The recent report 'The Challenges for Disadvantaged Young People Seeking Work' by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has led to headlines about the challenging nature of the job market and the difficulties experienced by young job hunters (described as "a thankless task"). While I don't disagree with the report's findings, I do want to try to highlight the other side of youth employment: students and graduates.
In the first paragraph of the JRF report's summary they state that their research "describes the difficulty of job searching for young people seeking low-skilled work". This does not, therefore, mean graduates or students, and the report is not as relevant to those groups - despite how parts of the media have portrayed it.
In my experience, the graduate labour market is not as bad as many fear, and I really want this blog to help any students or graduates out there, who are concerned by the headlines, to feel a little bit better. The fact is that only 9% of graduates from 2011 were assumed to be unemployed (source: HESA), compared to the 19.6% of those total UK 18-24 year olds not in employment, full-time education or training (source: ONS). So yes, on average, one in ten of your mates may not be in work within 6 months of graduating; but flip this around and nine out of you will be!
So if you're a student or graduate and you take one thing from this please let it be a positive, and don't listen to scaremongers and politicians grinding their axes. There's one person in control of your career and your employability, and it's you. Do the following and you'll be making a good start:
1. Find out what you're good at. So for example: do you enjoy writing essays? This may mean you love analysing evidence and forming conclusions - perfect for any job where you have to condense a lot of information into a succinct and snappy bite sized piece (PR or journalism anyone?). Do you enjoy schematics or understanding how lots of little things add up to one big thing like the London underground? Maybe you would enjoy engineering, architecture or town planning. Spend a few minutes thinking about what element of your life or your degree that you love - there's usually a job full of it!
2. Use your university careers service. These guys are there to help you through the journey to employment. They are trained professionals and not at all scary, you can go and sit down with them and talk things through. If you're applying for jobs they'll go through your application with you - it's a crime not to use them. Not only this, but these days the majority of careers services provide so much more than advice, by running workshops and awards, providing funding and setting up meetings with employers, and many other opportunities to help you develop the skills they know employers are looking for.
3. Meet some professionals in the field you are exploring working in. You can do this at events they run, whether they're graduate recruitment events, or just places they're going to be. Better still, you can usually find them online - use my last blog to get you started. People are people, just introduce yourself, show an interest and explain why you'd like to work for them. If they're rude to you then that tells you something in itself - do you really want to work for that kind of organisation?
4. Make some applications (notice the plural). Those nine out of ten graduates in work didn't only apply for one job and then waited to see what happened, they applied for several. Dedicate a few hours of your week to writing applications, redrafting, getting them checked, and sending off. If you're a busy bee then make the time - it's your career, and I imagine it's pretty important! Keep trying as well, don't let one rejection ever put you off. It's hard I know, but flip it and ask for feedback and factor that in to future applications - nobody's perfect.
5. Got an interview? Remember, they're people too, so be friendly and be professional, and importantly be yourself. Some organisations are right for some people, some organisations aren't, so again don't be perturbed and just be the best you that you can be.
6. Celebrate, you may just have avoided being part of that 9%. Start a new game by looking around the room and work out which friend it's going to be - and go and warn them!