On a daily basis the media release a new statement providing the latest statistics on the current state of unemployment within the UK. Often this is specifically targeted down to graduate and youth unemployment with the question being raised; what added value does a degree bring and is it worth going to University? Well, here are some key facts which might elaborate on the issue
Ergo, 25% of graduates are employed in a job that is not considered to be of graduate level. Which you would think reiterates the ideology amongst some that a degree is not worth the paper it is written on – right?
Wrong. Statistics taken from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) state that on average, degree holders earned £12,000 a year more than non-graduates over the last decade. After adjusting to allow for increases in earnings over the period, the data shows that graduates aged 22-64 had median salaries of £30,000 compared with £18,000 for non-degree holders.
When analysing the two key sources of information provided – the level of graduate unemployment and graduates in ‘non-graduate’ level jobs vs. Average salary for those with a degree compared to those without – it is clear to see that, whilst holding a degree certainly adds monetary value, graduates are struggling to find work post University.
This leads to the real question; why are graduates not finding a ‘graduate level’ job? The answer certainly isn’t 2D and there are a number of factors which combine. However, the bottom line is, graduates are not doing enough in their job search. Universities can only provide the foundation; the degree and the transferable skills that come with the degree. These foundations need to be built upon by the students and graduates themselves. A lack of proactivity combined with an attitude along the lines of, [Well I’ve got a degree. I’ll be alright. I’ll walk out of University into a £20,000 a year job] is the fundamental flaw to graduate unemployment.
Are final year students doing enough?
At the start of the final year of a University course every student knows that in 8-10 months time (whether they study mathematics or not) they will be unemployed and will need a job. Are final year students doing enough to prepare themselves for working life after University? No. Now I appreciate that the final year of University is a tough year with dissertations to complete etc. However, time needs to be managed effectively and greater effort needs to be made to ensure that the student is prepared for graduation.
If you were to walk into a room full of final year students and ask them what they are going to do after University, the majority will respond with – ‘I don’t know.’ Or, ‘I’m not quite sure yet, I haven’t really looked into the job opportunities available.’ A severe lack of direction is missing. Students need to be considering their options from an early stage. Most graduate placement schemes hold interviews in the early part of the final academic year. If you don’t have an idea of what you are going to do after University, then how are you going to apply to the relevant graduate level jobs ‘successfully’? To clarify what I mean by ‘successfully’ – not trigger happy clicking on ‘Apply here’ links on job sites. I mean tailoring your CV and covering letter to demonstrate that you have the skills to fulfil the requirements of the position advertised. Then, following up your application with a phone call to the hiring manager introducing yourself and checking that he received your application, followed by an invitation to connect on Linkedin where you should have a fully up to date profile.
My final year at University
In my final year of University, from the first day back I was proactively searching for work. This firstly came in the means of clarifying what exactly I wanted to do after University, justifying the pathway and first step onto the career ladder. In order to do that I needed to analyse multiple factors; what I wanted to achieve long term, what I wanted to achieve short term, what I enjoyed doing, what would motivate me, what would my personality suit, what industries could my skills be relevant too? Once I had done that, it was time to get the ball rolling. First step, getting my CV personalised for the jobs I was going to be applying and selling myself as much as possible on paper. Now ready to start applying – remembering, not ‘trigger happy’ clicking on ‘apply here’ buttons but searching for opportunities that were relevant and of interest whilst making note of applications and following up with a phone call. Additionally, I built good relationships with two recruitment consultants who I trusted and they provided a number of good opportunities for me.
First interview was in the October. I didn’t get it. I attended approximately another 15 interviews over the course of the next few months with numerous corporate clients based in the city. The majority of which went to final stage but I missed out for some reason or another. Then, I found the job for me. I handed my dissertation in on the Friday and started the following Monday. I can safely say, I’m still there and love my job. The key –perseverance, resilience, forward planning, reflective thinking, hard work and taking onboard feedback provided from interviews.
The graduate market is incredibly competitive. Graduates must plan for this. You may be offered a job on your first interview. However the likeliness is very slim.
How Linkedin can be used to overcome graduate unemployment?
Linkedin is underused and not fully utilised by students. What needs to be remembered is that Linkedin is a way of getting in contact with business professionals and building a network of people that you can introduce yourself to. It provides a connection point with those that are not easily accessible otherwise.
Whatever the company that may interest you, fact is that somebody from that company will be on Linkedin. The likeliness is that the person hiring for the particular role you are interested in will be happy to connect with you and have a conversation with you. Linkedin provides the opportunity to build a professional network and leave a digital footprint. It provides the opportunity for you to sculpt your own brand and communicate your brand with others. By networking with professionals in the industries you are interested in working in you will find an increase in the number of opportunities available to you.
By stating clearly in your profile what you are looking for you are able to communicate that message with a vast audience. To provide the stats, I currently have 1550 connections which means that there are 10,754,605 professionals within my network. My profile is viewed approximately 420 times a week. That’s 420 professionals that I am able to communicate my brand with. Those 420 professionals per week would not have that knowledge if I was not using Linkedin.
From a graduate or jobseeker perspective, having a fully up to date profile with a strong network and a headline that reads something along the lines of, ‘Seeking new opportunities in a [xyz] role’ will certainly increase peoples understanding of your current situation. Use Linkedin as a tool to enhance the number of opportunities available to you. Realise its power and potential. Hints and tips can be found about how to maximise your profile through Google searches.
FACT: Those responsible for hiring will ‘Google’ your name. They will research you on social media sites and the first place they will look is Linkedin. Having a professional and fully functional Linkedin profile will enhance your social media presence. An article in Smart Money magazine states that 63% of hiring managers did not hire a candidate as a result of something that appeared on a social website. Don’t fall into that statistic.
Summarise: The real issue!
A lack of proactivity from students in a very competitive marketplace plays a huge factor in the high level of graduate unemployment and graduate employment in ‘unskilled’ jobs. Individuals need to be planning for their job search to take 6 months, at least. Common sense should tell you that if you want a relevant graduate level job upon graduation, then starting your job search at the beginning of your academic year should enhance your chances of achieving that.
A degree holds great value from both a monetary and non-monetary point of view, but only if the graduate makes it work for them. Despite what the press make out, the opportunities are out there. It is just down to the individuals to take those opportunities. On average each graduate vacancy will receive 56 applications. Either make yourself standout or get left in the pile. An increase in competition within the graduate job market should be counteracted with an increase in effort.
I lived with three people at University. I started my search for work the first day of my final year and had a graduate level job to go into straight away. Another housemate started intermittently searching a few months before graduating and landed a graduate level job about 3 months after University. Another housemate didn’t even look or consider his job search until after graduating. 9 months into his search and he finally found an unpaid internship – the best offer he had. We all did the same degree and all achieved the same degree classification.Get in touch
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