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Your first graduate IT job: The transition from the classroom to the workplace

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There has been a lot of talk recently around the huge digital skills gap in the UK focussing particularly on London – where the demand for IT professionals is being out-weighed by the numbers of qualified candidates to fill the roles.

Some people put this down to universities not equipping IT graduates with the necessary skills they need to get into employment – but, it is unfair to blame universities entirely for this, as the industry evolves at a rate that institutions struggle to keep up with.

The teachings within universities are meant to be academic, focusing on theory and giving a foundational overview of the best practices within a discipline.

The traditional model has been that IT-related degrees equip students with the knowledge – before they go out into the real world and put it into practice.

This works well for bigger businesses that are willing to invest in their hires – training them to get up to speed with the tools used in the field they operate in.

For some companies however (especially the smaller ones) the pressure is on as they often don’t have the time, money or resources available to make such considerable investments.

This has created a divide. Employers are looking for skilled workers they do not have to train whilst fresh IT graduates lack the relevant industry experience.

So what can you do as a recent IT graduate to get up-to-speed and give yourself a better chance? Here’s our advice on how you can better the transition from the classroom to the workplace.

1. Teach yourself new skills

Your degree may have taught you all about different types of programming languages, from imperative to declarative, and from component-orientated to object-oriented, all in a structured way.

The framework and theory that you learned at university make up the foundations of most of the latest tools and languages in industry. You have enough expertise within the subject to teach yourself new skills to increase your employability.

Websites like Free Code Camp and Lynda, offer a wealth of resources to help you get up to speed with your specialism.

Doing it on your own can give you increased control over the direction of your career by allowing you to specialise in chosen areas.

Say, for instance, you wanted to carve a career in Front-End Development but lacked knowledge in Node.js: self-education resources enable you to pick and choose which skills to practice thus controlling your progression and molding your skillset to match that of a Front-End Developer.

Check out the types of roles available for STEM graduate jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Self-teaching is not something that goes unnoticed by employers. Though it might feel like you’re not really getting the chance to apply your skills to a work environment, employers will notice and appreciate the fact you’ve taken the initiative to progress your knowledge in your own time.


2. Find a mentor/tutor or ask for help

What self-teaching does lack, however, is guidance from an expert. You can’t be sure that what you’re learning, or the direction you’re going in will be relevant to the kind of roles you’re applying for.

There are plenty of online mentoring resources available to people in the IT sector for this specific reason, so check out sites like Code Mentor which will help you build up your skills, or Tutor Hub, where industry professionals and postgraduate students offer tuition and guidance for reasonable prices.

If you can’t afford these options, look into forums and communities that support the progression of programming and IT-related disciplines.

If you’re stuck, ask questions – you will no doubt get a lot of responses.


3. Work placements

Work placements can be a great way for you to get a taste of an industry, along with relevant experience, without having to commit to a career.

You may have to compromise on that “big salary” you might have been expecting when you first enrolled at university, but with the current skills experience limbo, – placements really have become a viable gateway into full-time employment.

For example, 86% of our placement candidates are offered a full-time positon at the end of their probation period! Get in touch to see if we can help get you a placement.


4. Don’t just focus on your technical skills

In the current climate, it might seem like all that employers are interested in is hiring graduates with the ability to come and do a particular job.

Skills shortages do create the need for trained professionals in the workplace but by no means does this reduce the value of soft skills.

72% of our clients, value ‘attitude’ as one of the most important attributes for graduates and is something that they consistently look for in their graduate hires.

It is also true that some employers will pick candidates who interview better over ones with more relevant experience or training.

What this comes down to is whether an employer thinks you’re going to be a good fit for the team, the company and the culture of the business.

During the interview, you really want to show, not just your ability to do the job, but the qualities you have as a person and how these qualities could contribute and enhance the business as a whole.

If you want to learn more about developing your soft skills there are some great books on the subject, one of which; Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual; covers soft skills from the viewpoint of a Software Developer.

Do you need help finding graduate IT jobs – or are you struggling with the process? Then get in touch with us to see if we can help, or take a look at our jobs board for graduate jobs to see if we have the right role for you.


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