Does a graduate have to choose one or the other, a first class degree or a lesser grade with a deeper awareness of life? Scientist Lord Winston seems to think so.
His view that he would never employ a graduate with a first because it indicates a narrow approach to life perhaps may not hold much water if your career goal is academia but if you are looking for a job in say banking, finance, marketing or advertising life skills do matter as well.
Here are 3 reasons why we say that a 2:2 with work experience has more job clout than a first class degree.
1. The amount of non-academic experience you need depends on where you want your career to go.
According to a Telegraph poll, a second class honours neither aided nor prevented people like celebrity presenter Esther Rantzen, BBC business editor Robert Preston and author Fay Weldon from progressing with their careers, but the latter did say that the two students awarded with a first in her economics class went on to become Mrs Thatcher’s top economists – so clearly the first helped though we do not know what other skills or experience these grads had to offer.
2. A degree alone will not help you, and a poor one can strip your confidence.
Many of the celebs and business people asked by the Telegraph about how their second class degree aided them in life didn’t think that it made much difference other than to make them feel a tinge of shame. Others confessed that as they didn’t spend much time studying at uni they got what they deserved. It certainly didn’t make them feel more endowed with the skills and knowledge needed for the world of work.
3. It’s what you add to your degree that counts.
Part of the reason for this underlying sense of shame or regret is down to what they spent their time doing while they weren’t studying. Those with the biggest regrets spent it partying, boozing or chasing members of the opposite sex. What they did agree on as being helpful is that when it comes to finding a job and progressing in your career, hard work, enthusiasm and persistence are what counts, whether that’s toward obtaining a first class degree to help with your academic career or in settling for a 2:2 so that you can spend more time acting in drama productions, leading student union campaigns for better conditions or joining the university’s student rag as a writer, financier or marketer.
So is there some truth in Lord Winston’s view? Certainly. Employers are looking for people with character and personality who can demonstrate that they can bring something unique to the job. There are too many graduates competing for the same position for a person to rely exclusively on their degree alone with no work experience, especially when it comes to the top jobs.
It remains questionable, however, whether a graduate cannot have the best of both worlds: must a graduate forgo a good degree in exchange for vital experience and verse visa? Former politician Jonathan Aitken, who returned to Oxford to read Theology at the age of 58 and got a first, thinks one can have both.