This summer, thousands of students around the country are leaving the comfort of their student housing and independent living arrangements and taking a big step into the unknown: the world of full-time work. As a very stressful time for a lot of people – particularly when looking for a job in the current downturn – it pays to be clued up, because there’s a lot of competition for positions up and down the country.

It was recently revealed by the Association of Graduate Recruiters that major companies are being given no fewer than 73 applications for the average graduate vacancy, while the number can be even higher in more specialised sectors; 154 people go for retail jobs, while a further 142 fight over a position for investment banking. This has forced a number of organisations to consider only the best candidates; more recruitment managers are raising minimum requirements from the 2:1 degree to first-class honours.

With this in mind, here are a number of tips that will help any graduate looking to get the most out of their first year after collecting a bachelor’s degree, regardless of the grade awarded at the end of it.

Consider saving for a masters

The last thing that a lot of people want to do after university is go back straight away. However, with the aforementioned trend of higher employer demands, it may be worth considering a postgraduate course. It doesn’t even need to be in the same place as someone did their original degree (though it can often help); the costs will be around the same, and it could give people the opportunity to experience a new place or take advantage of nearby cities. A lot of people are going to London to do postgraduate courses at one of the many universities there, for example Middlesex University; it could really pay off, but people taking this option have to make sure they get a good pass to make it worth their while.

Think about moving home to get money together

Many people, having gotten a taste of freedom while living away at university, will want to preserve their independence and try to get a flat or house to themselves. However, with council tax and other levies applying to non-students, it may be a very bad decision – especially without a job. Even if it’s just for the short term, graduates consider moving home; if they really don’t want to do it, it will at least give them the motivation to get a job and do well from minute one.

Get a part or full-time job to give you funds

Even if it’s shifts at the local corner shop, disposable income – especially combined with a home living arrangement – will give you the cash you need to do what’s required to stay ahead of the competition. Even if you’re paying money to parents for “rent”, there’s no tax or real living costs; money can be channelled into important things such as transport costs and suitable clothing for interviews, new technology to replace tired laptops and phones, and anything else you plan to focus your personal development into – cameras, a car, and such – can be bought over time.

Start looking into voluntary positions relevant to your desired job

While you may not be too lucky getting a full-time job relevant to your studies or chosen career path straight away, there are still plenty of posts available on a voluntary basis that will look great on your CV. These aren’t just at charities, either; writers may be able to get a guest spot on a good website, and science graduates may be able to help out at local schools or colleges in lab environments. It’s all about thinking outside the box; don’t keep your options too narrow, as you may also find something you like a little more than you’d expect.

Get a hobby with transferrable skills

A lot of people decide to combine work and play to get the best chance at a good career ahead of them. For instance, it’s been known for writers to become photographers in their spare time, and vice-versa, because this gives them the chance to document things in their line of work in two ways. It may only be the case that a hobby with no formal training – web design, for example – will be seen as a pastime by a potential employer, but it at least shows eagerness to develop personal skills.

Embrace social media properly – and professionally

While a lot of people will be well aware of the opportunities presented by websites such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to register with more professional networks like LinkedIn, being careful to fill out everything and present yourself properly. Don’t act too immaturely on personal accounts, though – you never know what a potential employer could find.

Related: How College Students Use LinkedIn to Build a Professional Network.

Image: Shutterstock

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