The Realities of Graduate Job Hunting: Rejection and the Pressure of “Perfection”

During my third year of university, I was lucky enough to avoid the “what next?” panic of my fellow students. Struggling to juggle their final year exams with their flailing attempts at finding a job, I watched on smugly as I contemplated the cushy job I had lined up working as a kindergarten teacher in Hong Kong.

It had everything you could want out of a graduate job: a great salary, the opportunity to live in a busy city, and as a bonus I’d get the chance to travel. And having to work Saturdays? That was a less appealing detail that I chose to overlook.

So while my university flatmates applied to graduate scheme after graduate scheme, becoming more and more despondent at the mountain of rejections they were receiving, I relaxed, and prided myself on how I had managed to sidestep the stress. If only that had remained the case.

Fast forward six months and I’m back home from Hong Kong and faced with the terrifying reality of “what next?” As it turns out, I hadn’t avoided the stresses of job hunting by moving to Hong Kong, I had only delayed them.

So here it is…a few insights into the realities of graduate job hunting from a graduate who is currently job hunting

Job searching is an art

Job searching, I have realised, is an art and like all arts it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience to master. When I first dipped my toes into the world of job hunting, I was instantly appalled at just how many jobs there were out there. A complete novice to begin with, I started my job search by typing “content writer” into LinkedIn. I got almost 1,000 results.

How do people narrow it down? Where are you even meant to start?

Then I discovered filters and the job hunting process started to become more manageable.

Filters are your lifeline

I’ve quickly realised how useful filters are when it comes to job searching.

Let’s say you type “content writer” into the site LinkedIn and start with 1,000 results. Narrowing it down firstly to location and selecting London, brings it down to a more stomacheable 482 results. Next, by selecting only the positions that are internships or entry level, you’re left with 135 results. Narrowing it down again by choosing jobs that have been advertised in the past week leaves you with 38 results.

I can definitely handle 38 results.

You have to become a job stalker

Now that I’m actively searching for a job, I’ve very much become a stalker on LinkedIn, checking it every day to see what new positions have become available. It’s amazing how quick the turnaround is for jobs…when you’re searching within a bit city like London, that is.

So while I may be feeling despondent one day at the fact that I’ve already sent out applications to all the jobs that sound good and have run out of leads, the next day brings in a fresh batch of graduate positions to scan through.

Rejection is part of the package

Who likes rejection? Definitely not me. Unfortunately, job searching goes hand in hand with a good deal of rejection. Unless you’re fortunate enough to get the first job you apply for, the chances are that you’ll get rejected. Maybe once, maybe twice, maybe many many times.

I’d love to say that it becomes easier but being discounted from a job is never going to be great for your ego. Somewhere out there is someone who has been deemed smarter, more qualified and more deserving than you from an employer who has turned you away.

You start to feel like a very little fish in a very big pond

Growing up in Devon and going to a secondary school where being smart automatically meant you were a nerd, I got to enjoy the perk of being a big fish in a little pond. You’re seen as someone who is guaranteed a good job and a bright future.

Then you arrive at university only to find that the pond has gotten a lot bigger and as a result, you feel a lot smaller. You’re surrounded by people who are equally as smart, and often smarter than you.

Then you leave university and suddenly you’re in a really, really big pond feeling like the smallest fish imaginable. It feels like everyone out there is more qualified, more experienced and more deserving than you.

And that can feel pretty scary.

The “perfect” candidate

If you’re already struggling with the rejection and feeling like a little fish in a big pond, try reading the outlines of the candidates that employers are asking for…motived, hard working, able to work to a deadline…these things aren’t too bad. But then you come across the postings that require you to speak Mandarin, have 5 years worth of industry experience and the ability to programme. Do these people actually exist?

What next? You have to be able to do a headstand, juggle with flaming torches and run a marathon in under three hours?

I want to know whether the “perfect” candidate for any of these jobs actually exists or whether the employers are listing out the qualities like a child lists out their presents for Santa.

Experience is everything

The hardest part with graduate job hunting is the realisation that experience is everything. I was recently shortlisted from 54 candidates to 10 for a content writing position at a travel company. I got through to the phone interview stage which went well and left me feeling optimistic that I’d get through to the next phase of interviews with the other 4-5 hopefuls.

Then another dose of rejection came my way. I was a gifted writer, they told me, and I was clearly passionate about content writing but the other candidates had more experience than me. They’d travelled to the countries this company was advertising on their site and had experience in the travel industry.

What I want to know is how, as a graduate fresh out of university, you’re meant to get experience when no one wants to hire you because you don’t have any. It’s a catch 22.

Job hunting certainly isn’t easy and it requires a thick skin and a lot of patience but I’ve been trying to trust that if I apply to enough places, somewhere is going to want to hire me. That’s the hope anyway!

– Tiger Lily –

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