January 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
The student stereotype never dies. We think of students as being lazy, disorganised and more inclined to an extra hour in bed than their only lecture of the day at 10am. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone but the stereotype does exist for a reason; the most honest of us will admit that it’s founded in truth. But it got me thinking – this stereotype of the typical student is well-known, but what do we think of people once they stop being “students” and start being “graduates”? For those few who find themselves on graduate schemes or jobs immediately on graduating, the transition is pretty clear cut. Almost overnight, they stop being lazy students and become fully-functioning, tax-paying members of the working world. But what are the perceptions of graduates who don’t find a job immediately on graduating, but instead find themselves clinching at the occasional part-time unpaid internship whilst trying to fend off weeks at a time on Job Seekers’ Allowance…? We are no longer students, but we are also not yet a part of this grown-up working world; instead, we hover in this in-between state wondering exactly how to take our next step.
Maybe job-seeking graduates aren’t given enough credit. Yes, we’ve had 3 years of constant socialising, long lie-ins and extended holidays but the majority of us have also worked incredibly hard at our degrees, are several thousand pounds worth in debt and at the limit of our generous overdraft without even a whiff of a career to show for it. Finding a job is a daunting task at the best of times, but settling on a career and managing to take that first step into the working world is perhaps the hardest job of all. After all, we aren’t just looking for a job but for long-term career prospects, somewhere we can utilise the skills we’ve developed and really grow as individuals. But with little experience of the real world outside of the university bubble, how can we possibly make an informed decision? We are left with few options. Researching and assessing possible careers; applying to jobs and work placements; spending hours tailoring each individual job application, CV and covering letter; preparing for interviews and travelling across the country; or working full-time or part-time to pay off debts. But what makes being a unemployed graduate so hard is that these options are not mutually exclusive. Many of us are doing all of these things simultaneously.
For example, I work through a temping agency in a full-time position in a bank. I am also working part-time as a distant intern for a fashion brand in New York. Every day, I wake up at 7am and go to work. I look for work experience and entry level jobs in my lunch break, create a document of relevant links and email it home. I get home at 6pm, eat and then sit at my computer. Most days, I spend 2-3 hours doing freelance (read unpaid) writing work and tasks for the part-time internship. Then I set about looking at jobs again and start applying. By midnight, it’sjust about time to get some sleep.
Graduates working in stop-gap jobs perhaps have one of the hardest tasks of all. Applying to jobs these days is practically a full-time profession all by itself. A good tailored CV, highlightling your experience and relevant skills against the person specification and an engaging cover letter can take over an hour to write. But with the sheer number of people applying to each job, a quality application isn’t enough. Applying for a job is still a numbers game and will always depend on luck and factors outside of your control. Writing one quality job application is great but doesn’t guarantee a response when tens (if not, hundreds) of other just as suitable candidates are applying.
The majority of job rejections for graduates will always stem from “a lack of experience”, whether the jobs are supposedly entry-level or not. But I think it’s time that graduates were given a little credit for the difficult job that they are doing. Not only are we in a seemingly hopeless position of being unemployed in today’s dismal job market, but the majority of us are doing several jobs simultaneously. In fact, simply by applying we are exhibiting the required excellent organisational skills (you should just see my job deadline and freelance work deadline lists), time management skills and a go-get-’em initiative and passion for just about any job. It’s not easy to shoot off a covering letter and CV that perfectly fits the job description – in just applying for the job, we are showing a serious commitment to the industry and position. We are already multi-tasking, working late nights and standing strong in the face of near-constant rejection.
Sure, students can be lazy. But job-seeking graduates? They may be some of the most driven, determined and passionate people I know.
October 31, 2011 § 3 Comments
We all remember that childhood conversation with our parents. The one where you’re told that you can be anything you want to be, just as long as you put your mind to it. I’ve always believed this to be true. After all, as children we are blank canvases, able to collect and create a multitude of experiences and opinions that make us ideal for our own futures. But thinking back to our childhood dreams, you have to wonder how plausible this idea is. Surely, it must be very few people that end up doing what they dreamed they would when asked the pivotal question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
I always wanted to be a marine biologist, convinced that this meant playing with dolphins all day rather than the reality of boats, labs and seawater. But if someone offered me the chance to be a marine biologist today, I’d have to turn them down. My sister on the other hand, answered that classic childhood question with similarly classic childish honesty. When she grew up, she wanted to be able “to drink Bacardi Breezers”.
Ask a class of kids today what they want to do when they grow up and you’ll get a lot of the same answers; the lures of pop-stardom and space exploration make for seemingly brilliant career choices. As adults we know the truth. With fame comes hard work, pressure and a near-constant hounding from the press; with space exploration comes isolation, intense physical conditions and an indelible helping of life-threatening danger. Not the best 9-to-5 career choices.
There comes a point in our lives, however, when our ability to do anything and to be anyone comes to pass. It’s difficult to say when that point is, and obviously with every door that we close on possible future careers, we open hundreds more with our commitment to a set route. When I chose to take no science subjects at A-level, I firmly closed the doors on medicine (and my misinformed dreams of marine biology), but opened up a world of opportunities to careers in the arts.
But at the age of 21, just four months after graduating, I already feel like my choices are incredibly narrowed. I’m a creative person and have a passion for advertising, for branding and for communications in general. In my ideal job I’d get to write and be a little bit creative every day. I have varied experience in all sorts of jobs; from writing yoghurt campaigns to tracking down financial criminals, as well as the more standard office and admin work along the way.
You’d think that this wide range of experience would make me an ideal candidate for any of the entry level marketing/design jobs I’ve applied for so far, and yet after several interviews I always hear that I’m a lovely girl, but just too creative for the job. Apparently creativity doesn’t work when you’re supposed to be doing admin day-to-day; I guess nobody wants a spreadsheet with panache. But do companies really need to employ the same old person to file, copy, print, repeat? Maybe employers are under-estimating the passion and commitment that today’s graduates have to break into their desired field, and can bring to any level of a business. We are well aware that we’ll have to start at the bottom, but are committed to making the most out of our opportunities to ultimately get to where we want to be.
All this raises an interesting issue. As a recent graduate, I’ve tried to make myself as employable as possible and am looking for an entry-level position to get into a company and progress. Yes, I have experience as a creative but that’s not all I’ve done, it’s not all I do, and I’m not even sure it’s all I want to do. I still feel very young, know that I have a lot to learn, and just want an opportunity to develop all my skills. What if I want to work as a project manager? A magazine journalist? A book critic? I have an excellent English degree and experience that makes me suitable for all these jobs – does my passion for advertising and my creativity mean I am any less capable of doing them?
So – can you really be anything? The job market today seems to think that you can’t. I’m determined to prove them wrong. Marine biology, here I come.
Just kidding. But arts, media, design, advertising, branding, marketing, PR, magazine and literary world – look out!
As seen on The Guardian Careers website: