I’m a graduate, now what?

I’m a graduate, now what?

Having recently got given that label myself, I’ve begun to think, that after all the work, essays, exams, (getting drunk), it all seems a bit of an anti-climax.

So I’m a graduate… does that mean I definitely have a job? No. A good salary? No. A CV that will stand out to all employers? Er no.

I don’t want to put down the fact that university can be challenging, it can change people from the moment they go, to the moment they leave and you do learn a lot, especially about your subject matter. It is a great feeling and achievement the day you graduate, but given the current recession, the one thing it does not do is guarantee you a job. There were a lot of people I knew at university who were applying for graduate jobs, competing with around 300 people for one position. Interviews go through stages of online, phone, assessment days and panel interviews and really does try to whittle it down to the best of the best. So I’m not saying being a graduate isn’t an achievement, because it is, I’m saying that the modern world we are entering into after uni – as an adult – isn’t the best environment for a graduate. Why?

The first reason is probably because so many people are going to university now. ‘Back in the day’ as our parents would say, it would only be the best people in the class who would go to university and wasn’t the ‘natural’ follow on from college that we all expect. There weren’t universities that offered lower grades to get in, those who had the lower grades would go on to do apprenticeships, etc. Now, 80% of a college will go to university, or at least apply. The problem with this, is that all these people come out of uni, and all these people are looking for jobs. So, when applying for jobs, there are a lot of people who WILL all have a degree, and the employers are starting to have to look for other things to see why you stand out from the other graduates. So you’re a graduate… and what else?

That leads onto the second reason, which is work experience. This is so important to have, and for some industries such as journalism you can’t get in without it. Being just a graduate wanting to get that dream job is not enough anymore – passion for a career is usually shown through work experience and unfortunately, working for free. A lot of people may be encouraged to do this as uni, or have a compulsory year as part of their degree, to be able to put on their CV. Because of the importance of experience, it made me think if we didn’t go to university and spent those 3 or 4 years gaining a LOT of experience in our chosen career path, maybe working for free sometimes – would we be better off? We’d have a great CV (although no degree) and not all that debt. There are pros and cons of both, but I think what must be remembered is that leaving university and working on an unpaid internship is not out of character. Everyone knows that it will look great on their CV, and they want to make it stand out – so they’ll do it.

Leaving university as a graduate sometimes doesn’t seem enough as so many people carry on to do further education. Masters, PGCE, PhD. With the increasing amount of people creating a bigger label than a ‘graduate’ on their CV, it pushes all of us to the bottom of the pile. The amount of people applying to do masters are increasing, most likely because they realize how bad the job market is right now, and they know that they’ll end up having to work for free! Why not stay in further education for another year to put off that awful job search?

And finally… what do people think of when they think of university? Honestly?

Most likely, going out – drinking (a lot), Freshers, very limited contact hours each week, more drinking and probably a bit more. In reality, so many people see university as ‘having the time of your life’ and don’t see it as the hours you spend in the library each day. That’s probably because the first couple of years are like that. It’s seen as some sort of ‘fun’ journey through 3 years before you become an adult, and then you have to decide what to do with the rest of your life. If you are a graduate then you probably know that those final bits of your third year are definitely not ‘the time of your life’ and yet everyone just sees it as one big party!

So, I’m a graduate, now what?

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