Graduate tips for building a career path

Saothar surveyed hundreds of Trinity graduates for career advice – this is what it learned

Summers for students in secondary school have always been a time of freedom, where they can leave their studies behind and take time to relax or hang out with friends.

That changes abruptly when students start college. The summer is no longer a holiday between years spent learning in a highly structured environment, it is the beginning of adulthood and increasingly is a critical window of opportunity for students to take the first steps in their career.

To get a sense of how this generation can best prepare for their future careers, ; conducted a survey of Trinity graduates to understand how far their professional journey brought them since leaving university and to gather advice for those following in their footsteps.

Responses came from all over the world – from those who graduated as long ago as the 1960s to those who graduated more recently. We have summarised the findings into seven tips to help those considering their options as they look towards building a career after college.


1. Build Meaningful Connections As much as the workplace has evolved in recent years, networks remain critical for building a career. Networks proved the most effective means of securing a first job – those who secured their first job through their network did so on average with four job applications whereas the average for others was more than job applications. An easy way to grow your network is to attend a college career event – there are career events for every discipline and even some hosted by student societies.

2. Aim High While the job search for graduates is a daunting experience, it's important not to lose sight of the importance of searching for work you are passionate about. Striving for your highest aspirations motivates people to put more time and effort into their job search and leads to more meaningful work and connections. Technology applications such as WOOP can help you turn aspirations into action strategies.

3. Keep Learning Beyond formal education over 20 per cent of graduates highlighted IT skills as a core skillset they wished they had further developed. In a globalising work environment even the most artistic disciplines may require technical skillsets such as programming, database querying, or Microsoft Excel analysis. Use online learning resources such as Coursera or edX to build your skills outside the lecture hall. These extra skills may even expand your opportunities for post-graduate education – a progression that just under 80 per cent of graduates reported making.

4. Be Proactive – Join a society. Learn a language. Apply for an internship. When you are told to work hard it can be easy to assume this can only involve a painful stint in the library. It may not always be simple to predict what skills and experience you may require in your career so you should prioritise those that broaden your horizons and the types of people and work you are exposed to.

5. Find a Mentor Whether it be a professor you enjoy learning from or a business leader in a field you're seeking to build a career in, have the confidence to reach out to them for guidance. They have a wealth of experience in building their own career and watching the paths of their colleagues develop and they have an abundance of insights they are delighted to share. While less than 20 per cent of those surveyed had a mentor, they landed their first job with just over half the number of job applications of those without a mentor. Trinity, for example, has an online platform for students to connect with mentors.

6. Speak Up. Across the breadth of disciplines in which these graduates work one of the most prevalent skills required is the ability to communicate. No matter how complex or compelling your analysis, its value depends upon your ability to present and persuade others. Every opportunity in college to build these skills should be valued – participate in class discussions, deliver presentations, join debating societies, and pursue internships because they are the means to explore your ability to share and defend your ideas. Nobody will make you do this. The onus is on you!

7. Listen Up This survey serves as a reminder of the experience of past graduates. However, not only did they communicate their advice but also a reminder that they've been in your shoes. They emphasised that the first few years after graduation are hard but you're not the only one who feels that way. That difficulty can make it easy to concede and escape by bailing on pursuing what you're passionate about. Don't panic, remember the world is a big place with a lot of opportunities to explore. Believe in yourself and what you're passionate about and learn from those who have gone before you as you set out on the first steps in the long arc of your career.

The authors are part of Saothar, a group of graduates committed to helping the next generation of Irish students succeed in the international labour market. Web: email: