With the graduate unemployment rate running at around 20% it is clear that having a degree is no guarantee of getting a job. Indeed more than 20,000 degree students – almost one in 10 – who left university last summer were without a job six months later. The Higher Education Career Services unit warns that graduate unemployment will soar to record levels in coming years amid warnings that students face unprecedented competition to find work. Some sources suggest that as many as 270 graduates are applying for every job this year.

And those who do find work are increasingly likely to be doing a “lower skill” job that doesn’t actually make use of their degree standard education. A recent ONS report suggests that over a third of graduates find themselves in this situation.

Not only is there increased competition for jobs but Prof Sir Tim Wilson, who carried out a review for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, admitted that many businesses had concerns with graduate skill levels, particularly poor “commercial awareness”. His report – delivered to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – also suggested that a lack of work experience was a “key barrier” in securing employment. One of the 54 recommendations of his report was the introduction of modules on “employability skills” as part of standard degree courses to ensure students can apply their knowledge in the world of work.

So, as a graduate unable to find your dream job what can you do? Two things spring to mind. Firstly, take a job. Any job! Apart from the obvious (earning money) this has two key benefits in helping your “proper” job search. Firstly it will give you some work place experience and secondly it sends out a positive message to prospective employers. It demonstrates a degree of humility (i.e. that despite having a degree you do not consider yourself too good for menial tasks) and it demonstrates a work ethic. Both of these are traits that employers will respect.

Secondly, get yourself some additional “commercial” skills and qualifications. This doesn’t have to be an MBA or even of degree level but it does need to be vocational and applicable to the jobs market. This could include ITQ qualifications to demonstrate a professional working knowledge of commercial applications such as MS Office, office skills such as administration or even PA and secretarial skills. Not only will this give you specific skills which will make you more employable but will also show potential employers that you have the drive and commitment to do something about your situation. In fact, taking a PA, secretarial or general administrative job in a big organisation can often be a great “back door” route into that dream marketing or finance career that you covet!

Already many large employers are increasing the threshold above which candidates will be even considered with a 2:1 degree being commonly cited as the minimum required to make the cut. As competition hots up the more qualifications you have the better especially if they demonstrate commercial awareness or Professor Wilson’s “employability skills”.

 

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