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Graduates, get out there and sell yourselves

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters’ (AGR) winter survey, this year looks set to be a good one for students leaving university looking to find work.

While it still predicts an overall drop in graduate vacancies of 1.6% for the year, compared to the 8.9% fall in 2009 and its 24.9% original prediction, this is good news.

Not least since some of the big winners are, it reckons, set to be in construction and transport where vacancies and the biggest salary growth is expected to be seen this year.

Should we believe this survey? Well given the views that continue to flood in to the NCE website following my last comment on the subject of graduate employment, there will be more than a few voices of dissent.

“ Find out as much as possible about a potential employer… be flexible… and don’t shy away from unpaid work.”

As I have acknowledged there are a large number of disgruntled young engineers in the industry right now. Having read the passion of their views on the profession, news of this survey will no doubt prompt them to throw their copy of NCE to the floor.

And maybe they have a point. I sympathise with any student who is not able to find a post graduate job. I sympathise with any graduate whose employer is not rewarding them in the manner they feel appropriate. I sympathise with any engineer at any point in their career who has found themselves a victim of this recession.

But this is why I find the findings of surveys so heartening. Of course it is just a snap-shot and reflects average trends. But it does show that the market is turning and that engineering is well placed to capitalise early.

That said employability remains very much about the ability to sell your talents. And beyond the stats, the AGR survey also provides some useful insight into the minds of employers. It is insight that I would insist any young engineer seeking their dream job should heed and it reiterates much of the advice in our annual NCE Student Guide.

Firstly, make sure that you find out as much as you can about a potential employer and their business/sector before speaking to them - and practice your pitch.

Secondly, be flexible and prepared to relocate if necessary to suit the needs of a potential employer.

And finally, to improve employability, don’t shy away from temporary work, training or even unpaid work while you wait for a job offer.

“The market is building and the demand for talent is growing.”

I took part in an online careers panel organised by the Guardian newspaper last month during which I was asked about the essential qualities to be a civil engineer.

I said the best civil engineers are great communicators, networkers, passionate persuaders but expert diplomats. While finding the solution is important, selling it to the client gets you paid.

Precisely the same skills are required when securing a job. The market is building and demand for talent is growing. So go out and sell yourself.

  • Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor

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