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Insider insights for HR on helping graduates navigate the job market

By Shandel McAuliffe | |7 minute read
Insider insights for HR on helping graduates navigate the job market

How can HR help recent students hit the ground running as they start their professional careers? Insights from an upcoming grad.

I think I speak on behalf of many graduates when I say that you never really know what to expect coming into your first industry-specific job. Am I really qualified enough for this? Am I bringing something unique to the table here? These are all questions I have no doubt plague the minds of undergraduates and career starters alike.

Journalism was an interest I had only picked up later in my studies. Varying forms of storytelling had been something I had appreciated my whole life, and realised that the very thing I could see myself enjoying had been under my nose the whole time. So, I changed my degree and started cultivating my skillset as I began to picture what a potential career in journalism might look like for me.


Still, none of this could prepare me for what all students know but hope they can somehow avoid the effects of: stepping into a career for the first time - even if it's in something you love - is terrifying.

According to the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) 2021 Graduate Outcomes Survey, 88.9 per cent of Australian graduates were working full time within four months of graduating, as opposed to 74.3 per cent in 2018.

The horizon is certainly looking brighter for students, and there are a few ways that HR can help them ensure a strong start to their careers after higher education.

Make sure your grads know what they’re looking for in an employer

For a grad, knowing what you want to do more specifically with your career can be a continuous journey, but finding employers whose values align with your own is a great environment to build your confidence in.

“You need to uncover what [graduates] are truly passionate about and enjoy doing,” said Evelyn Hatzimihalis, a graduate recruitment consultant at Give A Grad A Go.

As an undergraduate myself, going into a workplace that values professional growth and training is essential to me. It’s here that you can refine your interests, hone your skills and do the work that you set out to do when you first started your studies.

Help your grads manage their expectations

When you’re coming into your first job in any industry, you need to remind yourself that no one is expecting you to have veteran-grade skills going into your first day. Professional growth is all about learning, and grads need to start somewhere.

Build self confidence in your grads

Applying for a position and not being a successful candidate can be just one of many learning curves in your career; but not receiving any response at all can make graduates feel insecure and less confident when job seeking. It’s important that specialists working in talent acquisition and recruitment understand the importance of reassuring graduates through the process.

Deeming yourself as unemployable after some radio silence from applications might sound a bit dramatic, but it’s hard not to get in your own head when trying to kickstart your career.

Ms Hatzimihalis said that, “not hearing anything back after putting in an application can be hard as it doesn't give any feedback on how to improve or what they are missing out on to help for next time.”

“The market is very hot right now with great graduates getting snatched up so quickly…compared to last year there are definitely more opportunities for graduates, with more companies turning to graduates for roles,” Ms Hatzimihalis said. That is some great news for career starters.

Taking steps towards your first industry-specific job is frightening, there's no doubt about that. But if my own experience has taught me anything, it’s that staying confident in your job seeking, taking feedback as it comes, and finding workplaces that value professional growth will make the process more than worth it.

Jessica Penny is a cadet journalist with Momentum Media and media and communications student



The practice of actively seeking, locating, and employing people for a certain position or career in a corporation is known as recruitment.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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