Why I feel driven to teach undergrads how to get a job before they leave uni

Most people believe that the main stumbling block between ‘just graduated’ and ‘first graduate job’ is huge competition. But it isn’t.

A while back I asked a new graduate why he decided to employ me as a coach to help him find his first graduate job. His answer mildly shocked me.

I thought he might say something generic, like, “I just wanted help to find a job.”

Instead, his answer revealed just how much he understood the present era of graduate recruitment.

Finding a coach to get a job was a no-brainer, he said. With so many choices and so much information out there, it made sense to find someone who could provide advice personally tailored to his own ambitions. Someone who would help him identify and develop the skills and aptitudes he would need to fulfil those ambitions. Someone who could point him in the right direction and save him the pain of having to work it out himself.

I promptly took him on.

The stumbling block to getting a graduate job

Most people believe that the main stumbling block between ‘just graduated’ and ‘first graduate job’ is huge competition. After all, as one of the 2.3 million new graduates entering the employment market in any given year you are bound to face a fair bit of rivalry, and it will be of the sort your predecessors never had to since only a fraction of them went to university in their day.

The accumulative effect of churning out numbers like this every year is that you must also contend with those who failed to find employment in the previous academic year. These poor mites are still looking for jobs a year or more later. Sometime ago I quoted a 2015 survey carried out by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showing that more graduates are now in work than previously. That survey showed that almost 88% of the 82,000 people who graduated in 2011 are now in work. Of course, that’s good news, because it suggests that you will find a job, eventually. But how long? Employment research gives us a clue: figures released in 2017 show that 47 per cent were still searching for graduate-level jobs two years after graduation. Who wants to wait that long? And when you do find a job, will it be the kind you really want to do, one that makes good use of your skills and provides you with the opportunity to develop new ones?

How to prepare to land your dream job

Sorry if you think I’m painting a bleak picture. I am not. I am simply helping you to be realistic about how you will prepare yourself when the time comes to find your dream job.

The worst thing you can do for yourself is to focus all your time and energy on studying, which may sound like odd advice to give to a young person in their first or second year of university. However, that’s what most employers would tell you, so it isn’t.

From their own research, Highfliers report that, “When it comes to assessing students’ applications for graduate roles, more than a third warned that it was either ‘not very likely’ or ‘not at all likely’ that a graduate who’d had no previous work experience at all with any employers would be successful during their selection process and be made a job offer, irrespective of their academic achievements or the university they had attended.”

That’s why I feel compelled to coach undergraduates to get a job. It’s a tough old world out there and sometimes even the best of us need help to get on the ladder.

If I were to break it down, my seven quick reasons for coaching graduates to get a job are:

1. Because the odds are stacked against the new graduate getting a decent job. Sadly, 50% of new graduates will now never enter the graduate workforce but will be £50k in debt.

Top tier companies get over 1,000 applications for every place available and even smaller SMEs get 50 to 100. Unless, that is, you want a job in sales or recruitment, because these are now the only undersupplied recruitment areas.

Besides that, there are 100,000 well-qualified European and Asian graduates also trying to get UK jobs as well as 1,000,000 UK grads.

2. Because new graduates have no idea of how diverse the modern graduate workplace is. Over 1,500 different graduate roles are available nowadays. And many are not available via recruiters – you must apply direct.

3. Most young graduates don’t know what type of jobs would suit them best, so they just take anything that comes along. Why spend all those years studying and racking up debt to not do the job you really want?

4. Because I have never yet met a graduate who knows how to really research a company and its competitors. They always turn up at interviews short of what they could really know, do and offer to get the job.

5. Because I have yet met a graduate who really knows how to smash interviews. Interviews are won on surprisingly small differences and the graduate that gets that, and gets it right, wins.

6. Because no elite sportsperson or senior manager would ever dream of achieving greatness without a coach. Neither would any serious person looking to get ahead in any other field.

7. Because new grads need early stage mentoring help even after they land a job, not just to get one in the first place. Many feel disillusioned and have no idea about what they must do to progress at work.

In my view, the main stumbling block between ‘just graduated’ and ‘first graduate job’ is navigating your way through the minefield of information, guidance and advice around today’s graduate recruitment market. But someone has already ransacked all the information on graduate careers out there, and packaged it alongside more than 30 years of practical experience on how to get a graduate-level job, and to succeed in it, in a way that’s digestible and accessible to you for free.

Find it at www.graduatecoach.co.uk