Finding a job after university
You’ve finished your exams and you’re about to graduate… now what? Many of you may be feeling overwhelmed when it comes to starting your post-university job search. How do you take that leap from education into the workplace, translating the knowledge and skills you learnt during your degree into a comprehensive and convincing application? I’ve written this blog post with the aim to help you organise your thoughts and hopefully make this process a little easier.
Before I dive into what you need to prepare, I’d like to take this moment to say one very important thing: DON’T panic! It is very easy to get caught up in the end of your studies, straight into the stress of finding a job – but this isn’t something that you have to do straight away. You should give yourself some time to rest and celebrate the years of hard work that you have done over the course of your time at uni. You are allowed to take a break! Many people take a few months off for summer and instead apply for jobs towards the end of August/September. Alternatively, you may want to secure a job early but negotiate your contract to start at the end of summer rather than starting immediately. Either way, if you want to start your job hunt straight away, or if you want to have a break first, both are perfectly valid options.
How do I choose where I want to apply?
There are a lot of factors which could influence where you may like to work. To me, location is the biggest factor – what country/city would you like to live and work in, in addition to what locations does the company have projects in? For example, if you are wanting to complete your Part 3 ARB Qualification, they often prefer you to work on a UK-based project for your case study. If the company you are looking at only works on international projects, this may not be a viable option. In addition, look at the scope of projects and what sectors they fall in to. Are you interested in residential, commercial etc, or a mixture? The next consideration is size of company, would you like to work in a small (<10), medium (<50) or large (100+) practice? Think about what you can gain from each, and whether this aligns with your personal goals and expectations.
Below I have compiled a document checklist for items you will need to prepare for your applications and interviews. Dependent upon where you apply, they may require some or all of these documents.
1. CV (Curriculum Vitae)
This is a short summary of your academic and professional achievements. You should include your name, exam results (GCSE, A Level, Undergraduate Degree, Master’s Degree), any relevant work or professional experience (don’t worry if you don’t have relevant experience yet, think to include any work experience you undertook or part-time jobs that may have transferrable skills), contact details (phone number, email, links to relevant social media such as LinkedIn or Issuu) and extra-curricular or other interests (whilst not always relevant to the position you are applying for, this shows other skills such as teamwork, dedication and community participation). In total this should not be more than 2 sides of A4 (preferably stick to one).
2. Sample Portfolio
This is a small sample of your work throughout your studies and professional experience. Companies often request different sizes for your portfolio - but to be safe, you should keep this under 20Mb (so that it can attach to an email). I wrote a blog post last year about putting together a portfolio for Architecture MArch and many of the tips and tricks I shared also apply to a work sample portfolio. The key thing to keep in mind is that this is only a sample of your work, so don’t try and cram everything in – if they like the look of your work they will invite you to interview where you can show more.
3. Final Year Full Portfolio
This will be used in your interview, whether in person or online. It would be useful to have both a physical and digital copy. In addition, you may want to have documents from your other modules to hand – such as a dissertation, thesis, essays, or technology/professional practice coursework. It is better to have it ready just-in-case they request to see it, rather than be caught out!
4. Cover Letter
This should be a written letter-style document which explains who you are, what position you are applying for and where, and why you think you would be a good fit. You may also want to include when you are looking to start and when you are available for interview (online and in-person). These should be tailored to suit the companies that you are applying for. Try to avoid generic statements and if possible, find the name of someone who works in the company to address it to. Do you know anyone that works for the practice you are applying for, are you able to get a contact through them to send your documents to rather than the general careers contact?
5. References (x2)
Much like when applying for university, a job application may require references. Preferably this would include one from a previous employer and one from a university/educational contact. Make sure you ask permission from the relevant person before passing on their details – you may also like to warn them that they will be receiving a request for a reference, and who to expect it from.
6. Visa Requirements/Right to Work
If you are an international student, you will need to have proof of a right to work in the UK. This will require a visa which may or may not be sponsored by the company that you are applying for. Make sure you highlight this in your interview just so there are no surprises if they offer you a job but can’t sponsor your visa.
Whilst this is a good starter checklist for documents you will need to prepare, make sure you check the position you are applying for to see if they have certain requirements and/or other requested documents. Some companies may also ask you to upload your documents to their own portal.
Lastly, make sure you check, check, and check again! Proofread all of your documents for spelling and grammar errors and when exporting to PDF from other programmes make sure you check the export before sending off to potential employers. You want to make a good first impression!
Best of luck on your job hunt!
About the author
Shaunee has just completed her final year of the Architecture MArch course at The Bartlett School of Architecture. She completed her undergraduate degree at Newcastle University in 2019, and went on to work at a small commercial practice in Manchester. Her interests lie in the representation of the under-represented - she asks questions around race and other forms of inequalities and how we might forge pluralistic visions, especially within the space of the university.