7 Reasons to be optimistic about your graduate career prospects

Sep 9, 2015

There is plenty to be optimistic about as the new academic year gets underway, especially for those seriously thinking about their graduate career.

For one, the UK economy is expanding and graduate recruiters are taking on more graduates, up to 17% it is predicted this year. In July the Higher Education Statistics Agency reported a rise in the number of university-leavers going straight into professional jobs, so that’s another reason.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) says many employers still have an average of 45 unfilled vacancies for 2015, which represents huge opportunities for those with their thinking caps firmly in place when it comes to their graduate career.

Britain needs graduates

This should cheer you up after the recent report from the Chartered Institute for Professional Development on how the UK is producing far more graduates than the recruitment market can cater for, resulting in 47% of graduates in non graduate level employment.  The report led to suggestions that we should be limiting the number of young people going to university but Steve West, Chair of University Alliance and vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, described this a foolish and pessimistic way to think.

He said the country needs graduates and shouldn’t be scaling down on the number when other countries are scaling up. Besides, that even where graduates were in non graduate level employment it still showed that employers prefer graduates over those without degrees.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics confirms this saying that graduates are more likely to be employed, less likely to be searching for work and less likely to be out of the labour force than those with lower or no qualifications.

Salaries are higher too. The average graduate starting salary at £25,000 is £1000 higher than it was last year. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says you can earn up to 45% more with a degree. Average starting salaries for non-graduates in the same 21-30 age bracket is £18,000.

So when you have a degree you have a greater chance of earning a higher salary, getting a higher skilled job and avoiding unemployment. On top of that, as Steve West says, the country needs graduates and I think that’s a total of 7 reasons to feel optimistic about the future of your graduate career.

Get thinking to prepare for your graduate career

The downside is that we are still recovering from years of graduate unemployment and the number of graduates in the UK is certainly higher than it has ever been. The newly graduated will find themselves in stiff competition with past graduates who perhaps have been interning, volunteering or in other type of employment but now return to the jobs market with a good two to three year’s work experience under their belts.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of AGR, says employers are beginning to talk about ‘student recruitment’ rather than ‘graduate recruitment’, representing rising competition from younger jobseekers being hired by employers for apprenticeships and sponsored degrees.

For this reason you cannot be complacent when it comes to thinking about your graduate career. Now is the time to think about what you want to do and to put an action plan in place to achieve it.

The plan should include getting a summer job, ideally one you can return to throughout your years at university so that by the time you graduate you have a good solid six months or more experience behind you.

You might also look at volunteering opportunities to develop your skills in the direction you wish your career to go. Don’t forget that the vast majority of the type of skills and aptitudes employers are looking for in a graduate are what might be termed ‘soft skills’ or ‘employability skills’. These are the type of skills you develop through involvement in extra curricular activities and include resilience, communication and problem solving.

“Employers are looking for a combination of skills, knowledge and attitude,” says the AGR’s Steven Isherwood. “Show why you want to work for the company and take the time to complete your application thoroughly – spelling mistakes don’t help.”

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