Unfortunately, university can’t last forever and if you’re one of the tens of thousands that will be graduating this year, considering your next step can be daunting. I know because I’ve been there. I’m now on the opposite side of the process and as part of my role as a senior front-end developer at PushON, I’m responsible for assessing peoples portfolios and applications.
Here are a few tips that may help you to stand out during the recruitment process.

Make the most of university

This is something that hopefully you’ve been doing since you started your course. I understand that 9am lectures, especially after a night out, aren’t ideal, but you’re paying a lot of money to be there, so turn up! Even if you’re half asleep the chance of you learning something is far higher than it is if you’re still in bed.
University is far more than just lectures, make sure you are making the most of any extracurricular activities that your lecturers arrange for you. When I was studying, the staff who ran the course would set up talks with industry professionals, open evenings at different companies & portfolio review sessions. Getting to talk to potential employers allowed us to show our personality more than a CV or email ever could.
I’d advise doing some research into the people and companies that will be at the event so that you can ask questions and contribute to discussions.

Work on personal projects

When you graduate university you’ll have a collection of projects from your studies to show to potential employers. However, everyone else on your course will have a similar collection of projects. When I receive applications, I like to see candidates that have worked on things alongside their studies. These don’t have to be large pieces of work but it makes you stand out if you’ve got something different to everyone else.
Don’t be afraid that your work isn’t perfect, learn to talk about what you liked about a project, why you made certain decisions and what you would do differently if you started again.

Write blog posts

Blogs are a fantastic way to sell yourself to employers, find out what companies are looking for and write about it.
When going through people’s portfolio websites I’m always excited to see if they write a blog.
For example, here at PushON we specialise in an e-commerce platform called Magento. If you were interested in working you should install Magento on your computer. You could then write a post explaining to someone else how to do it, you might be able to provide extra information that others with more experience wouldn’t think of. Don’t worry if no-one ever reads it, at worst, you’ve learnt a new skill.
Here are a few blog posts ideas to help you get started:

  • A user-experience review of your favourite website/app (I used the Sky Go player recently and it was terrible)
  • Write about your university projects, what would you do to improve them, what would you do with more time
  • How do your school subjects affect your career today (Have you ever found a use for the quadratic equation?)

Reach out to companies

Finally, research and reach out to companies that you want to work for. I know you aren’t necessarily in a position to pick and choose, but you can still try and tailor your applications accordingly. If you are applying to a digital agency like us, go to our website, look at the work we’ve done. Write a cover letter explaining why you would like to work on similar projects. Putting that little bit more effort into personalising your application will make you stand out against a stack of generic printed CVs.
PushON will be at the Manchester digital talent day on the 5th of February. Sign up here.