Last week the reality of leaving college kicked in. With just 12 short weeks left of my undergrad program (I repeat, TWELVE) I headed along to GradIreland’s amazing Grad Fair. I walked the busy isles, talked the talk with some pretty great companies and learned all there is to know about what my Post-Graduation option are (I hope). Here are the top 5 things I learned at my first ever Graduate Event.

1. Cash is king (everywhere)

“I’m not applying there. Anything under €25,000 isn’t worth my time” the boyish lad crooned, stalking away from a big named tech stand. It seems money was on a lot of minds and I repeatedly heard questions about salaries; what type of money is it for me? It’d be cool to be driving a brand new 5 series by the age of 23, but lets face it; that’s not going to be a reality for the majority of us graduates. While salary is important, I’m focused more on getting a job that gives me options. Maybe that’s the working class girl in me. I want to be able to travel. I want to learn all I can about my given field. I want to be able to progress up the working ladder. I want to do something I love and if that means halting my big car dreams for a little bit, that’s fine with me. I have my whole life to drive off into the sunset in my Aston Martin DB5.

2. Physical CVs are becoming a thing of the past

I eagerly ran over to campus the night before Gradfair to print up a host of CVs. What a waste of trees! 99% of all graduate opportunities I was interested in needed online applications (the 1%, a video about yourself!) Save the paper, get on LinkedIn or the career site of that oh-so desired Graduate Placement.

3. The future is daring, dazzling and ….. digital!

Okay, so what if I’m bias to all things digital? I was filled with so much glee to see that a few marketing based graduate programs actually included digital usage and services in their scopes. Certainly, the future is a digital one and I’m delighted that businesses are recognising this! I was particularly interested in learning lots about Lidl’s new Social Media scheme. Digital marketing students, rejoice!

4. The key to a successfully marketing grad programs to students is….

Free stuff. Pens, chocolate, fro-yo, Frisbees. You name it, Gradfair had it. And it worked! Students are looking for anything value-added. Remember we’re not on that starting salary yet. (Most of us aren’t even out of the “surviving on noodles and the thought of a home cooked meal at the weekend” stage) We like this type of engagement! We like feeling like we’re getting something from our interactions and will be all the more happy to approach and ask questions if we see a business is engaging on our level. For the business itself, the branding implementations of events like this are endless. What better brand exposure can you get then having your name and logo spread over every college campus in Ireland for the cost of a few printed pens?

5. Career fairs need more experimental thinking!

My favourite stalls at this years grad fair where the ones that thought outside the (literal) box. Anyone can erect a 3 wall structure, stick up some posters and use a banner or two. The real winners and definitely the ones I saw with the highest engagement levels were the ones that offered something different. Air Lingus bought their own plane, Jamerson an entire garden party vibe (with mini bus included). Aldi showed off their Audi and ESB and Intel bought with them some VR experiences. These companies stand out because they don’t just think laterally; they’re not afraid to get out there. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be costly (because I guess the price of these big stands aren’t cheap) Going down the “experimental” route just needs a little bit of innovation, clever thoughts and the willingness to be a bit different! Use cut outs, painted boxes, a giant toy car; the possibilities are endless and don’t need to cost an entire marketing budget!!

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