The Graduate and the Catch 22

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.

The Road to Success is always under construction

There are breakdowns and potholes along the Catch 22 highway but then it wouldn’t be life without them.


2 thoughts on “The Graduate and the Catch 22

  1. I agree with most of your points dan though I would say that the number of people that are currently graduating has somewhat devalued the degree as a concept and furthermore the issue that many have is that they go to university to do a degree without considering what it is they want to do for a career! This means that they graduate with a degree that is completely unrelated to anything they want to do in life because all they really went to university for was the wider experience!

    I am by no way belittling the value of that,university as an experience provides many valuable skills! At the same time these graduates of sociology and film studies and geology have to be prepared to work their way up from minimum wage paying jobs unless they genuinely want to enter a career in said fields!

    I think this gives a skewed image for people like yourself who has a genuine passion about the degree she completed but alas feel that this is a major problem in the current job market!

    Having said that,from somebody working in the field of welfare to work,there are many degree holders with experience in their fields that are unemployed so people have to take what they can get until we enter a period of growth again,especially those who have degrees related to sectors that provide luxury rather than essential living eg film makers etc

    I hope that makes sense and it’s just my two pence worth!

    Great article!

    • Definitely some valid points there Rob! I think a lot of people are questioning the value of having a degree in this day and age. Especially when any Tom, Dick or Harry can get one in any subject! It’s a shame when the media portray students as lazy and believe that we go to university to delay going into the real world. As much as the social life is a huge part of uni life, only a small minority are there because they don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their life.

      It is hard in the current job market because it is very easy to fall into the low self-esteem trap of wondering why you bothered to stay in education when you can’t get a job afterwards anyways. But as you said, the job market is in a terrible place and once opportunities come up, graduates do eventually end up better off than most as the Guardian article pointed out. It’s all about perseverance!

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