You Are Getting Bad Career Advice From Ucas

02/05/2017 15:26

I read recently an article on the BBC written by the outgoing head of UCAS, Mary Curnock Cook. She said not to worry about getting the dream high paying job immediately post graduation and to take your time finding what you want, especially with a generalist degree, even after finishing university.

Tell that to the suffering graduate that's burdened by tens of thousands of pounds in debt. It's not exactly motivational to do a degree and then work part time in a non graduate role.

While I understand why she said that, I disagree with her position. I totally think you should take your time to think about what you want to do, but that's exactly what students should be doing while studying, that's three or four years, plenty of time to sketch out a rough idea. Heck, you should do one better and apply to internships and fill those summer holidays with work experience. It doesn't matter what industry, just do something, it's part of the experience.

The notion of graduating, working a few part time jobs and then magically landing the dream job is bollocks. Mary shouldn't give this misleading advice to idealistic youngsters. The graduate job market is a killer, there is little margin for error and no top employer in this ruthless competitive world wants a student that is floating around. I have seen friends go down this route, and it's hard to find a graduate role without the support of the university environment. You lose a sense of momentum that you get in a structured educational space.

Imagine sitting back at your parents house after a degree, that's depressing enough on its own without also burning several months trying to find a top graduate job, a wasted time while your friends did the hard work while studying and are now already building their career. The notion that after graduating, you will 'discover' your dream job is also a fallacy, most young people have no idea what they want to do and won't for years - if ever, and reading about it online doesn't help. You learn from practical work, finding out what you love and hate, so my advice is to go learn the skills in any top tier job. Mary does note it's fine to jump jobs in this generation, that I agree with, but don't do it from a standing start, do it from a top tier organisation.

I hate it when students come to me and say, 'oh I want to focus on passing my exams first then I will look for jobs'. That's a worrying sign. It's not because of intellectual capacity, far from it, but because it indicates a lack of pragmatism, i.e. it's a mind set issue. A degree is a piece of paper that gives you an opening to a door, but that's it. The bigger picture is getting a piece of the job market. You will find your niche through action, through iteration, through working hard, not through hesitation to jump into the real world.

I want to finish by noting Mary's acknowledgment that the six-month graduate outcome measurement on jobs is unhelpful, especially as it measures salary. It is indeed extremely misleading because it ignores another massive chunk of people - the entrepreneurs who have swapped salary (which is an awful way to get rich) with equity and freedom. I would take the latter any day, and being a potential employer rather than an employee should be given a significantly better weight given the value add to society at large.

There is clearly still much we can do to improve our tertiary education system.