IS THE TIME RIGHT FOR GRADUATES?
With official figures showing unemployment at 1.79 million, the highest since March, these are worrying time for many people with regards to their jobs. Unemployment is rising, companies have to make redundancies, food prices are increasing and in general times are tough. However graduates may be among the lucky few whose future is a little more secure than others. Many organisations have learnt from previous economic downturns and see graduates as an investment for the future that cannot be sacrificed. There are many advantages to hiring graduates and often these outweigh the financial costs of taking them on.
Despite the economic slowdown and unemployment rising at its highest rate in 17 years, the graduate market is looking like it may hold up well. Recent news indicates there has only been a slight decline in graduate openings this year, and is estimated to be only around 1% less next year (Times Online, September 17th). Despite this, a recent survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers found that 81% of students and recent graduates are more concerned about their job prospects than they were this time last year. It is true that in the last recession graduate intake was one of the first things to be cut, but this meant that when business picked up there was little new talent to move up the ranks. This time around will employers be more knowledgeable and take a longer term outlook?
Graduates find it harder to find employment in some areas more than others, but whilst some sectors are cutting back on hiring, others still need suitable candidates to fill roles. In October the Monster Employment Index, which is a monthly analysis of millions of online job opportunities from a large, representative selection of corporate career sites and job boards across the UK, found annual growth in online job opportunities in sectors such as education, healthcare and engineering. This has been a consistent trend in the last quarter along with hospitality and tourism. Education for example is now reaping the benefits from the downturn in the banking sector. A stable wage, job security and good long term prospects within teaching means graduates are looking for job opportunities in this sector instead.
If a graduate is unable to find their ideal role, then transferring their core skills to other jobs can be a useful exercise. For example graduates may want to take advantage of Christmas temporary jobs. If their ultimate goal is to land a job in retail, getting a Christmas job may be a good way to get some initial experience and contacts in the sector. Despite the Christmas retail season looking bleak, a willing employee who puts in lots of effort and works hard is unlikely to go unnoticed.
Trying to stand out amongst a sea of other candidates is something that people struggle with at all levels of their career. However this can be easily fixed by highlighting a few interesting points on a person’s CV. Travelling can be looked upon favourably by some employers as the candidate can be seen as a more rounded individual, with a wider knowledge of the world. Other activities that make job seekers stand out for all the right reasons include charity work, learning a language, gaining a masters degree or involving themselves in quirky hobbies. Showing independence and using initiative shows dedication and is always an attractive trait in candidates.
Graduates like all other employees need to be treated as individuals. Every employee has their own specific talent and can contribute to an organisation in different ways. When a graduate joins an organisation they will be ambitious and often very technologically aware, and these skills need to be identified and then built upon. Often graduates may have picked up skills which do not relate to their degree. For example if they have been travelling they may know a foreign language and be more aware of cultural differences, which can often be useful to communicate with colleagues from around the world. Graduates will also benefit from structured career paths, regular reviews of their performance, being told of key target areas to work on and highlighting where they are performing well so that they can clearly see their shortfalls but also how to develop.
Despite the current economic climate and pending recession, graduates may be able to breathe a little more easily knowing that a good degree and strong work experience can’t fail to stand them in good stead in today’s job market.