Insights /

Advice from one grad to another

5 min read

Recent grad? Had a crackin’ summer and are now ready to start the job hunt? I graduated from the University of Leeds this year and have been a Junior Digital Designer at Zeal for three months. If you’re about to take your first steps in your career, here’s my advice on how to get started and what to bear in mind once you get there.

Get scrolling

The first step is to start scouring LinkedIn for roles that sound like something you might be interested in and then pay attention to what skills they were looking for. You can take notes, screenshots or save the roles so you have a record of the common skills required for the type and level of role you’re applying for. 

By doing this, you can figure out what role you want based on the skills you already have, and identify the skills that may need work. You’ll also gain a better expectation of what responsibilities you’ll take on. When the time comes to apply, you can feel confident knowing exactly what is required of you to be successful in landing that job straight up.

What makes you tick?

There are a lot of companies out there, and it can be hard to know where to start. But a great way of creating a shortlist is by thinking about who you are. 

There were many reasons I wanted to work at Zeal; one in particular, came from honing in on who I was as a designer during my final year of study. The projects that clicked for me were the ones that had a real purpose or cause. Knowing that my work could make an impact or change for the better gave me so much drive and passion for the work that it became my design philosophy. 

Because of this, I considered working for a startup as I felt I could make a difference to the brand or be a part of something that was creating change. Zeal would be the perfect option that would allow me to work with multiple startups and scale-ups whilst surrounding myself with experts in the industry. 

To summarise, thinking about this will give you direction for what’s important to you and what you should focus on. Now let it guide you into an industry you really care about.

Values and culture

Off the back of figuring out what is important to you when searching, try to picture what your ideal company would be like. What are their standards and values and how does that play into their culture? Does this align with what you stand for? 

Of course, you’ll research a company before applying, but you can also use this time for your benefit and begin to find out if they will be a good fit for you. This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget when you start out and try to land that first role.

Interview the interviewer 

Throughout your application process, pay attention to how the company treats you. Are they prompt? Do they offer feedback? As a potential employee, they should already value and respect you as much as you do them. 

Also, remember that interviews work both ways. They may be asking the questions first, but you should come prepared with what you want to know about them too. Link back to your values and what you’re passionate about to determine if they’re what you’re looking for. Asking strong questions that others might not have thought about is a useful way to get noticed.

Where do you want to work from?

Following the pandemic, there are many companies offering roles which are entirely remote, completely at the office or somewhere in the middle. So when you’re looking for a role, be sure to have a clear idea of where geographically you want to work and what will help you function at your best. 

As part of my degree, I completed a year in industry, which due to covid, I spent entirely at home meaning there were many colleagues I never met in person and I only visited the office once. When I compare that experience to my time at Zeal, in only three months I can see a huge difference in the relationship I have with my colleagues now. Not only with members of my department but across the company. 

So for me, having a strong support circle of brilliant people right in front of me is really important– but only Tuesday to Thursday. Mondays and Fridays are for working in pj’s.

Green grads

As a fresh grad, I still have a lot of learning to do. But I’ve found that my colleagues have been the best source of information, inspiration and support. So, once you get that role, remember you can learn a lot from the people around you. You are bound to find people more than willing to share their knowledge and skills with you – sometimes that’s what they need to process in their role too, so it’s a win-win.

Ask about other development opportunities like courses or learning new skills from other departments. If it helps you to be better at your job, you’re likely to be given all the support you could ask for.

You

Finally, and most importantly, be you. There is competition and everyone worries that there’s someone else out there who has the same qualifications or skills as you. But there’s something you have that no one else has. And that’s that there is only one of you. It’s cheesy, but also true. 

You’ve already started to think about your values and what drives you; now use this in your CV, cover letter, and interview. Showcase your personality wherever you can. This could be the thing that helps you stand out from the crowd. 

Your interviewer is likely going to be working with you and they want to know what you’re like and whether they’ll get on with you. So walk in there and be your own best asset.