How to search for a job

Despite uncertain economic times there are many great opportunities for graduates.

Key points

  • Stay positive and keep your end goal in mind. Setbacks and rejections are part of the process; learn from them and see them as steps towards getting to where you want to be. Our Careers Forum webchat on keeping motivated and positive in your job search has some ideas to help.
  • Finding the ideal job may take time. Keep an open mind and consider short term options or “plan B”.
  • Think creatively eg you could create your own employment by starting your own enterprise. 

Tips for success

  • Focus
    Knowing what you want to do will ensure focus and stronger applications.
  • Short term options
    Temping, graduate internships, work experience, volunteering and part-time work – all these are a good use of your time while you are applying for a permanent position. It’s better to be adding experience and skills to your CV than just be waiting for the perfect job. It’s also a good way to build your network of contacts which can help in achieving your longer term goal.
  • Think beyond the well-known and large organisations
    They offer great opportunities but there are also many smaller and medium-sized employers with excellent roles for graduates.
  • Don't just rely on advertised jobs
    Direct, speculative approaches to potential employers in your target field can be an effective way of securing a position which might never have been formally advertised. For some sectors this is the main way of job hunting. Get to know the typical recruitment methods for your sector. See below for further tips on speculative approaches.
  • Check deadlines and recruitment timetables
    This means you can prioritise and organise your applications. The larger employers tend to recruit at least a year in advance so if you are just starting your job hunting after graduation, you are likely to be looking at entry for the following summer. Many other organisations, however, have a shorter timetable and recruit at different times of the year. Keep a record of applications made and save copies of applications so that you can keep track of everything (also useful for interview preparation!).
  • Be thorough
    There isn't a magic number of applications that you should make. Don't sacrifice quality for quantity, but at the same time you need to have enough applications on the go so you are not putting all your hopes on only one or two. Thorough research of the job role, employer and sector will help you produce well-targeted applications. This takes time, but is more likely to result in an interview than sending off a lot of rushed applications. If applications are not going well, it’s important to review your job hunting strategy, including getting advice to help you re-focus.
  • Market yourself!
    A well-presented and targeted CV or application form which emphasises your strengths and skills, together with a confident performance at interview are key factors in achieving your ideal job.

Direct sources of vacancies


Careers Connect has a wide range of vacancies. Other graduate job websites include:

Graduate directories

Available to take away from Careers Network, listing the larger employers.

Graduate internships

Kick start your career and enhance your CV with a graduate internship. For more information on current schemes see our graduate portal.

Sector specific sources

There are a number of specialist jobs websites and journals for different sectors and professions. Find these via the Contacts and Resources section of the job profiles on and our Resources section.

Attend careers and jobs fairs

Talk directly to recruiters here on campus, and for events elsewhere in the UK see the Careers Fairs section of Sign up for the Careers Network e-newsletter (sent weekly during term time) to keep up to date with events.

Staying in the West Midlands?

See our make it in the Midlands section for links including local recruitment agencies. A key organisation is Graduate Advantage.

How to make a speculative application

  • Identify organisations e.g. using the employer database on Careers Connect, professional directories (Careers Network has some for reference), websites and online directories. Talk to people you know; they may be able to suggest potential contacts.
  • Research each organisation and try to find a named person to contact then email or write to them with a tailored CV and cover letter (ie not a general mass mail shot) focusing on your relevant skills and experience and your interest in their organisation. Be clear about the type of position or area of their business that you would like to be considered for rather than asking for “any suitable vacancy”.
  • The hit rate of responses may not be high, but it can be a very effective way to find a position.

Using recruitment agencies

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