On the 16 July, each and every graduating third-year will take part in the quintessential university rite of passage, donning a black robe and cap and ascending the stairs of the Central Hall stage to collect a piece of paper that sums up their three years at this weird and wonderful institution. And yet, while many will throw their hats in their air, ecstatic and ready to face the world of employment, the class of 2010 is soon to be hit with a dose of cold hard reality.
A recent poll of employers has revealed the number of graduates competing for each job vacancy has soared from 48 to 70 this year, while the number of positions available is likely to fall by 7 per cent. Meanwhile, the average graduate salary has remained frozen at £25,000, the first time this have ever occurred. It is a sad fact that we, as highly qualified, yet unemployed, graduates of the post recession age are becoming known as the ‘lost generation’, pushed to the bottom of the employment pile.
Meanwhile, I find it considerably unhelpful that bigwig business figues such as Carl Gilleard, Chief Executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, are recommending we ‘flip burgers’ or ‘stack shelves’ to fill our time. What sort of message does this give out to the plethora of ambitious and educated 22-years olds who are facing the daunting world of employment for the first time? While I in no way advocate that graduates should sit around just hoping their dream job will fall into their lap, patronising students and breaking their spirit before they’ve even properly decided on a career path is detrimental to society as a whole.
We are taking the wrong approach to such pronunciations of employment doom. Rather than hibernating in the comfort of their parents’ house, graduates should use this opportunity to take initiative and put their destiny back into their own hands. It is becoming increasingly clear that following the traditional path of entering a law or banking graduate scheme is so competitive and cutthroat that graduates should not see it as the be all and end all of future success, and instead should consider embracing a more original and entrepreneurial spirit.
Use the drive and ambition of your youth, and rather than being conservative about your employment options, think outside of the box. Set up your own business idea even if your main office is your uncle’s garage. Get all your fellow graduates involved. In a recent article in the Sunday Times, they featured two graduates from LSE who, fresh our of university and jobless, set up their own website Spoonfed, “the ultimate guide to what’s on in London”, and have now secured £1m of funding. It’s a heartening tale that is not uncommon across the UK. Be it writing, sewing or a penchant for pottery, channel your skills into a business idea and you could surprise yourself.
We live in a generation of the internet, Facebook and blogging, where anyone and everyone can distribute and advertise freely, meet people with similar ambitions and ideas and those with the money to fund them. The key is to look at such harsh unemployment statistics as an opportunity rather than an impediment. It may seem a naïve perspective to take and one that most would consider far too risky, but with applications figures for firms ranging from Cadbury to JP Morgan to Vodafone being the highest ever recorded, I don’t think there has ever been a better time to step away from your preconceived ideas of graduate employment and pursue another path entirely.
Be prepared, it may not work, after all not everyone is born the next Alan Sugar, but the skills that you would gain from attempting to set up your own business far outweigh those learnt from late night shifts at the local KFC.
Take the jump – you never know where you will land.