5 common mistakes to avoid when making an application….

dsc010131Whatever opportunity you are planning to enter into after your studies, it is likely that you will have to write an application to access it.  Writing successful applications is an art and one that you can  easily develop as part of your professional practice.

With competition in the graduate market at an all time high, it is important that this aspect of  your professional practice is well established and that you have confidence in your application strategy to ensure that you successfully access your dream career.

Need some advice on how to  make great applications, why not see GSA Careers ‘3 top tips for applications’: https://gsacareers.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/3-top-tips-for-writing-successful-job-applications/ and Writing CV and Applications  https://gsacareers.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/writing-a-cv-or-application/

Unfortunately, not all  graduates or opportunity seekers  get their application approaches right and often find themselves being regularly turned down for opportunities. Being repeatedly rejected is not only very frustrating and demotivating, it can seriously damage  your confidence too. So,  when you are making an application,  ensure that your application approach is the best that it can be and one which avoids common mistakes.

Not sure what the mistakes are?

Here are 5 of the most common mistakes that applicants make and some guidance on how to avoid them.

1. Not doing  enough research….. this is the most common reason why an application will be rejected.  If you haven’t done your research, it is unlikely that you will be able to reflect back to the opportunity provider what they are looking for. The other problem with not doing enough research is that it makes your job as an applicant even harder. Why guess? Undertake loads of research, become familiar with the role /opportunity requirements and the organisation/sector you are apply to.   Why not see  GSA Careers’What is the top graduate attribute that employers look for , for some guidance on researching employers’:https://gsacareers.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/what-is-the-top-graduate-attribute-employers-look-for/

2. Not demonstrating that you understand the skills and experience required…. Having loads to tell an opportunity provider about how great you are is fantastic, but forgetting  to tell them how you match to their opportunity is a big mistake. Opportunity providers wont ‘read through’ your application and make assumptions….for example; I have never heard of an employer go…’ the applicant really meant this …. when they wrote that….’  Be really clear about what it is you want to tell the opportunity provider about. And dont forget to include details of you, your experiences and skills that directly match the opportunity on offer.  See how to match skills to opportunities at Prospects: http://www.prospects.ac.uk/applying_for_jobs_what_skills_do_employers_want.htm

3. Forgetting to back  up your points with great evidence.- evidence is always king!  It is not enough just to tell and opportunity provider about your skills – you need to back it up with actual examples from your work /experience history.  Consider how your experience matches the opportunity providers wants and think transferable skills….. .http://www.jobs.ac.uk/careers-advice/interview-tips/962/transferable-skills-the-secret-of-success.

Not sure you have got enough to evidence and need to develop your experience? Why not come along the the GSA Career service session ‘Finding your Placement’ Wednesday 30th October 2013 4-5pm Bourdon Lecture Theatre and find out how you an establish your experience.

4. Using jargon  and abbreviations.– it can be incredibly annoying reading an application that is full of abbreviations and jargon. Don’t assume that everyone will know what your abbreviations mean, write everything out in full to avoid confusion and avoid jargon unless you are sure (through great research) that the opportunity provider will understand it. Write in positive concise language ( are you using Power words? http://www.careerealism.com/top-resume-words/ ) and don’t forget to reflect the tone and language that your opportunity provider uses. Finally, always get your application checked by an objective friend!

5. Being careless.- Be honest how often have you left an application to the last minute and dashed something off in the hope that it will do? Leaving writing your application to the last minute is a big no no,  as it means that you wont have time to reflect, check and enhance it before you submit it.  Create a plan for your application  and include; drafting stages (most applications will take several drafts), checking /reviewing time and a deadline that is well before the actual deadline. Also get your application in early,  as it will demonstrate that you are motivated and keen and will help your application stand out from the rest.

By making sure that you avoid these pitfalls within your application strategy , you will help yourself  develop excellent application practice and be more successful with your approaches.  Good luck!

Further information:


Learning to develop your portfolio….

Organizational-changes-todays-workplace‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change’   Charles Darwin

Every week,  you can guarantee that there will be a story within the popular media regarding the changing world of work.  This week, we heard great news that employment has increased in the UK, with 71.5% of people aged between 16-64 in work and 516, 000 vacancies currently available, the highest rate since 2008.  http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/taxonomy/index.html?nscl=Labour+Market

Behind these headlines,  lies a job market that is constantly moving and changing. New employment roles are emerging while others decline. The skills that are required for the market are repeatedly up-dated as technology  drives innovation and the way we work. According to The Multiple Generations @ work survey the average person will change their job between 15-20 times over their working life and this is set to increase. There is also a significant rise in the number of people working in part time roles, portfolio working and self employment.  It is clear to see that our generation will experience a professional working life that is  completely different to the one our parents and grandparents  would recognise.

Whether you are a student about to become a new graduate or an experienced professional,  the key to successfully navigating this changing job market, is a flexible career strategy that includes a comprehensive record of your skills, experience and practice.  This record, often referred to as a personal portfolio,  will act as a  support, helping you to adapt to the market as well as  build an awareness of your skills and aptitudes and how they apply to a variety of work contexts.

Are you currently building your personal portfolio?

In our busy lives it is easy to over look developing this personal resource, as we quickly move from one project/activity to the next. However taking the time to devise your portfolio will help you to;

  • Reflect on your own development.
  • Capture a variety of experiences and their positive impact on your practice.
  • Understand your skills and evidence them.
  • Plan and create goals around your own learning and career.

Not sure what your personal portfolio  should include, why not see ‘Building a Plan for your future’ for some hints, tips and ideas.  https://gsacareers.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/building-a-plan-for-your-future/ and Mindtools: career skills: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/main/newMN_CDV.htm. Remember your personal portfolio is just that, personal, so its really up to you how you record your portfolio- just make sure that it captures your skills, learning and experience that will help you in the future.

Not sure you have the time to develop your portfolio, the key to making time is to embed it into your current practice.  You are probably already capturing a range of experiences through your sketch books. So why not take time out to review old sketch books- what can they tell you about your professional development and experiences?  Record what you discover in your ‘new’ personal portfolio. Or why not brush up on your prioritising skills ? Mindtools has a comprehensive set of resources that can help you:

Interested and want to find out more,  come along to the GSA Career service’s seminar ‘5 Simple Steps to Developing Your Personal Portfolio’ on Wednesday 23rd October 2013 4-5pm Boudon lecture Theatre .

What is the top graduate attribute employers look for?

skills2If you have recently been exploring your creative graduate options,  it might not have escaped your notice that being able to clearly articulate your skills and graduate attributes to others is essential.

‘Graduate attributes’ has become a common term in recent years. It is a catch all phrase for the skills, knowledge and abilities that you have developed as a student on a degree programme.  It is probably best defined by Simon Barrie in his paper ‘Rethinking Generic Graduate Attributes’. He describes graduate attributes as;

the skills, knowledge and abilities of university graduates, beyond disciplinary content knowledge, which are applicable to a range of contexts’  Simon Barrie (2004)

More and more employers and opportunity providers expect graduates to be able to articulate and evidence their graduate attributes. They are key to writing successful CV’s and  applications as they demonstrate your suitability to a role and can make the difference between getting that opportunity and not.

So,  what is the top graduate attribute that employers/opportunity providers/funders look for in new graduates?  A recent survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters http://www.agr.org.uk/Home found that 67% of opportunity  providers looked for………… commercial awareness.

What is commercial awareness? Put simply,  commercial awareness is having a knowledge of how a business or industry works. It is the number one attribute that employers look for in an application because it tells the employer that you have;

  • an understanding of what the company wants to achieve through its products and services.
  • an understanding of how it competes in the market (including who it’s customers and competitors are).
  • an awareness of what excellent customer care, client needs and professional practice are.
  • an awareness of what trends and developments  will affect/support the business in the future.

All of  the above will help you to build confidence in the opportunity provider that you can; contribute to their business quickly and settle into your graduate role more successfully.

How do you develop commercial awareness? Well this will depend on what sector you are interested in entering or what employer you are applying too. For example; If you are interested in teaching, then developing your  commercial awareness is more than building your teaching experience, it’s about understanding current trends in education and curriculum. Interested in the digital industries then understand where the growth areas are in the sector and technological advances, etc. etc.

Not sure where to start, great commercial awareness can be achieved through;

  • reading sector magazines to develop your knowledge of the sector, its trends and future predictions  as well as organisations, companies and professionals who are leading it.
  • Undertaking industry placements and not being afraid to ask questions.
  • looking at company websites especially the ‘about us’  and ‘media’ sections.
  • keeping up to date with creative business news….are you looking at Arts Professional http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/  Arts Business http://artsandbusiness.bitc.org.uk/news-events-ab/news for example?

Interested in finding out more, why not come along to the GSAcareers session on Wednesday 16th October 4-5pm ‘Getting to grips with the creative industries’ and find out how you can develop your commercial awareness to ensure your success in the graduate market.  (See the GSA’s  VLE  calendar for further details)

What are graduate employers really looking for?

Positive-Attitude-379x379-pngThis month sees the start of the graduate recruitment cycle for this year. In the last couple of days many graduate employer schemes have opened for applications and many final year students have started to develop their CV’s  and personal statements to showcase their skills and experience to get them that dream job.

The graduate job market has experienced a recovery in the last few years, however,  it still remains very competitive and having a good understanding of what  a graduate employer really wants is essential for a successful application and interview process.

So…. what are graduate employers really looking for?

Researching different graduate opportunities will quickly show you that different employers are looking for a variety of different skills and experience.  So,  don’t be tempted to send out generic CV’s or applications. Employers are looking for targeted applications that demonstrate  how your  skills and experience match to their requirements. Here are some top tips to help you discover what graduate employers really want.

Learn to really read job adverts …Never be put off by a job title, always look beyond it at the skills/experience required. If you match up to 80% of the job criteria then it is worth making an application.  Get yourself a highlighter pen and highlight key phrases, skills and experience within the job advert.  It can also be helpful to build an understanding of how the role fits into the company. This will help you gain an good idea of the what the employer is looking for  and help you think about how your transferable skills will fit into and enhance your application. Don’t forget that  your creative education has given you a range of graduate attributes  that will make you stand out from other candidates, so make sure that you evidence them within your application.  Not sure what skills you have, why not make an appointment with the GSA Career service a seek advice on your skills development.

Gain focused work experience and build your experience beyond your degree programme…In a competitive job market industry experience is KING. Over a third of graduate employers are now actively recruiting from their internship programmes and this trend is likely to continue. This is why it is important that you don’t leave your job seeking to the last minute. Building  focused work experience into your degree  will be highly supportive of your long term plans and professional network.   Why not create a list of employers that you are interested in working for and make a speculative applications for work placements throughout your study.  Or consider how you can get involved with extra curricular activities such as volunteering,  mentoring and  enterprise activities to boost your CV and help you demonstrate your skills.

Be positive and professional …..Employers are always impressed with a positive professional attitude.  Take great care in writing applications and CV’s and make sure your tone and language is active. For example;  avoid weak phrasing such as ‘I feel’ or ‘I  hope’ and use power words ( Top 100 Power words: http://www.careerealism.com/top-resume-words/)  to help build confidence and show your motivation for the role on offer.

Interested in finding out more, contact the GSA Career service for further information.


  • Don’t put off your graduate job hunt until your final year, sign up to graduate job websites early in your student experience and become familiar with graduate schemes deadlines, application processes, wants and requirements.
  • Sign up to the GSA career service twitter and facebook and get involved with GSA Career service events.
  • Attend loads of graduate events and conferences, meet the employer and find out what they really want. Don’t forget that the Scottish Graduate Fair is happening soon ( Tuesday 15th  and Wednesday 16th October 2013 SECC see Strathclyde University website for further details; http://www.strath.ac.uk/careers/sgf/
  • Build your portfolio with lots of industry experience- if you do have a specific company scheme in mind research possibilities to undertake work experience/ internships with them and follow them on social media.

Further information

Find a Graduate Opportunity:

Graduate Job Market:

What do Graduate Employers want: