‘I feel left out’: diplomats are struggling to secure good jobs

For Felix, trying to find a job is a “complete grind”. The London graduate, who prefers to give only his name, says he neglects university work to write cover letters and complete assessments. The “lack of feedback from the (many) rejections leads to a pretty vicious cycle. Often companies will simply cancel you instead of a rejection email.”

After finding the conventional ways proven stressful and unsuccessful, he focused on cold e-mails and finally received an offer. “[It] it seems like a game of luck and numbers, “he says.” The graduate job market is absolutely flooded, as is that of post-graduate applications. “

Like the other 2021 graduates, Felix is ​​entering a global job market where there are fewer opportunities and increased competition. He was one of more than 70 who provided detailed answers to a Financial Times survey on the degree of pandemic.

Several interviewees, including those who have graduated from higher education institutions such as the London School of Economics, Cambridge University and Dublin University College, described their struggles to secure top-level positions. They also pointed out that they are in competition with 2020 graduates who have lost time graduate programs have been suspended.

A large majority of respondents thought that there were fewer job opportunities available for graduates. Many of his personal experiences have highlighted a hyper-competitive market, which can be demoralizing and demotivating.

Many also thought that they had not found a job that met their career aspirations, and they had to take a position with a lower salary than expected. About half considered that the pandemic had resumed its early career prospects.

However, while more than a third felt that they had been forced to change the direction of their career due to the pandemic, they thought the result was not necessarily negative.

Competitive employment market

An LSE graduate, who preferred not to be named, said finding a job was “a struggle.” “Despite being highly qualified, you are in competition against people who graduated a few years ago but who still apply. [do] the same work as you because they couldn’t find better. And you can’t really compete because they have an experience that you don’t have as a young graduate. ”

In the UK, of those who graduated during the pandemic 29 per cent of last year’s students lost their jobs, 26 per cent lost their internships and 28 per cent had their job offers graduated postponed or canceled, according to research by Prospects, a specialized career organization for graduates.

Meanwhile, those managing substantial graduate schemes have reported significant increases in the number of candidates for recruitment this year.

Hywel Ball, UK president of EY, the professional services company, says applications for diplomas are up 60 per cent compared to 2019, and 12 per cent compared to 2020. Allen & Overy, the international law firm, says applications for its graduate scheme in the UK have grown by 38 per cent this year, with annual growth for the last three application cycles.

Unilever, the consumer goods company, is recruiting diplomas in 53 countries and has seen a 27 percent increase in applications from 2019 to 2020.

Further complicating the problem is the growing number of first-rate jobs that require work experience. Even before the pandemic, 61 percent of entry-level jobs in the United States required three or more years of work experience, according to a 2018 analysis by TalentWorks, a working software company.

Some students feel that the application process for some companies is becoming more and more difficult. James Bevington, who recently completed a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, says: recruitment can become abusive. ”

He describes how when he submitted an application he was given two days to undertake a 24-hour evaluation for which he had to leave everything. He did not have the opportunity to ask basic questions about the company and received only an automated rejection after getting a perfect score on the assessment. “Why bother?” he says.

A London-based engineering graduate, who preferred not to be named, says: “So far I have more than 230 failed applications for top-level jobs. After graduating [in] computer science, I now add income to my family as a delivery driver between applying for different jobs and trying to gather the motivation to continue. I feel left behind, not only by the job market, but by the institutions that have offered my education – and my academic achievements are something that makes me proud, yet the job market seems to ignore them completely ”.

Security versus curiosity

Another recurring theme was that some who have secured a job are actually curious to explore other opportunities, but uncertainty means they are reluctant to leave their current employer and try a different role in another company. Finding a secure job was more important than finding a complete job.

Another London graduate, who preferred not to be called, had secured a job in an investment bank but had immediately decided it wasn’t for them and would want to change careers. But “it’s hard to find different opportunities. . . And it’s easier to stick to the safer and better paid path than to take a risk and end up being redundant, ”they said.

Portrait of Elliot Keen, a civil engineering graduate from the University of Birmingham

Elliot Keen thinks new entrants to the job market are looking for long-term positions rather than moving

A law graduate from University College Dublin, currently based in Leuven, Belgium, after a master’s degree in KU Leuven, who did not want to give his name, says: “The pandemic has affected all our anxiety levels. but its disproportionate effects on workers have really made job safety a priority for me, on top of finding a job that is both satisfying and enjoyable. ”

Elliot Keen, a graduate in civil engineering from the University of Birmingham who is now based in London, said new entrants to the job market could fail to return to a “job for life” rather than move around: “I think people will stay in their roles. For five, maybe 10 years or more.”

Unexpected success

Among those graduates who felt compelled to take another direction, some results have been positive.

Alex Morgan, who did an MA in political economy at King’s College London after graduating with a degree in Leeds, says the pandemic has “helped me perversely”. He decided to pursue post-graduate training “because the graduate job market felt so dysfunctional” last year. After his MA, he secured a job with the civil service. He didn’t plan to do an MA and added, “I don’t think I would have been able to do this kind of work without him.”

It seems that many other students have also opted for post-graduate options. An analysis of the ranking of FT business schools, for example, shows how the demands for postgraduate programs, such as an MBA or a master’s in finance, are increasing.

Graph Annual Enrollment Change Bar * (%) showing a source of interest in MBA

He also thinks that the forced change in work habits could level the playing field and allow for faster progression – especially for those who are not based in London.

Nathaniel Fried, a graduate in geography from King’s College London, worked part-time at the creation of an information security society. Anticipating the lack of job opportunities, he decided to pursue it full-time. “We did well,” he says. While feeling compelled by circumstances, exploring opportunities outside of the traditional job market “stimulated my early career prospects by forcing me to innovate,” he says.

Similarly, doctoral student Bevington – who took advantage of lessons to finish her bachelor’s course during a recession in 2011 – also decided to start her own business, a nonprofit in the space research area. “When I approach future employers about my company’s offer, they can’t partner soon enough.”

Portrait of Alex Morgan, who did an MA in Political Economy at King's College London after university studies in Leeds

Alex Morgan feels that the pandemic has helped him pursue various goals © Tolga Akmen / FT

Brian Massaro, a master’s in applied economics graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee in the United States, accepted a full-time position after an internship during his studies, but he and a friend applied for start-up incubators and accelerators to grow an online publishing company that has worked over the past few years.

While students thought the pandemic had an impact on their immediate career prospects, the sentiment of many interviewees was cautiously optimistic for the long run. But some have thought that governments and companies should provide more support and invest in graduates.

Morgan adds that companies may need more incentives to provide high-quality graduate roles. “We encourage a lot of young people to go to good universities, taking a lot of debt to do,” he says. “It seems, in my peer group, that there is a group of graduates (from higher universities) who are not able to find roles that challenge them. That doesn’t mean they are entitled to one, but I think there is a clear gap between the promise of the university and the reality of the other side. ”

Fried adds: “I believe that companies and the government should take measures to invest in graduates. Social mobility is very low and those most affected by the lack of opportunities are marginalized groups.”

Rahul, an MBA graduate in India who declined to give his last name, says companies need to improve the recruitment process and pay graduates based on skills: “It doesn’t reduce pay just because people need it. ” It also says the lead time to employment should be reduced to 30 days. “[Some] it took almost 100 days for a recruitment process. It’s inefficient. ”

Despite the challenges, some interviewees are optimistic. “It’s hard for us graduates,” adds one Brighton university graduate. “We’ll be even stronger for that!”

Chelsea Bruce-Lockhart graphics

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