Tuesday 6 July 2010

Tough times ahead for graduates.

I was reading today about the problems new graduates are facing in the current job market. Apparently on average, there are 70 applicants for every job vacancy.

It sounds tough but I'm not convinced the situation is any worse than in previous years. This year's graduates have been told that if they want a job they will need to:

'consider flipping burgers or stacking shelves when they leave university'

The report I was reading in the Guardian said that leading firms in investment banking, law and IT are due to cut graduate jobs this year.

This makes the assumption that every person who graduates from university is automatically looking to get on a graduate recruitment scheme. I didn't, and I know many of my contemporaries didn't either.

A lot of people don't even know what they want to do with themselves in their early 20s and might not be looking for an immediate long term career.

For other graduates there's too much of this naive expectation that they're somehow entitled to some amazing job at the age of 22-23 just because they've got a degree. It's time to get real!

Some of it isn't all their fault though. Schools, the government and the media are constantly telling people that having a degree is some guaranteed ticket to a wonderful job and lifelong security.

I left university in the summer of 1998. After deciding I couldn't spend an entire month watching the World Cup that summer, I started looking for jobs. I found the whole experience annoying and frustrating!

It was a struggle just to get a basic admin office job, as recruitment agencies constantly told me; you can't do this or that unless you have a year's office experience, can use MS Office and can touch type at a speed of 50 words per minute.

I eventually ended up getting a job in a call centre and in fact spent the next year working in various call centres, something which I really didn't want to do.

After getting sick of call centres I tried finding office jobs, but guess what, agencies were telling me I should stick with call centre work because that's what my experience was in. Ridiculous!

Stories like the one I read today, make out that graduates struggling to find jobs is some new phenomenon, it isn't. Graduates have been leaving university and doing non graduate level jobs for years, and many of them haven't been complaining.

I look back my degree and see it mainly as a box that's been ticked, as soon as I left university I quickly realised that the job market is all about skills and experience. The more skills and experience you have the better.

The Guardian report quoted Carl Gilleard the chief executive of The Association of Graduate Recruiters saying it was better to have some employment then no employment at all. He went on to say:

'There are lots of other skills required and valued, like people skills: you could be on a counter in a store. It's all about building up your skills base.'

I'm pretty sceptical about such comments. It's fine if you want to do that type of job for a short period of time like 6 months, but if you continue for much longer, you run the risk of being typecast as employers start believing that's all you can do.

My advice for students currently at university is to start looking at ways of developing practical skills applicable to the world of work during the holidays and term breaks.

Learn some office skills for example, learn how to type, this is something which I learnt to do after a I graduated. Having always worked in offices it's one of the best things I've ever learnt.

Going to university has become little more than a middle-class right of passage for many young people. A transitional period between teenage life and entering the adult world.

Once you leave university and enter the job market it doesn't matter what qualifications you have, you can never assume that you are entitled to any job you want.

You have make yourself as well rounded a possible in terms of the skills and experiences you can offer a potential employer. Not only that you need to constantly keep looking at ways of learning and developing yourself in terms of skills.

Many graduates also need to have some patience and except that the benefits of a degree may take between 10 - 15 years before it really begins to kick in. This might be hard to except for some but that's just how it is.

Finally, we all need to start being a bit more honest with each other over the needs of the job market and the benefits of having a degree. Some young people have been lied to by schools and the government and I feel sorry for them.

It annoys me sometimes to read such articles as I think a lot of time they're out of touch with what's really going on.

I'm glad I'm out of it all to be honest. There are many aspects of the job market that I find frustrating, but I'd hate to be a new graduate now trying to find a job.

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