By Hope Talbot, First Year English
With the unravelling of the pandemic, and a graduate population growing every year, the career landscape and graduate prospects are constantly changing. Epigram has prepared an up-to-date, post-pandemic career guide for incoming graduates.
The age-old adage is that a degree is an investment, with employability as the eventual pay-off. For decades, young people have embarked on degrees with this very prospect in mind, hoping that universities become a catalyst for social mobility and post-graduate job success. Even as fees have been re-introduced, and the costs have continued to rise, thousands of students continue to flock to campuses across the country.
However, the students of today face a very different career landscape from that of former generations. Prior to the pandemic, the rate at which people were gaining degrees was steadily growing, with the number of undergraduate degrees awarded increasing fivefold since 1990. With this higher number of graduates, an already highly competitive job market was further exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon the announcement of lockdown, graduate schemes were postponed and internships were cancelled, with many graduates left in the lurch.
"Graduate schemes were postponed and internships were cancelled, with many graduates left in the lurch."
For many graduates, concerns still remain that Covid-19 will come back to haunt career prospects. For Joe, a third year History student, there’s still a lingering fear of the cancellations that plagued the summer of 2020: ‘I’m currently in the process of trying to find a graduate scheme, but I’m always hesitant about having something else lined up in case a scheme gets cancelled. But that’s easier said than done.’
While this is a rather grim picture of post-graduate employment, it’s important to understand the lessons learnt from the recent changes in the job market. While degrees remain an incredibly valuable asset, it’s important to recognise that degrees are becoming more common, meaning graduates need to work a little harder to stand out. While we’ve moved past the season of cancelled and postponed job opportunities, it’s still important to recognise the need for adaptability and flexibility in the job hunt, too.
So, how can graduates stand a chance in today’s job market? And how can we begin to gain these skills of adaptability? Luckily, Bristol University’s Career Services covers everything you could need to give yourself an edge over other candidates and to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Firstly, a key aspect of the post-graduate job hunt is communication and gaining an understanding of the interview process. As explained by Amanda Haig, a graduate HR manager at Allianz Insurance, gaining employment after university means asserting the right attitude when it comes to interviews and communicating with potential employers: ‘Sometimes I'm shocked at how some graduates can behave during the recruitment process and this means they are rejected at an earlier stage. The way graduates respond to emails, phone calls, even interview invites, tells you a lot about their attitude.’
"The way graduates respond to emails, phone calls, even interview invites, tells you a lot about their attitude."
The University’s Career Services has a whole page dedicated to this exact kind of interview etiquette, with tips on everything from creating a CV to how to answer interview questions.
Another key aspect that employers are continually looking for is evidence of skills gained beyond the degree. As explained by Matthew Williamson, a publisher at Graduate Prospects, extra-curricular activities can be great assets in the job hunt: ‘Extra-curricular activities and work experience placements may seem small-scale at first glance, but look closely at what each experience taught you and how it added to your employability skills.’
‘For example, you may have had some basic office work experience for a week or two, but what did you really take away from your time there? Did you do anything as part of a team? Did you develop an understanding of how that specific sector operates? There's real, transferable value to be found in even a day's work experience.’
"There's real, transferable value to be found in even a day's work experience."
With this in mind, the University’s Career Services have created the PLUS Award, which rewards students for the extracurricular activities completed throughout the course of their degree. Through structured reflections, students are able to understand and apply the skills they’ve developed in their job applications, featuring these skills as part of job applications and interviews. The scheme has also been highly praised by employers, including the Bristol-based Law firm TLT and the charity, Think Ahead. Moreover, with schemes such as the PLUS Award, students can fall back on a range of skills, beyond just work experience or internships.
For students still unsure about the options available for jobs beyond the degree, the University’s Career Services provide guidance for jobs beyond academia, with a whole database of potential employers just waiting to be explored. Further study also remains a promising option, with many students choosing to continue onto Master’s degrees or to take up a conversion course for careers in Law and Psychology.
So, while the job market remains competitive, there are still many options for students to consider, and many ways that students can continue to gain greater insights into the everchanging job market.
Featured Image: Careers Service