Why is it so hard to get a job after university?

Apr 19, 2020

If you’ve finished your degree and are in the middle of your graduate job hunt, you may be wondering “why is it so hard to get a job after university?” 

As you have put so much time, money and energy into finishing uni and getting good grades, you’ll definitely be keen to turn your degree into a career that you’ll enjoy. 

However, the competition for good graduate jobs is fierce. It’s a sobering fact but only 52% of graduates get a graduate-level job. The rest end up being underemployed in jobs that did not require a degree. 

In this post, we will help you to gain a better understanding of the graduate job market and why it is so hard to get a job after university. 

How competitive is it to get a graduate job?

Each year, around 800,000 people graduate in the UK. These fresh graduates join an existing pool of graduates who graduated in previous years who are still looking for a graduate job. In 2019, there were an additional 1.2 million graduates who were still struggling to find a graduate job from 2016-18. On top of this, there are around 300k + international students who wish to get a graduate job in the UK. 

Why is it so hard to get a job after university: It’s really competitive

The graduate job market is highly competitive because there is an overabundance of qualified graduates. For every job vacancy, there are around 80 applicants. Some of the Times Top 100 graduate employers receive 650+ applications per vacancy for their structured graduate schemes

Whilst you will be searching for a job in an extremely competitive market there are many things you can do to boost your chances and gain a competitive advantage by getting some one-to-one career coaching and interview training

Understanding the graduate job market 

Around 90% of students study a non-vocational degree. Unlike vocational degrees like medicine or dentistry that lead to a specific career, graduates with non-vocational degrees often struggle to work out what graduate job is right for them. 

Many graduates are unaware of the industries that take on several graduates each year and the skills required. 

Here at Graduate Coach, we have helped many graduates who have degrees in English Literature or History who are hoping to get a job in a related field. However, in reality, jobs in these fields are few and far between. 

Increasingly, the graduate job market is demanding graduates with skills in digital, tech and IT. 

Read our post entitled: “The future of the graduate job market is digital” for more information. We also shared an article on Prospects Luminate on “How to help graduates launch their digital career”.  

By 2022 it is estimated that there will be a demand for 1 million + digitally skilled workers who are educated to degree level. 

Why is it so hard to get a job after university: The demands of the graduate job market has changed

You might be finding it hard to get a job after university because you are looking for graduate jobs that are scarce rather than the ones that are more abundant. If you didn’t study a tech-related degree you may be worried about transitioning into a career in digital, tech or it. However, remember, your transferable skills will be highly valued. 

A degree alone is no longer enough

Many graduates focus on getting a 1st or a 2:1 degree classification. However, good grades alone is not enough to impress graduate recruiters. 

Most graduate jobs require a 2:1 or a 2:2 as a minimum entry requirement. However, even if you get a first-class degree, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be seen as more favourable to graduate employers. 

 As there is an abundance of qualified grads, recruiters are seeking to acquire the most workplace-ready candidates who can demonstrate that they have the skills and competencies to do the job.

Why is it so hard to get a job after university: Lack of work experience 

Maybe you placed too much emphasis on academics whilst at university and didn’t engage in activities to boost your employability skills

Graduate recruiters are looking to hire the best graduates who can articulate their competencies and demonstrate their skills. You’ll be expected to have developed your soft skills such as time management, communication and teamwork. Depending on the role you may need to also demonstrate relevant hard skills. 

If you do not have any work experience, you may find it hard to convince recruiters. Graduate employers will look for evidence of your skills in your CV and cover letter as well as in your interviews. 

You’ve never been taught how to navigate the job search process 

The graduate job application process involves completing several stages. You’ll need to:

  • Create an effective CV 
  • Write an effective cover letter 
  • Work out what graduate job titles to apply for 
  • Send out multiple high-quality applications
  • Pass online aptitude tests 
  • Nail your interviews

Throughout your entire academic career, it is unlikely that you would have received adequate careers advice. Even if you visited your career service at university, it most likely wasn’t bespoke to your needs, as universities don’t have the resource to offer tailored advice to each and every student. 

What to do if you are finding it hard to get a graduate job 

If you are having little or no success with your job search or discovering your career path, get in touch with our coaches here at Graduate Coach

We will help you with everything from applying for jobs to nailing your interviews

We offer:

Over the past decade, we have helped over 500 students and graduates to land their dream job. 

As well as getting expert careers advice from our team, take a proactive approach to your job search. Attend networking events, follow up with applications and ask for feedback after every interview.

We hope that you found our post on why it is so hard to get a job after university insightful. 

If you have been struggling to find a graduate job for over one year, check out our post entitled: “1 year after graduation no job” 

Have you been failing your interviews? Check out our post entitled: “Why do I keep failing at interviews”. 

If you are unemployed with a Master’s degree, check out our post entitled: “Unemployed with a Master’s degree [What to do next]”. 


Why is it hard for graduates to get a job? 

Shortly after Tony Blair became prime minister, he pledged that 50% of all students should go to university. The consequence of this decision resulted in the disequilibrium of the ratio of graduates to graduate job vacancies. There are too few graduate jobs for the number of graduates looking. This makes the graduate job market extremely competitive and makes it really hard for some graduates to find suitable jobs. 

Furthermore, the graduate job market is increasingly demanding graduates with digital and tech skills, however, the content and delivery of many degrees have remained the same despite this. Due to the overabundance of qualified graduates, recruiters are looking for the best candidates who have skills employers need and are able to present themselves. Graduates have never been taught how to do this during their time in education. 

Why is it so hard to get a job after university

Is it hard to get a job right out of university 

Yes, it can be very hard to get a job right out of university, especially if you do not know what to do after university and if you do not have any work experience. Around 48% of graduates take positions out of university that does not require a degree. Some graduates find it hard to get a job after university for several months and even years. 

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