What foreign-born grads have that UK grads don’t

Aug 9, 2013

Graduate recruitment news showing that up to 40 per cent of graduate jobs in London are filled by people born overseas begs the question, “Why?”

What does a graduate born overseas have that a graduate born in the UK does not? And why do top companies like PwC stage overseas recruitment drives to attract them?

At 40 per cent the figure is highest among those in the 30 to 40 year old bracket but there has been a rise from 22 to 33 per cent across all graduate jobs in London since 1997. While graduate recruitment in London for people born in the UK but outside the capital has risen just 60 per cent, for those born overseas recruitment has risen 174 per cent.

There is less room at the top if you want a graduate level job in London, but here are a few facts about the type of skills these overseas graduates have, which are appealing to recruiters in London.

Fact number 1: Field specific

There is a demand for graduates who can fill professional positions in healthcare, education, law and finance. The arts figure highly here, too. Reports show that competition is stiff for professionals in areas like these. Typically, most of these are fields that like to recruit people who have studied a STEM subject (science, technology, engineering or mathematics), but not exclusively.

Fact number 2: Resilence

Coming to the UK to work from a foreign land means that for quite a lot of the time these graduates are outside of their comfort zone. Without the usual surroundings or familiarity of their home town they develop the ability to be resilient; they have to find ways to solve problems largely on their own. These graduates tend to come across as persistent and less likely to run away at the first sign of a challenge.

Fact number 3: Self-motivated

These graduates have already shown that they are self-starters and have what it takes to motivate themselves. In a new land you have to be self-reliant as you don’t have the usual family and friends to fall back on; and because a foreign land is bound to present a load of cultural and communication challenges you will have to work harder to prove your worth and achieve your goals. These are desirable qualities for a top job.

Fact number 4: Bilingual

If you can speak more than one language, then that is going to be attractive to an employer with an eye on the global market. Britain has long since recognised this as an area in which it needs to improve when it comes to education. We have a poor track record when it comes to studying a foreign language to an advanced level compared with graduates from other parts of Europe.

Fact number 5: Vision

People who travel and speak more than one language are also more likely to have a global mindset. They are more likely to have an awareness of different cultures and this is becoming increasingly important in a marketplace where borders are less rigid. Graduates that have done some travel and are open to an international career are desirable to top companies.

What UK graduates can do to compete

With stiff competition for graduate level jobs coming from countries like Portugal, Greece, Italy, Spain and the rest of the world, the implications for UK graduates is that they need to step up in the game – or get left behind.

Think beyond your degree subject. If you look at the skills and abilities above they are largely what we call soft skills, or employability skills. These are the skills and experiences you develop around and in addition to formal education. Seek out opportunities to work with and learn from a wide range of people so you can widen your awareness of different cultures, strengthen your communication skills and broaden your vision.

Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way either. Whether you are on an internship, still at university or somewhere in between, volunteer your time to a cause or project. Look for opportunities to contribute. Read books and trade magazines so you can stay up to date and always have something useful to offer. Pick a topic related to your career interest and develop your expertise around it. Be desirable!

Finally, welcome the challenges and problems that come your way as opportunities to develop persistence and resilience. Present solutions, not just problems. Put these on your CV. Talk about them at your interviews.

Experts say that the “forces at work are so strong” that the trend for these skills and abilities will increase, so UK graduates need to arm themselves with the right skills and mindset to compete.

Image Credit: Pamhule

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