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Get networking!

Published: Monday, 21 September 2009   Category: Recruitment Feature Articles

The recession has caused a reduction in the number of graduate jobs available to university leavers in the UK, there is no doubting that. In the Association of Graduate Recruiters' bi-annual survey of the employment market, published in July, it was found that overall graduate job vacancies were down by 24.9 per cent. However, this simply means that hard work is now required in order to gain that perfect job - while graduates before the recession had their pick of employers, the recession has forced the tables to turn and degree-holders need to demonstrate their individuality and determination in order to secure a position in the sector they want.

It can be easy to become demoralised by constantly trawling graduate recruitment websites and the job section of the local newspaper, to no avail. Networking is a proactive way of addressing unemployment and, yes, it may involve leaving the bedroom.

As the name suggests, networking is about making and using contacts, advertising yourself, forcing employers to take notice of the skills you have to offer. It is a "powerful and important" way of finding employment, according to the Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB). The organisation cites a survey published in the job hunting guide What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles, which shows that 30 per cent of all employment is found using networking. Not only may it involve learning about unadvertised vacancies or hearing about them before anyone else, according to the GRB, if the contact is a more intimately-known then you could find yourself as the only applicant!

The website Graduate Opportunities recommends several ways in which university leavers can make the most of networking. These involve talking to anyone and everyone about your goals and ambitions - again, advertising yourself - getting involved with any organisations or associations related to the sector you are interested in and always following up leads. You may also already know someone who could be key to gaining you a graduate job. Talking to Personnel Today, one graduate from the University of Greenwich, Dan Quinlan, explained that he had already secured a job in the current tough climate through someone he knew and advised those in the same situation as him to use anyone that might be of help.

If you don't think you already have a networking contact then it is not all doom and gloom. Graduate fairs are a very good way to meet employers and liaise with them directly. The Guardian London Graduate Fair is one such event which will take place in October, with over 1,000 jobs and schemes on offer. New Designers is a graduate show which reverses roles. Taking place in July, the event is "sold to graduates on the basis that this is their opportunity to find their next step after university," according to Danielle Eveleigh, who exhibited at the fair in 2007. She added: "There is quite a lot of pressure on getting noticed and getting as many industry contacts as possible."

Those looking for creative graduate jobs especially need to take up networking at events like this. Amy Oliver, blogger on Journalism.co.uk and recent graduate, said networking is "essential" for journalists, especially those looking to go freelance. "I'd also say be bold and try pitching some stories, you may not get anywhere, but you will have sewn the seed of a potential relationship with an editor on a paper. Go to networking events; in fact go to anything where you could potentially meet a contact - my main piece of advice is be persistent because ten other people won't be."

So, returning to Graduate Opportunities' advice, networking is about being "proactive", "demonstrating an interest in others and a willingness to learn" and "communicating effectively". By researching employers and potential contacts and explaining yourself clearly and concisely, you will be able to show that you have what it takes.

Ms Oliver, from Journalism.co.uk, says that it doesn't matter if you get knocked back: "Never give up - you've got this far." The harsh truth is that nobody is going to come up to you and offer you a job, especially not in the current climate. You have to take matters into your own hands.

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