Making the move from education into work: the stress-free way

No matter what your experience of education, there's no doubt that the jump from school, college or university into full-time work can come as something of a shock.

Alastair Creamer from graduate employability blog Eyes Wide Opened shares some top tips on how to hit the ground running when you start your first job.

eyes wide opened

Networking: you know more than you’re letting on
Lists are quite interesting things. They’re rhythmic and if you keep them 'live' for a while new ideas always emerge. Do the same with the people you know. 

If you really trawl your memory bank, draw up lists of people you've met, people you've had a good conversation with or a friendly face at a recent internship, you will unearth names you hadn't thought of. 

You get a little buzz in dropping them a quick email. After all, what have you got to lose? And then one of them responds with an idea or a contact. So, out of (almost) nothing, you've got another lead, a thread to build upon. 

You never know when somebody is going to come up trumps for you. So keep reaching out and make the offer mutual – have you got something you can share with them?

Practise: there’s a lot you don’t know about yourself
For instance, the sound of your voice! The first minute of every interview or meeting is important so why not practise it a bit? It’s so easy to do on your phone. 

Record yourself and listen to how you come across. Share it with someone else. How do they think you sound – anxious? Under-confident? Over-confident? 

What might you have to do to sound relaxed, engaging, interesting – in other words to sound like you? There’s no way round it. You need to practise these things. Other people do.

Storytelling: show not tell
Don’t tell me you’re a great communicator or that you’re super organised. Show me. Let me discover it for myself in the interview or meeting. Show me your great communication skills by really engaging everyone in the room, keeping eye contact, listening, responding, building. 

Show me you’re organised by having all your papers there, your questions lined up, some websites open on the iPad ready to show in case we ask. If you tell me you’re good at certain things but can’t demonstrate it in some way, you’re not convincing me. 

eyes wide opened

So think about how you might demonstrate to me that, for instance, you’re very strong when working in small teams. Think about it as a creative challenge – how might you do this?

Research: dig deep, then dig again
There's nothing more satisfying than a person relevantly letting you know that they know the detail of your website. What this tells me is that this person has paid me the ultimate compliment – they've prepared.

Too many things happen in life that are under-prepared. Many businesses suffer from this because of the pace of corporate life. But this needn't be you. Call it preparation or research, it’s the same thing. And you have all this information at your fingertips, so use it, discover, unearth it, see what it suggests to you.

The extra mile: what’s your story?
Inevitably, in an interview or meeting, there's one story that stands out. That’s because we love stories, we gravitate towards them and remember them. So, what are your stories? 

Think of a time when you really pushed the boat out for somebody or some situation demanded it. You might have acted instinctively, selflessly, or it might have been an opportunity that you grasped with both hands. 

Think about how you might tell that story in a way that’s not blowing your own trumpet but that demonstrates a quality that you could bring to a job. Don’t try to weave in too many ideas as it confuses the listener ("what are they trying to tell me here?"). 

In the short time allotted for most interviews, truthful stories well told, will make the biggest impact, and that’s what you’re trying to achieve.


TSR provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Eyes Wide Opened

EWO has launched a coaching-led programme that helps graduates identify their true direction in life and so become more employable. It is led by coaches from business and the creative industries. Participants explore their six signature strengths, refresh their networks linked to those strengths and work on advanced communication skills before building their plan of action. The course is delivered through group work, creative exercises and one-to-one coaching sessions. 

Graduates tell us that they complete EWO courses with a clearer sense of what they want out of life, of what they have to offer an employer and how to apply these qualities in their chosen field. They've learned how to translate knowledge and experience from their studies into transferable qualities that are relevant and attractive to employers. EWO coaches have all worked for major businesses in senior positions. They have hired, fired and guided graduates and employees of all ages. Guest tutors include Dick Mullender, a former Scotland Yard crisis and hostage negotiator and Comedy Store Players founder Neil Mullarkey, who shares the secrets of powerful storytelling.