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The graduate job hunt – how do you win?

Autumn.  The sun is beginning to take a (well-earned?) rest, and students and graduates are starting to think –‘what next’?  In construction, we’re thankfully blessed with a wealth of established graduate programmes.  Organisations need a diverse range of young people to mirror the communities they serve, help them see things differently and stay relevant.  Remember that graduate programme are not just jobs – they’re about developing you into a future leader, so the process will probably be the most difficult you ever face!

Understanding the big picture
There’s never been a better time to join the 2 million-strong construction family, with the global industry set to expand by 70% over the next decade.  From surveying to sustainability, engineering to ecology, planning to procurement and project management, not to mention law, IT and corporate affairs, there’s a phenomenal range of careers.  Check out goconstruct.org to see what a career in construction can offer you.

Increasingly, construction is being measured on outcomes – social value, health and happiness.  Collaboration, innovation and responsible procurement, backed by data-driven digital technologies (such as Building Information Management, or BIM) and modern methods of construction (for instance ‘off-site’ manufacture) are the order of the day.  Demonstrating your awareness of these trends will help you stand out.

What employers are looking for
Essential ingredients include communication, team-working, problem-solving and self-management, over and above academic qualifications.  ‘Soft’ skills that enable you to articulate yourself with clarity, deliver a presentation, and make decisions can often be differentiators.  Demonstrate them – not just through your interview style, but by showing how you’ve grown, and what you’ve learnt as a result.  Things like volunteering, having a mentor, writing a blog and joining or even leading a student society or network can all provide evidence.

A positive and willing attitude, adaptability, resilience and work-ethic are all important too.  The ability to conduct yourself in a way that makes you able to get on and communicate clearly with people at all levels of an organisation is vital.  Senior people will only tell you something once; they expect you to listen, clarify if necessary, and do.

Work experience, no matter how limited, is a boon to your armoury.  Small businesses cite this as the most valuable asset when recruiting, with 86% saying they would look more favourably on a candidate.

Is it all about graduates and big companies?
Vocational qualifications are equally sought-after and the growing number of high-level apprenticeships and training courses means there are now genuine alternatives.  And don’t forget placements and summer internships – many employers fill the majority of their graduate programmes through these means.

There’s a growing trend for entrepreneurs, start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses in the built environment to take on college and university-leavers.  Let’s not forget 99.7% of businesses in the construction sector are SMEs.  The likes of Enternships.com and UKstartupjobs.com are helpful tools.

Two-way street
Recruitment should always be two-way.  It’s about finding a ‘fit’ between you and a potential employer – find out as much about them as they do about you.  Be inquisitive, curious and ask the right questions.  If you’re really passionate about the opportunity, let it be known.  And if you’re disappointed, move on to the next opportunity – they probably weren’t right for you anyway.  Be confident about what you have to offer and never undersell yourself – it may take some time but your perseverance will win through!