games PR-ing. music lover. bookworm. blogger. social media fanatic. cinephile. polyglot. fashion admirer.
So, I will mostly blog about relevant PR related topics and probably (too much) about my love for coffee.
I know I haven’t been on this blog for a very long time, but I have come back to talk about an issue that is very close to my heart. Unemployment among graduates and, really, unemployment in general, alongside internships, graduate schemes and entry level positions.
I was very, very lucky to find the job that I am in, I’ve just realized. For almost two years now I have worked in the same job that I’ve had since the summer I graduated. I found a job in an industry I knew nothing about, but, since it fit so well with my interests, have since then come to love.
When I was in university I worked and did internships and freelanced and did basically all I could to gather as much as experience as possible, but to be fair I am pretty sure it all came down to luck in the end. Lucky for finding the job advert at the right time and for finding a company that is willing to recruit young people, give opportunities based on interviews and meeting the person rather than keeping a distance and seeing the advantages that come from hiring a graduate that can be molded for the job from the experience they have.
I have friends from university, from the same course that I did – maybe even with a better degree result, some that did a Master’s degree and that are still unemployed now or work in jobs not connected to our degree. And that’s not for lack of trying. I have friends that did courses like Mathematics and Physics working in jobs that have nothing to do either mathematics or physics and it’s just because of the job market today.
I also read in yesterday’s Guardian the story of a young man with a 2:1 degree in politics and journalism who had applied, he estimates, to 540 positions. From jobs he was incredibly overqualified for, like cleaner and sales assistant, to jobs he might have been under qualified for and of course the general graduate schemes and unpaid internships. It has gotten so bad that even after interning unpaid for months, doing part-time work where he found it and applying for 540 jobs with a good degree he was still unemployed.
Don’t get me wrong, I think a degree is not everything. If fact I am pretty sure a degree matters much less than everything else on your CV, but if you’re never given a chance to grow that degree might be the only thing you have as a weapon in the job battlefield.
My dad used to tell me something growing up when I was frustrated by not being able to solve a maths problem in school or not understand something in the news and it was ‘You’re not born with knowledge’. You’re not born knowing things, you learn them and if no one is willing to give you a chance to do so, how could you ever learn?
Sure, it would be great that for every position you advertise for your company a candidate would appear with enough experience in the field, great recommendation, intelligent and perfectly suited to your company’s culture and he’d also probably be willing to take a little less money, but let’s be honest, the world just doesn’t work like that very often. And if someone has the perfect experience coming from the greatest company then why would they leave?
I’m not saying lower your standards or give the position to the first person who applies, but if you’re willing to invest a bit of time in someone, maybe that graduate that seems appropriate for the position and has all that energy and enthusiasm but not that much experience, you’ll come out better in the end knowing that you’ve now got a ‘custom-made’ employee tailored for the job exactly as you want him/her while bringing that fresh vibe and new ideas from the little experience he does have.
Among other things I tend to disagree with are graduate schemes that ask the world of you and unpaid internships that extend over one month. And here is why:
Graduate schemes had been devised to help graduates get a job, but nowadays, you have to have so much experience to even be included in one, in end you might as well look for a job or an internship.
Which is why I do understand the point of internships, I have been an unpaid intern more than once, but by choice, not because I was forced by my situation, luckily.
In my second year, when one of the companies I had interned for asked me if I wanted to stay (continue unpaid) for a couple more months which might lead to a job I said NO immediately. They already had an intern that had been there for 3 months and a half, did more work than some of the executives, came in earlier and left later than all of them and was now looking at doing a second job to support himself because he wasn’t getting paid there. This terrified me. I think in the end this is what made me decide to get as much experience when I was still in university for my last year rather than leave it for after graduation.
I left as soon as my promised end date arrived and a month later my fellow intern left too and got hired at another PR agency, salary and all. I did get the experience from working there and so did he so in the end I do see why internships still look like they work when in fact they are almost the worst case scenario of the job market. For me it was a great financial hardship to live in another city (London, so not a cheap city) and go to unpaid work. I used to come home on weekends just so I could pay less for accommodation and in the end, after my internship, I was exhausted.
I did other internships after, but never more than one month. After that period of time, if I didn’t get a serious offer, I would just move to the next one – learn more, gather more experience, see if along the way I liked a field more than others. That’s what you should be doing, right? Experimenting. I had internships that lead to freelance work and temporary contracts and in the end all this experimenting got me an entry level job in a small company that had the right attitude towards young graduates.
Entry level positions are hard to come by though and this is why I say I was lucky. Most of all entry level positions now require that you have at least 6 months to one year experience, which in itself to me seems like a Catch 22, but I have come across many of these in final year in education while looking for work. How are you meant to get experience if for an entry level position you’re meant to already have it? To paraphrase my father ‘You are not born with experience’.
Companies nowadays expect too much from graduates, but it’s not just them that suffer. It’s also those that choose to switch their focus later on or those that want to move to a different position.
Let me give you an example and I want you to think about being in this position:
You’re a graduate and the only job you’re offered from the hundreds you applied for is one that you’re not particularly excited about. Say you wanted to work in the software industry but you get offered a job in automobiles.
You take it, out of fear, out of financial pressure and even out of social pressure. You work there for 6 to 8 months.
Now you have the experience for other positions so you apply for a job at the same level as your own but in the software industry. Even though you may be more enthusiastic about the job you’re applying because it’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to work, no one will give you a chance because this experience you have is in the automobile industry and is not what they need. You try and apply for an entry level position at any other software company now, but you’re overqualified and they won’t accept you.
Essentially, the fact that you needed a job may hold you back forever.
And I know situations like this have happened. Many, many times. The job market today has no mercy. There will be no chances given. Companies maintain such a distance that you might not even get the interview you needed to prove yourself or you may go through 5 steps of an interview and recruitment process to be told in the sixth and final one ‘We’re sorry, you’re great, but we just needed a bit more experience…’
In a world that is moving fast and has to adapt constantly, companies seem to have no flexibility any more. The more blasé organizations are, the more they miss out. On that young BA graduate, now a waiter, that had great ideas on how to reform the banking system, but never got the interview, on the young MA graduate that now works as a translator and part-time cashier at Tesco who could churn out great artwork for adverts but is too tired from her two jobs to apply to the hundredth and sixteenth job this month on someone you know or even you.