What do we do now?
By Vicky Anscombe
Media graduate looking to break into journalism
James is 22 and graduated from a London university last June with a high 2:1 in Music.
During his studies he produced and directed two sell-out musicals, performed in countless venues and released a mini-album of songs he had written, which received a warm reception.
Last month he moved back home and is still struggling to find work.
“I guess I wasn’t expecting a job involving my degree straight after leaving university, but I didn’t expect finding work would be this hard,” he says.
“I’ve had to move home, because I couldn’t afford to stay in London; I couldn’t find consistent work and I still can’t.”
Although James has been working on freelance projects since graduating, his luck seems to have run out.
“My parents are supporting me, but I had no idea finding work after Uni would be such a problem.” James is not alone.
Despite evidence from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), that the graduate recruitment market continues to be buoyant, graduates are still having difficulties finding work.
Charlie Ball, a labour market analyst from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), claims graduates will never have it easy. “I had real problems finding work after university,” he says.
“Ever since the 70s, finding graduates suitable jobs that use their degrees has been an issue.
“Many disciplines are extremely competitive, and it can be a while before somebody gets their big break.”
Although a degree is still a worthwhile achievement that proves to employers a candidate has a standard of commitment and professionalism, most recruiters suggest a degree just isn’t enough anymore.
“Some graduates come to interview with an attitude that suggests they’re buying us, which doesn’t impress,” says David Hipkin, the sales and marketing manager for Reed Business Information.
“There are so many degrees available now, of varying difficulties, and we’re looking for different competencies.
“Graduates need to be able to sell themselves. I don’t think most graduates have the tools to engage employers, ” he says.
Today’s graduates need to show they have done more than sit exams, and the majority of employers are looking at life skills, not a degree mark.
Angela Bowcock, a recruitment executive for the RK Group, suggests graduates need to show outside interests.
“We’re looking for practical, persuasive candidates,” she says.
“Any exposure to work experience outside the lecture hall is a bonus. Being the head of a team, holding down a part-time job, anything extra-curricular.
“People need to show us they’re different - and a degree can’t do this anymore,” she says. But all is not lost.
Statistics on www.prospects.co.uk, a graduate careers site, show that graduate unemployment is low, and at any one time only 6.3% of grads are out of work after graduating. This figure falls to 3% after three years.
Hannah is 23 and graduated from Goldsmiths College in 2006 with a 2:1 in Media and Modern Literature, and currently works as an office junior for a London modelling agency.
Although she says her degree partly helped her gain employment, she states the importance of work experience.
“I think all of this experience helped me but essentially it was luck, right time right place,” she says.
Hannah applied to the agency just before they began recruiting, and secured her position soon after graduating.
Is the graduate job hunt now based on luck and a positive attitude? Why bother with a degree anyway?
Dan Marks, senior creative consultant at Greythorn Recruitment, thinks having a degree is still a huge bonus.
“There’s a higher expectation of graduates, because you’re expected to have a certain level of educational and professional intelligence,” he explains.
In the media and design world, it’s a must. It will always be hard to find a job within specialised fields, but a degree certainly helps.
Nikki Maddox, sales and marketing manager for GDB, also agrees.
“Although I don’t see it as a necessity, many of our potentially higher paid jobs, such as marketing positions, require candidates that have a degree.
According to Charlie Ball, graduates need to keep trying, stay positive and work on the things they are good at.
“It might feel as if you are facing a world of indifference, but so many people have been in that position and refused to give up searching for the perfect job.”
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