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.