With the UK cited as being in a “youth unemployment crisis”, writer Nick Banks looks into the world of the job-seeker and what students need to do to maximise their chances of employment after graduation.
None of us need be reminded of the harsh economic times we live in. Neither do we need to be reminded that this has had an effect on just how much a degree is worth. After all, we hear almost every day about how leaving university is such a daunting prospect, and how finding a job will remain to be a challenge; even with a degree under your belt. Yet it goes without saying that some degrees will pave the way to a job far more easily than others.
Any of the variants in engineering offer a year out in a certain industry which can often result in an offer of permanent employment once the student has graduated. But what about other students in Arts and Humanities subjects?
Unfortunately, due to the success of science and medical pursuits, denominations of this area are somewhat neglected in terms of funding and we have already seen a decline in facilities for the support of Modern Foreign Languages, History and Classics, and English Language and Literature in universities.
I spoke with Alina Flint, 18, studying Egyptology and Classics, to find out if she had any reservations for her future. Despite the barrage of negativity she and her fellow students face, she remains confident that she will find a job after graduation. Aware of how many graduates go on to find a job totally unrelated to their course in university; she went on to tell me how she wanted to pursue a career in the film industry, despite the fact that her final degree is only a small portion of this pursuit.
Alina plans to take full advantage of Swansea University and the many extracurricular activities it offers, so when it comes to writing a CV, her degree will not be her sole selling-point. She believes that ‘it is better to be in higher education than it is to leave after A-levels and remain unemployed’. A rather defeatist viewpoint, I thought, but she countered by saying: ‘if no one aspired to attain a good degree, there would be even more unemployment’.
Is Alina right to consider her university degree only as a small portion of the road to success? Writing for The Guardian, Lucy Tobin suggests that this attitude is a necessity in the current climate.‘The savvy generation knows that organising a new venture themselves, early on in their degree course, will look much better on a CV’, she wrote.
This comment just goes to show that, in wake of the recession, graduate employment has become massively competitive. While there was a time when it was enough to have a degree, the average student now needs to gain life experience before employment, which is proven by extra-curricular activity.
Stephen Marshall studied History and Politics for his degree and is now studying a Masters in Public Policy. He is all too aware of this rule of thumb when it comes to gaining life experience through other activities and ventures. He has stood up in parliament to argue how much better a commonwealth country can save energy and has even met Arnold Schwarzenegger while he was still governor of California. So it’s fair to say Stephen has seen his share of ventures in the name of boosting his CV.
When it comes to different level degrees, he believes a 2:1 is adequate but there are far too students who achieve this, and that the 1st degree tend to be more highly sought after by employers. In agreement with Alina, he advises that if you are one-such student leading up to a 2:1, it is all the more important to get involved in extra-curricular activities at university. This is so much the case that due to our changing times, a degree should offer these ‘life experience’ activities as part of the course. If engineering courses offer a year out in industry, why don’t Arts and Humanities?
On the subject of finding a job, I was told that Jobseekers actually care very little for degrees and focus more on our developing rule of thumb that a great degree will be worth far less if coupled with inexperience.
Trisha John and Becca Vaughn from the Swansea University Careers Office believe employers do indeed look out for proof of initiative. If a candidate has experienced many different extra-curricular activities, this will show in their body language and confidence throughout the interview process. Asking for hints about interview tactics, I was told a lot of information is actually available on Blackboard.
They also went on to explain how it is important to know the company you’re signing up for, and also to be aware of the market competition. In most cases, if a student wants to pursue a career in any job, appropriate volunteer work locally is a good place to start. After some experience is gained, that student can confidently broaden into the wider world. In closing comments, Becca Vaughn made sure to say that it is never too early to get onto the job market and to get noticed. She believes ‘Success is like a snowball effect. The more people you meet, the larger your network of resources’.
After researching this topic shrouded in negativity, I was surprised to receive mostly optimistic feedback. Is it possible that the media warns us of all the harsh competition in an attempt to get us to work harder? It is evident that simply having a degree is no longer enough as it may well be swept up in the torrents of other desperate jobseekers. Of course, to counter this, a student needs to be able to say more for themself. They need to be able to say confidently ‘I did this’ and ‘I did that’ so that the interview is not solely focused on a three year course. As I was told at the careers office, it’s never too late to get out there and get noticed.
Do you have any tips for students looking for employment after graduation? Leave a comment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org