Graduate jobs are dead. The only recourse as a student, or recent graduate, is to return to your part-time job as a pot-washer, or pack your bags and seek refuge on your mum’s couch. Ok, so the point has been overstated, but there’s no escaping from the fact that this is a difficult time [...]
Ok, so the point has been overstated, but there’s no escaping from the fact that this is a difficult time in the job market for both students and graduates. There are still jobs out there, so don’t pack your bags just yet. The recession simply means that the marketplace has become extremely competitive.
So what can you do to stand out? One option, we think, you should consider is to freelance, whether paid or unpaid.
Whilst at university (like, waaayyy back), I volunteered to build a website for a small business start-up, for free. It was nothing fancy. However, it proved vital in getting me on an IT graduate scheme. I doubt that I would’ve even got to the first round without that opportunity, as all my previous experience, like many other students, was in retail only. It just gave me that edge.
In addition to getting that all-important work experience, freelancing can also be a useful way to bring in some extra money and to begin establishing important work related contacts.
1. Prepare a CV
Having a CV ready and in good shape is a prerequisite when applying for jobs. Many employers will request one as part of their recruitment process and even in instances where they ask you to complete an application form. There’s no winning formula when it comes to writing a CV, just ensure that you take your time and carefully adapt it for each opportunity. The one-CV-fits-all method is a sure road to failure.
If you’re a design student, then creating a portfolio is also just as important as preparing a CV. Portfolios are a whole new topic, but if you don’t have any previous client work then start building your portfolio by making up your own design briefs. Below are a couple of great resources that I found:
2. Get yourself out there
The next, and hardest, step is to find work. Start by regularly checking the FreelanceStudents job board. Additionally, make sure that you make use of your personal contacts i.e. let your friends and family know that you’re available for hire. Perhaps, consider sending round an email to your friends and family. There are, also, many jobs posted online, or you could try making a few enquiries at your university’s careers service. The point is you won’t get hired unless people know you’re there!
3. Get organised
The major difficulty for student freelancers is the time commitment involved. In addition to academic deadlines, you also have to keep a watchful eye on client project deadlines. But this isn’t an impossible task; it’s about being organised. Get a calendar, or diary, and mark in important events – social and academic – and then before you say “yes” to a project, just double-check to ensure that it fits in with your schedule. Then, if you decide to take a project on, allocate a specific time that you’ll work on the project each week, and stick to it! And, most importantly, make sure you keep the client notified of any potential changes to the agreed schedule.
4. Focus on your current client
As a former IT consultant, I quickly learnt that once a consulting firm gets a foot in the door with a client, they will do everything within their power to ensure that the foot stays there. Why? It’s because getting new business is costly and competitive. But, if you’ve already built a good relationship with a client, it’s likely that they’ll give you repeat business or refer you to other parts of the firm seeking similar services. The lesson is clear.
5. Beware the Facebook
We’ve all been guilty of “Facebooking” whilst we should be working, and if you haven’t then you must have witnessed it. But, the point is really about general loafing e.g. emailing or watching an entire series of The Wire in one sitting. We’re not saying don’t take breaks, as down-time is extremely important, but rather to avoid these types of time-wasting distractions, as you’ll end up doing a rushed, and inadequate, job and losing a vital connection and client.
6. Learn to say “No”
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is learning to say “No”. Nobody likes to have those two letters thrown back at them. But just saying yes to every demand a client makes, without taking the time out to consider the request, can often leave you with an unmanageable workload. Always say you’ll get back to them and give yourself a couple of days to research and think it through.
7. Hang in there
There will be good times and there’ll be bad times, but in the end it’ll be worth it. You’ll learn many vital skills, such as time management and negotiation, and you’ll have the work experience, the education and contacts to give you that extra advantage when it comes to finding that dream graduate job. So, put the pot down and tell your mum that you’re not coming home.
Are you a student that’s currently freelancing or looking to start? We’d love to hear about your experiences.