How to develop your career post-university

11 January 2017 -


The latest in our series leading up to the Management Book of the Year awards

By Management Book of the Year shortlisted author John Neugebauer

Leaving university is only one step in developing a great career. Graduates often struggle to find the right roles, or offers to accept; they invest – and often waste – time in applications and never hear back; face the challenges of selection centres and testing; and often need to deal with rejection and dejection from broken promises.

University employability rankings are only part of the story, unless you are from a very small number of truly elite universities. Employability is as an individual’s responsibility. In reality, it demands as much method and time as academic study.

So what are the top tips for developing employability, and a great career beyond that first role?

1. Show Passion

Every employer we spoke to – from international aid to investment banking, and in private, public and charitable sectors - said that this was the single most important thing they looked for.

Start early: internships and vacation jobs help. Research each employer that you apply to and make your application individual, not generic - this takes more time, but is ultimately more successful.

2. Be resilient, be persistent

The right opportunities are out there for you. Don’t be deflected by rejection. Reflect on how and why an application may have been unsuccessful; continue to pursue your goals.

In our research, we found many examples of graduates who developed successful careers despite taking unusual routes, and early failure.

3. Embrace learning throughout your working life

Don’t kid yourself that you are too busy for fresh learning, or that it will be taken care of for you. Take opportunities as they arise for experience in other parts of the organisation on job rotation, project work or secondments.

Periodically, update your personal CV and log of competences and learning, so that you’re ready to apply for opportunities - sometimes at short notice.

4. Make and take opportunities to network

Use face-to-face contacts as well as social media. Go to networking events. Meet and listen to new people outside your normal circles. How does their experience differ from your own? What can you learn from this?

5. You may have more than one ‘career’ during your working life

Twenty-first century career patterns are often fragmented. Many of us will work in more than one organisation, or have a variety of career roles. Employability is not just about graduation, it is a life-long journey.

6. Manage work–life balances

Easier to write about than to live by, but manage your work–life balance. Be engaged, but avoid developing into a workaholic.

7. Enjoy it, don’t endure it

Of course you need resilience and emotional intelligence. But if you are not enjoying your work, then find a different role. Don’t allow yourself to be trapped by thinking that your knowledge and experience will be of no use elsewhere.

Never stop learning. Enjoy living your dreams.


John Neugebauer is one of the authors of Employability: Making the most of your career development, shortlisted in the Management and Leadership Textbook category of the 2017 Management Book of the Year awards

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