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The current landscape of graduate job-hunting

To understand the current landscape of graduate job-hunting, Emily Brewster speaks to a group of final-year students about juggling applications, over-saturated industries, and writing a stand-out CV.

By Emily Brewster, Third Year, History

‘So, what’s lined up for after you finish university in June?’

It’s a question which puts many soon-to-be graduates on edge. Whilst graduates from the University of Bristol are ranked as the third most targeted by top employers as of 2022, how this translates into the experiences of final-year students in their search for graduate work is not always straightforward. 

As the balance between the number of applicants for available job roles becomes increasingly uneven, the collective anxiety of students looking to enter the world of work through graduate schemes is palpable. 

To better understand the experiences of those hunting for graduate jobs, Epigram spoke to a group of final-year students at the University of Bristol about their plans after graduation. 

Gone are the days when grad scheme applications could neatly slot into the already taxing timetable of a final-year student. Many students spend their final months of study balancing dissertations, coursework and exam revision in the last heave of their university career. 

Lizzy, a history student applying for marketing roles, describes that as application processes for graduate schemes are becoming ‘More and more demanding’, the time needed to complete them successfully has increased exponentially:

‘Ultimately, if you want to get a grad job, you have to be able to commit at least one day of work a week, which obviously can add a lot of stress and burnout for university students.’

The large number of applications exacerbates the reality of this. Each student is competing to find employment, facing an average of 39 contenders per graduate vacancy in 2022. In Lizzy’s experience, this translated to at least 20 applications, which she found ‘hugely time-consuming’ and ‘super frustrating’ to juggle alongside her degree.

Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, also struggled with this, describing how he would ‘sometimes have two weeks where I barely touch on any course content just because I am focussing on job stuff’. 

'the post-uni gap year [...] is viewed by Emily as a chance for individuals ‘to experience life’ before entering the working world'

With the enormity of this undertaking in mind, many students are making the decision not to apply for graduate schemes at all. Emily, who is set to finish her Law degree this summer, articulated the difficulty of securing a job in this field without having previously succeeded in navigating the ‘equally impossible beast of internship applications’: ‘I didn’t want to do that; the degree is time-consuming enough!’

The trend toward the post-uni gap year, increasingly popular among young graduates, is viewed by Emily as a chance for individuals ‘to experience life’ before entering the working world — a sentiment that Max, another history student applying for law graduate schemes, echoes:

‘People are scared to start the “real world” of working life – they don’t want to become trapped into it too soon’.

The competitiveness of the graduate job market has motivated some students to secure employment immediately, rather than take a year’s sabbatical. 

Amy, a final-year student studying economics, was offered a graduate job as an analyst at a hedge fund following a second-year summer internship. She commented on the ‘majorly over-saturated’ nature of the current job market in Britain, observing that ‘essentially, the value of a degree has declined’ as the number of university places continues to rise. 

Amy has noticed an increasing prioritisation of industry experience, a ‘perplexing’ demand considering the difficulty of obtaining this whilst in full-time education.

Emily echoed this, noting that ‘You now need to have a stellar LinkedIn, three internships, have Steve Jobs as a reference and always be living, loving, and laughing’.

Whilst this portfolio is naturally attractive to potential employers, it is no easy feat to balance this alongside university life.

Faced with an oversaturated job market, soon-to-be graduates are faced with a tall order in landing graduate jobs. However, this is not to say that these jobs are unattainable. 

What Amy - who is set to enter the world of work in September - sees as the key to securing a graduate scheme is relying on experience outside of your degree to set yourself apart:

‘My boss emphasised that what made my CV stand out wasn’t anything financially related, but rather experiences like my volunteering trip to Poland during the Russo-Ukrainian war and hosting a black-tie charity poker night’.

She advises discovering unusual hobbies or projects as the best step to getting employers' attention, rather than completing the same online courses as every other applicant. 

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The importance of endurance cannot be understated in this process. Archie, looking forward to his job as a junior management consultant, remarks that ‘if anything, this process teaches resilience, which is a great trait to have. You’ll get where you want to be eventually’.

Featured image: Epigram / Dan Hutton

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