Don’t trust in your degree

Apr 3, 2014

It is astonishing to find that there are graduates who still believe that their degree is the ticket to getting a good job.

It is not. And sadly this realisation comes too late for many.

You can easily spot those who fall into this trap. They spend a lot of time at university focused on getting a good grade but very little on developing the skills and experience they will need to stand out from others.

It is the skills and experience you have that gets you noticed and opens the door to a good job. If you like, your skills and experience validate your degree because they show that you have more than the ability to study; you also know how to apply in practice what you have been learning in theory.

A different graduate market

Why is this so important?

One reason is that it is an employers’ market. With so many graduates unemployed or stuck in jobs that don’t need a degree employers have lots of candidates to choose from, many of them with equally good degrees. At the same time graduate recruitment is an expensive and lengthy process so an employer cannot risk taking on the wrong person only then to have to start all over again. There is too much at stake.

It is therefore understandable that they tend to look for graduates ready-made for the workplace.

Think of it: two graduates apply for the same job. One has a first class degree but little or no evidence of skills and experience gained in the real working world. The other graduate has a second class degree but a CV listing skills and experience that demonstrates that he or she has business awareness, can communicate with customers and clients, can submit to authority, and has led or contributed to projects that have resulted in measurable outcomes – which one poses the least risk for the employer?

Well, of course, it is the graduate that has proven he or she has the potential to do the job.

Internship schemes

That’s why it comes as no surprise that employers are now targeting graduates for a place on their internship schemes while still in their first year at university. The aim of these recruitment schemes is to help position graduates for top graduate jobs well before they leave university.

If this is what you are up against, leaving it until the final year or after leaving university to start thinking about developing your employability skills is too late if you want to compete for a good job.

It is for the same reason that the Bank of Scotland, Citi Bank and Merrill Lynch, the American bank, are all targeting graduates as early as possible while in their first year. These banks are also moving away from the traditional route of employing only those with maths related degrees and are now trying to attract graduates with humanity degrees.

Due to the challenges faced by the financial industry over the last few years and the growth in the central roles of technology and global communications, the financial industry is looking for ways to future-proof itself by widening its talent pool and skillset. Its managing director told the Times that he is looking for graduates with common sense, communication skills, lateral thinking skills and diversity of thought. People with generalist skills make better team players, he said.

If you are in your first or second year at university and haven’t yet begun to develop the skills and experience you need to validate yourself as a work­-ready graduate and a good investment for some wary employer, start now.

Stop trusting in your degree and start looking for opportunities to get the skills and experience you need.

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