University students often get a bad rap. According to Metro, they spend four times more on alcohol than on food. A survey reported by The Telegraph found that the average student spent £200 on alcohol and getting into bars during their first week at university. The Daily Mailgoes even further, claiming that students booze for 19 hours a week, with those in London spending £2,457 a year on nights out, and that 73% admit to skipping lectures to nurse a hangover.
But is the popular depiction entirely fair? New research shows that students are investing major time and energy, on top of their studies, in rather more responsible ways. The study found that almost half (47.1%) spent at least four hours a week on activities to improve their chances of future success in the graduate job market. Methods cited included attending networking events, gaining relevant unpaid work experience, and doing voluntary work either in the UK or abroad. Just over 8% reported spending more than ten hours a week on these activities, which adds up to at least 1,560 hours over the course of a three-year degree -- an impressive figure.
A changing economic landscape seems to be behind these results, with recent tuition fee hikes, grant reductions, and a perception of cut-throat competition for graduate jobs. 30.9% of those surveyed said they were concerned about the level of debt they would incur, and so wanted to use their time constructively. 52.4% said they were prompted by awareness of a very competitive job market and a desire to give themselves the best possible chance of getting a job after university. Their concerns may well be justified: employers receive around 39 applications for every graduate role.
Some jobseekers are turning to more creative methods of attracting the attention of prospective employers. One survey asked 2,000 hiring managers to share the most unusual methods candidates had used to stand out from the competition. Successful techniques included performing a musical number on a guitar about why they were the best candidate, repairing a piece of company equipment during the interview, and sending a message in a bottle. Unsuccessful techniques included back-flipping into the room, doing a tarot reading for the interviewer, and dressing as a clown.
Three months after graduating, Emma Clifford had only scored one interview, so she took out an ad in a taxi -- underneath the fold-down seats in a London black cab. And according to the BBC, hundreds of young British graduates are going to even greater lengths to boost their CVs, by travelling to China for work experience. They report that Chinese companies are keen to take on free Western interns and the cultural know-how they can bring.
But there are methods of getting ahead that don't necessitate a move to China. One graduate, Adam Pacitti, rented a billboard, which read "I spent my last £500 on this billboard. Please give me a job." He conducted a viral social media campaign around it, complete with his own personalised "Employ Adam" website. He subsequently received 60 job offers. Another, Alec Brownstein, wanted to work in advertising, so he purchased the names of his favourite creative directors on Google AdWords. When one of his targets Googled themselves ("Everyone Googles themselves", reasoned Brownstein), they'd see an ad with his details at the top of their search results, directing them to his personal website. All but one of the people whose names he purchased called him, and he ended up with a job offer.
As the above examples show, a digital approach to job seeking can yield great results. Almost two thirds (64%) of HR decision makers from UK businesses think that a personal website, rather than the traditional paper CV, could become the main
way they differentiate between job candidates in the next five years. Graduates have clearly caught on to this too, with 57.7% agreeing with the statement, "A personal website is a great way to showcase what I accomplished while at university." In fact, 13.6% said they had already set up a website to promote their abilities to prospective employers while at university, and another 24.6% said they planned to do so.
While I don't want to encourage ambitious graduates to back-flip into my office in full clown garb, I'm always impressed when a job applicant chooses to demonstrate, rather than describe, what they can offer as an employee. Digital savvy, proactivity and creativity have huge appeal to employers, and showcasing them online is a smart thing to do.