If the grad programs are not working out for you, the best graduate job tip is to get going on speculative job applications. Be proactive and let companies know how/why you can add significant value to their organization. Speculative job applications are an art form in a sense, and require a very carefully thought strategy. It is an established conduit for tapping into the ‘hidden job market’, and therefore you will not be the only one doing it. I have three simple tips which will definitely help get you that first interview.
1. Create a rough skeleton of the speculative job application email you are going to send. The rest of the email should be tailored to the recipient. Research the organization and individual thoroughly and drop some ‘meat’ in there about how you liked their recent award for xyz, and how you were very impressed with their ability to grow year on year profits by x%.
2. Find the key people in the organization that will view such an approach in the right way. In my opinion reach for the stars and get hold of the CEO, MD or Department Director. HR (because they receive such a high volume of applications) often just spit out something generic, like how you should apply in 6 months time, or how they “are not hiring at present, but will endeavor to consider you for roles that may come up in the future”. The best is when they say they will keep your CV on their records. Do you know of any organization that has contacted you further down the line to offer you an interview, because your CV just happened to be in the ‘future prospective applicants’ archive? Of course HR will have to become involved in the process somewhere along the line, but at least if you get hold of someone high up in the organization, then the recommendation to HR has clout and influence.
3. Keep it Guerrilla. If you can’t get their personal email address outright, take a few calculated guesses. Remember you have the bcc option in email. My tip is to try firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com. Perhaps send them an ‘inmail’ on LinkedIn. If you want to get more guerrilla, write them a good ol’ fashioned letter. This does take quite a bit of time in terms of conception to acceptance. Remember though, the recipient does not have that option of deleting or overlooking a letter like they can do with email. It gets physically handed to them, and they will at least read the first few lines before perhaps tearing it up. Lastly, if you have a superb telephonic manner you can get super-guerrilla and cold call them and pitch yourself. I would be careful with this one, as it can be quite easy to burn bridges this way.
Lastly, I would say the most important thing is not necessarily to ask for a job straight away. In the letter/email/phone call ask them just to spare 20 min of their time so that you could meet them for a coffee, so that you can go into a bit more detail about your aspirations and most importantly how you can add value to the organization.