While celebrations are in the air for graduating students across the country right now, the end of university life also brings with it the imminent challenge of finding professional employment.

Fresh graduates will be hoping to meet the varying criteria for employers with positions to fill and secure the job that could launch their careers

‘Have I got what this employer wants?’ is a question likely to crop up from time to time. A Griffith Business School researcher may have the answer.

Jan Ferguson has examined graduate employees’ perception of their careers and graduate transition to employment as part of her PhD research project at Griffith’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing.

Ms Ferguson carried out in-depth interviews with 25 employed graduates across the professional spectrum and surveyed more than 120 employed graduates around Australia.

“In addition to their degrees, prior experience emerged as the key factor when graduates talked about transitioning into the workplace,” she said. “Graduates with prior experience valued it because they were able to compare their new experience in a new workplace with prior experiences.

“It provided a useful context and a benchmark for using their graduate attributes, specifically knowledge, skills and other qualities. Those graduates without prior experience could see how more confident graduates with prior experience were in the workplace.”

Ms Ferguson said she would advise new graduates looking for work to reflect on the graduate attributes they have gained and developed through prior experiences in part-time jobs, internships and work experience in addition to degree assessments which incorporated these attributes.

The graduates interviewed for the research were also asked what advice they would offer.

“Graduates encouraged students to maximise their university experience and take advantage of every opportunity to apply their attributes in volunteering internships, any work-integrated learning and also working overseas. It is these experiences that distinguish you from a graduate with the same degree as you, one graduate said.”

Interviewees also highlighted the value of personal planning and seeking out employers with graduate programs and training opportunities.

Advice emerging for new graduates included planning your career from your first day at university, being self-aware, being prepared to be different and to be proactive, giving things a go, being adaptable and motivated and showing the right attitude

Ms Ferguson explained that her research shows that “today’s working environment is one of greater fluidity and flexibility than ever before where job security is no longer guaranteed. There is an onus on graduates, therefore, to take control of their careers.”

The research also revealed a disparity between what employers want in terms of skills and qualities and what universities and new graduates thought they wanted.

Employers ranked communication, teamwork and collecting and applying information as the top three skills they looked for in graduates. Graduates ranked communication, critical thinking and self-management as the top three.

Graduates rated enthusiasm as the top ‘other quality’ they should offer, while employers had ethical behaviour at the top of their list of ‘other qualities’.