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So you’re a recent graduate, you've worked hard for your degree, but perhaps you didn't quite get the grade required for your chosen graduate scheme; or maybe it was so oversubscribed you really didn't get a look in. What do you do when the ‘Get a degree and get on a graduate scheme’ careers advice fails? ‘Why don’t you sign up with an agency?’ someone asks – an agency, what’s that?
You wouldn't be alone. Although I live and breathe the sector, I didn't even know there was a recruitment industry out there until I fell into it trying desperately to escape the retail graduate scheme I was on; however yes here we are – a multi billion £ industry spanning all sectors and career paths. We work closely with companies to help them fill positions that often aren't even advertised – we provide that specialist recruitment knowledge, sourcing, selecting and matching candidates to keep their business’ growing and developing.
Engaging for the first time with a recruiter can be a daunting prospect; the industry in the past has had a dubious reputation ‘Stay away from those agencies’ I bet your parents, lecturers or career advisor tells you ‘they’re all sharks!!!’ Unfortunately in every walk of life, there are sharks – in recruitment it’s often the rogue agent who thinks your CV is their sole property, who will ping it out mercilessly without your permission, or perhaps you will think they’re showing a genuine interest asking about where you are attending interviews only to find out later that agent has filled the job with another candidate!
Unscrupulous behaviour in the industry is a pet hate of mine and other like-minded recruiters; the industry has massively changed in recent years with professional bodies and new laws being passed (yes time for you to actually pay attention to what GDPR means!). Working with a recruitment partner who specialises in your industry should be a positive journey, one in which you know your needs are heard, you’re given professional advice and more importantly – you get that first break into your industry of choice.
To do this however, you need to put in your own hard work and do your research. Be realistic in your career expectations - if you’ve taken an English degree and decided you now want to be an engineer that isn’t going to happen; likewise, be mindful of salary expectations – you may be a graduate, but that doesn’t guarantee you that £30K a year job straight from uni (that’ll be the exclusive oversubscribed graduate scheme that you didn’t get a place on). You need to know what you want, have realistic expectations and are committed to getting there. Focus on the sector you can thrive in based on your degree and go and research the agencies that specialise in that area.
This is far easier than in my day – trust me, when I first went to uni Hotmail was still exotic and Google who??? You guys have no excuses – get on your smart phones, look at industry news websites – identify the agencies that are the key players, look at Linkedin – what kind of recommendations do the consultants have, company websites – do they have formal accreditations?
Next – and I know this may be hard for digital natives born in an online word of communication – you have to pick up the phone and speak to the agencies, yes speak – no, in fact, sell yourself to the agencies. Good recruiters want to know about you, they ask insightful questions about your degree, what you know about your chosen field and will then discuss viable options with you. The agent must also sell to you; they should be able to discuss their industry and roles that would be suitable for you – what companies can genuinely offer you in terms of a career. Quiz your consultant – throw in some jargon, do they honestly know what you are talking about, what advice do they offer for interview preparation?
From a good recruiter’s perspective, every candidate is a prospective client. Therefore your customer experience should be a positive one even if that agent doesn’t ultimately get you that role they submitted you for. Do remember, however, our services are free to candidates with clients ultimately paying the bills. Confidence is good, arrogance isn’t and won’t do you any favours with the agent trying to get you that first career break; so listen to the advice and weigh up all your options carefully. If you have one bad experience with an agency, don’t let it put you off. Get back to basics – do your research and find the right recruitment agency for you.