Many of you are now in the exact same position, I was in almost a year ago. You’re swapping sleep for Redbull to finish that dreaded dissertation and cramming for your final exams. You can’t wait to get out into the big wide world and find your dream job…
I’m not planning on turning this post into a pessimistic “the future’s bleak and we’re all doomed,” charade but I’m not going to sugar-coat life after uni either. I think most savvy undergraduates know that that the job market is full of tumble-weeds and many graduates are either employed or are in jobs that are completely unrelated to their degree. In fact, a recent article by The Guardian revealed that “a third of recent graduates are in unskilled jobs,” however we are still better off than those without a degree apparently, so not all is lost.
BBC Three aired a programme back in October 2011, “Up for Hire,” where they aimed to tackle youth unemployment and gave youngsters a platform, where they could put themselves out there to nab their ideal job. My Catch 22 thoughts came from watching said programme; while we are graduates, not all of us think that the world owes us something just because we have a degree but at the same time, we shouldn’t have to put up with low-paid jobs in industries unrelated to our studies. Many of us are in those jobs and while we are grateful to be employed in today’s day and age and earning money, for many of us, those jobs are a stop-gap until we find exactly what we are looking for.
Which brings me to my next Catch 22…
Do potential employers look at our CVs and then think we do not have the passion or drive to succeed in our desired jobs because we spent the first year after graduation working in a bar?
I’d like to think that employers are understanding of the current job market and while internships are valuable to have on your CV, not all of us can afford to live on the minimum wage when we have bills to pay. On the other hand, there’s contemplating that risk of sacrificing six months of your life to undertake that internship with the strong hope that there will be a permanent position at the end of it. And then it would all be worth it, in the long run.
While I have done several internships, like most people, I cannot afford to work for free but I think the best thing that anyone in the same boat can do is to make sure you still have your fingers dipped in the industry you want to break into. From my point of view, I’m talking about the media industry and therefore freelancing, blogging, writing articles for magazines etc around my job so that I can still show that I’m interested in having a journalistic career.
Here’s a few tips for fellow graduates to follow:
1. If you can’t afford to take up internships, make the most of freelance work or negotiating a placement around the hours that you work. Some employers only want you to work a couple of days each week and that way you’re not out of pocket either.
2. Keep your knowledge of the industry or your specialism subject up to date. It can be easy to forget even the most simple of things while you’re busy answering phones at your day job, brush up on your skills constantly and read the news for developments in your field or changes in the law etc. The media industry is constantly changing and moving forward with social networking so remember the legal rules when it comes to your own blog and articles.
3. Get to as many networking events and recruitment fairs as possible! Contacts are absolutely vital for any graduate and also remember to keep in touch with fellow uni colleagues and tutors. Knowing that certain someone in a certain place can be your express ticket to your career. And remember, be polite and professional to everyone you meet! Manners always go a long way.
4. Like with any job that you’re applying for, monitor your social networking activity. Although Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and your blogs are a great way of communicating, make sure you’re not sending out the wrong message to people. A profile photo of you drunk in a trolley, eyes rolled back, clutching a bottle of Vodka might make you think that everyone sees you as a fun-loving party animal but a potential employer won’t look upon it too kindly. Sort your privacy settings out and really step back from your social networking profile and think of how you’re really portraying yourself to other people.
5. And finally KEEP THE FAITH! See, I told you this post wasn’t going to be pessimistic! Your big break will crop up when you least expect it and not everyone has opportunities fall into their lap straight away. When you’re sitting at your desk in the City, plugging away at the next worldwide exclusive, you’ll look back with fond memories (yes, really) of the days when you used to trawl through job sites and rewrite cover letters over and over again. The road to success is a testing one and at the end of the day, hard work and persistence does pay off.
There are breakdowns and potholes along the Catch 22 highway but then it wouldn’t be life without them.