Anyone who reads the news could be forgiven for thinking that after graduating, this year’s finalists have no hope whatsoever of finding a job. Who can forget the graduate so desperate for a job he spent his savings on a billboard? Or the one who took the government to court after they made her stack shelves at Poundland? Fortunately though, these cases are the exception and certainly not the rule.
Figures published by the Office of National Statistics last month showed that despite the media-scaremongering, more people than ever before are in work – in fact the highest number since records began in 1971.
And what about graduates? Well, while the latest national unemployment rate for first degree graduates stands at 8.6%, just 6.3% of those from UEA found themselves unemployed six months after leaving University. Why then do we keep hearing about how hard it is going to be to find a job?
James Goodwin, Careers Manager of UEA’s Careers Centre might be able to offer some explanations. It’s not that graduates aren’t going in to employment after university he says; it’s just that they’ve changed the way they go about finding that job. He’s noticed a “trend towards more graduates taking work experience when they graduate, accepting that they may not quite be ready for a graduate level job or training position, but just looking more readily for internships or looking for a bit of work experience.” Sometimes these placements might only be for a month or two and therefore aren’t reflected in employment surveys.
Finding jobs can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. “In fact,” James says, “even in the worst of the recession, Norfolk was doing fairly well and there were still opportunities out there, but what happened is they became less visible. There are companies recruiting and companies advertising even within local authorities and county councils who were hit hard by contractions during the recession. They’ve started recruiting more readily again, which just goes to show that despite the cuts, there are still jobs out there in the public sector. Even in places which have been hit the hardest.”
So there are jobs available, and UEA graduates are getting into work, you just have to know where to look. The Federation of Small Businesses reported that at the start of last year, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) accounted for nearly 60% of private sector employment alone, employing 14.1 million people.
“This isn’t always reflected in reports which detail how many hundreds of applications organisations receive per post. These are usually large, popular organisations anyway, and the situation is very different in SMEs. “In many cases, you may find that your competition is relatively low, because it’s a much smaller organisation,” James points out. “So, it’s not in any way like you might believe in the media, that there are always going to be hundreds of applicants.”
This is all encouraging, but there’s still no denying that getting a job when you graduate is a huge concern for a lot of students. In some sectors, it can be difficult to go straight into a graduate level job and very often students do have to start at an entry-level position and work their way up, reaping the benefits of their degree later on in their career. So what’s the key to making sure you’re in the best possible position when you finish your course? “Start early,” says James.
“What we’re trying to do is to reach students earlier in their degree and help them to realise what they can be doing throughout their course. UEA is a great place and it’s easy to get immersed in the bubble of university life. My message to first years onwards, is to at least try and put a CV together, then at the end of the year, look back. Update your CV and reflect, what am I now that I wasn’t back when I started? What do I think I can do now that I couldn’t back when I was a fresher? Think about what you’re gaining from the academic process you go through here and some of the social skills you’ve made too. It’s all going to have relevance in the future.”
So should final years be panicking? “Absolutely not!” laughs James. “It’s never too late, even now! If you haven’t got started yet, do come and see us at Careers and Employability because we’re used to seeing people in this position. We can alleviate some of your fears, help to dispel some of your myths about the job market and we can get you started. It can be difficult to find a way to start and while you do have to prioritise your exams, if you feel you can make time, we can help you to think of a set of steps to really take it forward, starting to find opportunities and send applications.
“It’s never too late. Be realistic, you may not go straight into a graduate job, but you are going to have to think about what you’re going to do over the summer, and thinking about getting bits of experience which will prepare you for eventually getting into graduate work.”
Only time will tell what graduation has in store for each student, however distant or close that time may be, but despite what you may think, there really is no need to panic just yet.
Please check the Careers & Employabilty website for a full range of their services including vacancies, events, guidance, mentoring, internship programmes, enterprise and busines start-up.
Visit the website at: www.uea.ac.uk/careers. Anyone wishing to get in touch with the Careers Centre is welcome to visit the centre in person, or call 01603 593452.