There was once a time when simply having been to university to get any old degree was enough to set you up for life. In the 1960s, only 4% of school leavers went to university. Half a century on, almost half of school leavers do so. Naturally, this means it’s not only far more difficult to stand out, but that more and more jobs and professions require a university degree as a minimum entry requirement.
What can you do about this?
Now that the degree itself is simply the minimum requirement as opposed to the differentiating factor in your attractiveness to prospective employers, you need to find other ways to shine.
You could opt to enhance your studies by bolting on either a Year Abroad or a paid Year in Industry. Most UK universities now offer these options as standard for many of their courses, and both options will complement your mandatory academic pursuits with experiences that are designed to shape you into the kind of well-rounded candidate that graduate employers look for in their new recruits. However, precisely because most universities offer these options across many of their degree courses, taking this route isn’t, in and of itself, necessarily enough to give you the elusive differentiator over the competition for that graduate scheme you’ve had your eyes on.
Relevant work and work experience
There are, of course, other ways of obtaining the necessary ‘relevant experience’ which prospective employers crave. You could volunteer in a related field, or if you’re lucky enough to have friend or family connections in a relevant workplace, try to obtain some experience there as well. Equally, you could work part-time during the summer holidays on a summer school, imparting your academic knowledge onto the next potential generation of high-flying students. There are plenty of these types of organisation around, such as this one in Oxford, and they’re often on the lookout for the right talent.
Bringing it all together
Ultimately, securing a graduate level position in the most crowded of market places is all about marketing yourself. So think like a marketer. For instance:
- What are your key skills which help to define your unique selling proposition (USP)?
- How does your level of analytical thought or skill in a particular area positively differentiate you from the competition?
- How do you select the right communications channels to get your message across?
If you’re still at university, you can seek advice on how to do all this and much more by arranging an appointment with a professional from your university careers service. Even if you’ve left, they’ll usually still help you if you’ve only recently finished. Remember, they have a vested interest in helping you to secure a good job after graduating because universities need to maintain positive post-graduation employment figures. These are impactful to their league table positions, which in turn are a key factor in terms of recruiting the next generation of students.
So don’t delay! Speak with your careers advisers today …