I have run some skills workshops recently to help students think about how to stand out from the crowd in the graduate employment market, something that I really enjoy doing.

My talk is based on observations from my time as a graduate recruiter, and builds on the premise that the best candidates know how to tell a compelling story about themselves.

In my experience, a good story has three important elements:

  • It is distinctive, because the candidate has developed plenty of examples that show why they are ready for the workplace.
  • It is engaging, because the candidate tells their story in a way that catches the recruiter’s attention and makes them want to hear more.
  • It is tailored, because the candidate has done their research properly and uses this knowledge to target their applications, making their story relevant to a specific role in a specific company.

Sounds simple really.

And when you think about it, the same principles apply to all of us – careers services, employers and freelancers like myself. What does your story sound like at the moment?

Is it distinctive? Does your careers service offer activities that appeal to the employers you hope will come to work with you? Does your graduate scheme offer the challenges and rewards that your target student group actually cares about?

Is it engaging? Do your messages about employability complement the messages that your academic colleagues are sharing with their students? Is your employer brand on campus presented in a way that will resonate with a student’s world-view to make them want to find out more about your company?

Is it tailored? This is a real challenge in the current HE landscape where we find such a diverse range of students, all at different points on their path towards employment, studying a wide range of courses at very different institutions. How do you as a careers professional tailor your offering to such a mixed audience? How do you as a recruiter make your message stand out amongst the maelstrom of noise on campus?

A final thought: I read a great book this summer following Tom Viggers’ (@tomatgp) excellent talk at the AGR conference: “Made To Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. Lots of great ideas there to help your story to stand out from the crowd.

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