying to pretend I would know what to do, I eventually realised that if I spoke confidently about my degree the interview would almost become a conversation and would flow a lot better. In the end, it was talking about the work I had put into my dissertation and my passion for the topic that interested the company that hired me.
What was the most challenging part of your graduate job search?
I found the job applications and the rejections the most challenging part of the search, as I was not anticipating the amount of time and effort I would have to put in and the amount of emotional strain the rejections would administer.
What experience/employability skills did you gain whilst at University to help you to secure a graduate role?
I studied ecology and conservation so I needed experience and skills for the environmental sector. Lectures gave me the base of my knowledge whilst coursework gave me the necessary report writing skills. Laboratory sessions, computing classes and field trips gave me the fieldwork, analysis and mapping skills necessary for the sector.
Outside of lectures, the Futures Award provided me with ecology field days and extra lab sessions, work with local gardening centres and woodland charities. These allowed me to give examples of using my skills outside of my course.
Looking back, what advice would you give to our new students to better prepare themselves for their graduate job search?
I would say think about what job sector you would like a career in and try and gain some experience in that area. Although paid work is good, do not focus on money. Relevant voluntary experience, specific to your sector, can often be better. This could include getting involved with activity at Manchester Met or volunteering outside of university. Even joining societies and becoming a board member can provide things to talk about, especially if it involves teamwork or organisational skills. The more relevant the experience, the better the chance of you getting a job.
Did you use Careers and Employability in your graduate job search and how did it help you?
I used Careers and Employability throughout my time at university, using the service to look for work experience roles or voluntary positions with relevant companies. Talking with actual companies provided me with knowledge of what they want in an applicant and increased my confidence when talking about job opportunities and being interviewed. It was at a Careers and Employability fair that I met the company which eventually offered me a job.
If you are a final year still searching for your first graduate job, you can access a range of events and support from Careers and Employability to help you with your next steps! Attend Focus on Your Future Week (6 – 10 June) to meet employers, develop your skills and explore the options available to you after graduation or check out our website for further information about what we can offer.