Thousands of young adults left home in September to begin their studies at university. The substantial rise in tuition fees has not deterred many college-leavers from investing in further education with hopes of securing a job after graduating. Those entering their final year of university may be equally hopeful that their efforts will merit employment and the start of a successful career.
However, the outlook is far from rosy and finding a job post-uni involves more than just good grades. Having graduated myself in 2010 I have firsthand experience of the plight of unemployment in this country. According to recent research by the Local Government Association, around half of this year's graduates will struggle to find a job months after leaving university. In some areas of the country this rate increases, with only one in three graduates in full-time employment within three months of completing their studies. My own experience is proof of these difficulties and the effort which is essential in order to climb that first rung on the career ladder.
I graduated in 2010 from City University London with a degree in BEng Media Communication Systems. This was the summer of the World Cup and I couldn't have been happier. Exams were over and I was looking forward to a relaxed "few" months, watching matches with my friends in pub gardens. Soon after returning home, my Mum was quickly on my case to find a job. But I decided to procrastinate as I knew that once I was in work that was pretty much it until I retired. After a few months I decided it was time to begin the job hunt. I was looking for a position in software development; though whatever area of interest, scouring the internet for jobs sooner rather than later after graduating is definitely the best course of action.
Despite getting through the initial round of a few applications, I was always unsuccessful and began to feel disheartened. I applied to hundreds of jobs never to hear back from the company and when I did receive a rejection letter on the odd occasion, it was mainly due to my lack of experience; which was very evident looking back at my CV having never completed a work placement. So I decided it was time that I try my luck within another field. Having applied to a further hundred or so jobs, a reply finally came back but it was for an internship and not the paid job I was hoping for. At first I hadn't wanted to do an internship like so many of my peers: unpaid work really did not appeal! But, a recent study by Inspiring Interns found that graduates who have completed a three-month internship are more likely to earn £1,500 more in their first year of work than those who have not.
Getting your first job after graduating is not easy. But there are a few things you can do to improve your chances and your career prospects. In addition to doing internships I would advise current students to make the most of their time whilst studying and undertake a placement year, if offered. I foolishly decided against this, eager to complete my degree. Companies are often keen to take on university students for a one year paid placement and this is great preparation for what to expect in the 'real world' of post-student life. Depending on your choice of placement this can also allow you to live and work in a new city and build up contacts and knowledge. The statistics are also on your side, as a study conducted with 537 employers revealed that two thirds prefer to recruit graduates who have completed an industry placement year over those who have not.
If like me you graduated without having done a placement, do not despair - there are still things you can do to get ahead in the jobs market! As the UK has experienced several years of high graduate unemployment, new job-seekers are competing not only with their peers, but with graduates still looking for work long after university. As such, a stand-out CV is essential. Be pro-active and build up a portfolio of extra work you have done whilst studying or after graduation. This can include any projects or pieces of work which did not contribute to your degree and, however small, will demonstrate your commitment to your chosen area of work. Don't be disheartened if you cannot find a job in your chosen field of study either. Being open minded certainly helped me and I've now found a career I enjoy. You may also find this to be the case but you won't know unless you give it a go.Final Thoughts...
Despite the doom and gloom often reported, graduates are a resilient bunch and with a little extra effort it is possible to achieve your post-uni goals. After a tiring job hunt I secured a position with a media agency writing content which will hopefully open further doors for me in the future. Even the experts have shown optimism, as an October survey by DHLE concluded that the graduate jobs market is 'better than feared.' So good look - and happy hunting!