Career advice:Top Tips for Your First Graduate Job

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With a whole new set of responsibilities and challenges to contend with, leaving university and starting your first graduate job can be a daunting prospect.

However, with the right attitude and approach, you’ll be able to hit the ground running in your first role. We asked some of our current graduates for their top tips for easing the transition between university and the working world…

Be confident

It’s understandable for you to be nervous during your first few weeks of work; adjusting to an unfamiliar environment, meeting lots of new people and learning a great deal in a short space of time can feel overwhelming. Jade, Product and Marketing graduate admits that, “Coming in as a graduate with little experience, I found it very daunting at first going to meetings and didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or putting forward my ideas.”

Eventually, however, she realised the importance of getting involved and voicing your ideas.

“ It took me a good couple of months to build my confidence and realise that regardless of experience, a fresh pair of eyes can be really valuable. ”

Jade, Product & Marketing Graduate

Don’t let nerves hold you back; you’ve proved yourself during the recruitment process, so demonstrate that the business has made the right decision by making a valuable contribution. Challenge things which you don’t agree with or feel need to be changed, and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and suggestions with members of your team.

Make your free time count

Most university courses require 20 hours or less per week of contact time, so full-time working hours, along with early starts are often tough for new graduates to get used to.

Hayley, Product and Marketing graduate found that the most challenging part of the transition between university and working life was adjusting to working hours during the week. “At university, you often have quite a lot of free time but when working from 9-5, you are always busy.”

But working full time needn't mean that you miss out on doing things that you enjoy. Claire, HR graduate says the advantage of working full time has meant that she has been able to strike a healthy work-life balance. “I have enjoyed having weekends as weekends- and not having the guilty feeling that I should be in the library!” Planning your time effectively is essential to make sure that you can still keep up with your hobbies and interests outside of working hours.

Keep an open mind

Starting your first graduate job can sometimes feel very much like stepping into the unknown. Brad, Customer and Employee Experience graduate says that although he had completed a placement year at an automotive company, and so already had good understanding of what working life involved, he had never worked in the financial services industry before, and was unsure about what to expect before he joined Nationwide.

However, he advises graduates to have a positive approach when they first start their role.

“ Be completely open-minded about your graduate scheme, even if you end up in a role you didn't see yourself in and take every opportunity that is presented to you. ”

Brad, Customer & Employee Experience Graduate

Your can-do attitude will make a brilliant first impression; let your enthusiasm for being part of the team show, and demonstrate a willingness to learn new things and take on new responsibilities.

Ask lots of questions

Although you may want to prove yourself to your new colleagues and managers immediately, you won’t know everything there is to know about your role and about the wider business on your first day. Relax- your team will be more than happy to answer any questions you have, and will welcome your curiosity and your desire to learn.

Asking questions is a great way of helping you to make a good impression with your colleagues and show that you are enthusiastic. The earlier you find out about how the business as a whole works, the earlier you’ll settle into your role and start to really make an impact.


“ By introducing yourself to as many people as possible, and learning about their role within the company, you’ll be able to gain exposure to different parts of the business and senior employees. ”

Sam, Digital and Change graduate recommends that graduates build up as many contacts as they can within the business. “Use opportunities to network to your advantage. Step outside your comfort zone and get involved in all you can to help get the most from the scheme and to develop yourself as an individual – it will help you grow and settle into the business too!” Remember, you can never have too many contacts!

We know that starting a new job can be a difficult transition, especially if it's your first post-graduation gig. Hopefully, our tips can make your transition easier. 

Dont forget to share any of your handy tips with us on our twitter: @nbs_careers