Be different – stand out

One of the questions I am most frequently asked when I’m speaking to students, is “How do I stand out from all the other students? We’re all applying for the same jobs, and we all have the same qualifications“. It is a fair question to ask – with supply exceeding demand employers tend to be picky. Very picky.

Be-Different-3 What practical steps can a student take? Actually, it is surprisingly easy. Continue reading


A radical alternative

I recently met a young graduate who had submitted 850 job applications – yes, eight hundred and fifty – over a period of three months. That is quite an impressive submission rate.

Graduates and recruiters appear to be stuck in a vicious circle.

The odds appear to be loaded against graduates, with too many chasing too few positions. Recognising this, they play the numbers game, applying for far more roles than they can possibly care about.

The recruiters, seeing ever more applications hitting their inboxes, retaliate by applying more (automated) filters to reduce the numbers to more manageable proportions. As a consequence graduates pedal even faster, pushing out ever more applications in the hope that one will breach the recruiters’ defences and result in a job offer. Or at least an interview.

From my experience of talking to graduates, 850 applications is unusual; 200 to 250 applications is more “normal”, but even that represents a lot of time spent applying. Or does it? Is the process too simple? Is it just too easy to Copy/ Paste “standard” text before hitting the Submit button? Continue reading

Graduate CVs – actions to improve

Some things just never seem to change. After a recent “drop-in” session for graduates, I sat down to prepare my own summary of the session – the key issues, some newly emerging themes, and a rough guide to the statistics. I find this helps me keep things in perspective, and helps me track any shifts over time. Whilst there are always some new issues, the overwhelming volume of questions relate the the same old things.

What follows is a generalisation and certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but it represents the bulk of the issues I come across. I conclude with my Top Ten actions. Continue reading

“I’m a Team Player”

I visited the London 2012 Paralympic Games last week – what an eye-opener it was; what an absolute privilege it turned out to be.

I watched a 5-a-side football match between Turkey and France. I’m not a great football fan, and have never knowingly¬†watched a 5-a-side match. But this was different; this was utterly compelling. Paralympic 5-a-side football is played by blind or partially-sighted players. To ensure a level playing field, all players wear eye masks; the ball has bells inside. The goalkeeper can be sighted. As the teams were led out onto the pitch at the start, I was struck by how they relied on each other – this was very much a team game.
5-a-side teams

Blinded soldiersI couldn’t help making the comparison with this photo of British soldiers in the First World War, blinded by gas [photo courtesy of] – each staying close to the next, supporting each other, practically and emotionally. These are¬†real team players.

How many times have we read CVs which declare “I’m a team player”? How many times does it really mean that? Or is it just a lazy “filler”; one of those things which is important to have on a CV; something so bland and ubiquitous that we don’t even notice it anymore? Continue reading