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News > Careers > What you should know before landing your first 'career' role

What you should know before landing your first 'career' role

Top tips for university graduates from Hannah Saville (Class of 2012) who's career has spanned a number of HR and recruitment roles.
6 May 2020
Written by Hannah Saville

Hannah Saville, HR Advisor (Class of 2012)

University does teach you how to learn. The environment provides some key learnings for students that support students in preparation for the workplace; things like due dates on tasks, group work and research. Plus, the type of teaching method at universities requires a lot of ‘self-help’; research in your own time and hard work to complete assignments and prepare for exams. All of these areas are important when moving into the workplace as you will work in teams, have deadlines for tasks that need to be met.  But how do you get the edge amongst all the other graduates studying your subject area and vying for few entry level roles?

Hannah's Top 5 Tips for University Graduates

Tip One: Set yourself apart by ensuring you have ‘practical’ experience. 

Some university degrees fail to provide the necessary experience for students to understand how the workplace operates. This is usually more prevalent in degrees such as business and economics where you may finish your degree without any exposure to a workplace or work environment.  Think about what paid or even unpaid internships you could do to bridge a gap you may have.

Plus working in a part-time role if you are able to whilst at university, shows companies that you can manage your time well juggling work and study, it also shows a commitment to something other than study and your ability to work with others effectively, similar to team sports.

Tip Two: In your first interview, do what you can to demonstrate confidence.

They say “fake it ‘til you make it” and a standout for entry level roles is confidence in your first interview/video application. In the workplace you need to have the confidence to speak to colleagues and stakeholders across other areas of the business and if you can show the hiring manager that confidence in addition to strong people and communication skills, this will give you an advantage in your application over any work experience.

Tip Three: Be ready to interview them too. 

While it may feel like the recruiter is in the driver’s seat, an interview is a two-way discussion and you should also leave feeling confident you want to work there.  Interviewers will always ask you at the end; do you have any questions for us? Having one or two questions ready to ask shows you have done the extra research and want to learn more.

These questions should not be: how long is lunch or do you do Friday drinks! Questions that will impress the interviewer might be: What is the Company’s main goal over the next 1-2 years. What is the biggest challenge facing the industry at the moment? How will you overcome this challenge? What are you hoping the successful applicant will bring to the Company?

Tip Four: Have your referee’s ready, it can be a coach, Principal, teacher or manager.

Even if they don’t ask for them! Having one listed on your resume ready for the company to contact will save them time asking for it later and also shows that you are prepared. Note: ensure you have told your references you are applying in case they get a call!

If you don’t have a work-related reference a sport coach is a great reference as they will attest to your team spirit, commitment to training and ability to work toward a goal. A schoolteacher or principal is also a great reference as they will be able to comment on your ability to get tasks completed on time, teamwork and your attitude to those more senior that you.


Tip Five:  For your first career role don’t try and increase your salary before you start!

When starting out, you may not have the work experience under your belt to negotiate why deserve a higher salary. If you are hoping for a higher salary, save this negotiation for your first annual review. You can also use your experience to negotiate a higher salary when you apply for next role and be in a position to explain why you should be valued higher, based on your previous achievements. Before applying or interviewing for a role, I recommend researching what the average starting salary is in the industry you are hoping to work in. If you do feel that you have been offered a salary that is significantly under market value then discuss with your parents or mentors whether this is the right role for you.

Hannah currenty works for Caltex Australia in HR and would love to hear from you if you would like her advice. You can connect with Hannah via the Alumni & Community member directory here.

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