‘I feel left behind’: graduates struggle to secure good jobs


For Felix, attempting to discover a job is a “complete grind”. The London-based graduate, who prefers to give solely his first title, says he’s neglecting college work so as to write cowl letters and full assessments. The “lack of feedback from the (many) rejections leads to a pretty vicious cycle. Often companies simply blank you instead of a rejection email.” 

After he discovered standard routes proved nerve-racking and unsuccessful, he targeted on cold-emailing and ultimately obtained a suggestion. “[It] appears a game of luck and numbers,” he provides. “The graduate job market is absolutely flooded, as is that of postgrad applications.”

Like different 2021 graduates, Felix is getting into a worldwide jobs market the place there are fewer alternatives and elevated competitors. He was one in all greater than 70 who offered detailed responses to a Financial Times survey about graduating within the pandemic.

Many respondents, together with those that have graduated from prime establishments such because the London School of Economics, the University of Cambridge and University College Dublin, described their struggles in securing entry-level positions. They additionally highlighted that they’re competing with 2020 graduates who misplaced out when graduate programmes were suspended.

A overwhelming majority of respondents felt there have been fewer job alternatives out there for graduates. Many of their private experiences highlighted a hyper-competitive jobs market, which may be demoralising and demotivating.

Many additionally felt that they had not discovered a job that met their profession aspirations, and had to take a place with a decrease wage than anticipated. About half felt that the pandemic has set again their early profession prospects.

However, whereas greater than a 3rd felt that they had been compelled to change the path of their profession on account of the pandemic, they thought the end result was not essentially a unfavorable one.

Competitive jobs market

A graduate from the LSE, who most popular not to be named, mentioned that discovering a job was “a struggle”. “Despite being highly qualified, you are competing against people that graduated a few years ago but still apply to [do] the same jobs as you because they could not find better. And you cannot really compete because they have experience which you don’t have as a young graduate.”

In the UK, of those who graduated in the course of the pandemic 29 per cent of ultimate yr college students misplaced their jobs, 26 per cent misplaced their internships and 28 per cent had their graduate job provide deferred or rescinded, according to research from Prospects, a specialist graduate careers organisation.

Meanwhile, those that run substantial graduate schemes have reported vital will increase within the variety of candidates for this yr’s consumption.

Hywel Ball, UK chair of EY, the skilled providers agency, says graduate purposes had been up by 60 per cent in contrast with 2019, and 12 per cent in contrast with 2020. Allen & Overy, the worldwide regulation agency, says purposes for its UK graduate scheme grew by 38 per cent this yr, with yr on yr development for the previous three utility cycles.

Unilever, the buyer items firm, recruits graduates throughout 53 international locations and noticed a 27 per cent improve in purposes from 2019 to 2020.

Compounding the issue additional is the rising variety of entry-level jobs that require work expertise. Even earlier than the pandemic, 61 per cent of entry stage positions within the US required three or extra years of labor expertise, according to a 2018 analysis by TalentWorks, a job-matching software program firm.

Some college students feel the applying course of for some corporations is changing into more and more arduous. James Bevington, who has not too long ago completed a PhD in chemical engineering on the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, says: “When the power dynamics are so skewed against you with hundreds of applications per role, the recruitment process can become abusive.” 

He describes how on submitting an utility he was given two days to undertake a 24-hour evaluation for which he had to drop all the pieces. He had no alternative to ask primary questions in regards to the firm and solely obtained an automatic rejection after getting an ideal rating on the evaluation. “Why bother?” he says. 

A London-based engineering graduate, who most popular not to be named, says: “Up until now I have 230+ failed applications for entry-level jobs. Having graduated [in] computer science, I now add income to my family as a delivery driver in between applying for different jobs and trying to muster the motivation to keep going. I feel left behind, not only by the job market, but by the institutions that offered my education — my academic achievements are something I pride myself on, yet the job market seems to disregard them completely.”

Security versus curiosity

Another recurrent theme was that some who’ve secured employment are in truth interested in exploring different alternatives, however the uncertainty means they’re reluctant to go away their present employer and check out a distinct function at one other firm. Finding secure work was extra essential than discovering fulfilling work.

Another London-based graduate, who most popular not to be named, had secured a job in an funding financial institution however had rapidly determined it was not for them and would really like to swap profession. But “it’s hard finding different opportunities . . . And it’s easier to stick to the safer, well-paid path than take a risk and end up redundant,” they mentioned.

Portrait of Elliot Keen, a civil engineering graduate from Birmingham university
Elliot Keen thinks new entrants to the labour market will search long-term positions relatively than shifting round

A regulation graduate from University College Dublin, presently based mostly in Leuven, Belgium, following a masters at KU Leuven, who didn’t need to give his title, says: “The pandemic has impacted all of our anxiety levels but its disproportionate effects on workers has really made job security a priority for me, above finding work that is fulfilling and enjoyable.”

Elliot Keen, a graduate in civil engineering from Birmingham college who’s now based mostly in London, mentioned that new entrants to the labour market could default again to a “job for life” relatively than shifting round: “I reckon people will stay in their roles for five, maybe 10 years or longer.”

Unexpected success 

Among these graduates who felt compelled to take one other path, some outcomes have been constructive.

Alex Morgan, who did a political financial system MA at King’s College London following his undergraduate diploma at Leeds, says the pandemic has “perversely helped me”. He determined to pursue postgraduate training “because the graduate jobs market felt so dysfunctional” final yr. Following his MA, he secured a job with the civil service. He had not deliberate to do an MA and provides: “I don’t think I would have been able to secure this sort of job without it.”

It appears many different college students have additionally opted for postgraduate choices. An evaluation of the FT’s enterprise faculty rankings, for instance, exhibits how purposes to postgraduate programmes, reminiscent of an MBA or masters in finance, have elevated.

Bar chart of Annual change in enrolment* (%) showing A surge of interest in MBAs

He additionally thinks that the compelled shift in working habits might stage the enjoying discipline and allow faster development — particularly for these not based mostly in London.

Nathaniel Fried, a geography graduate from King’s College London, was working part-time on organising an info safety firm. Anticipating the dearth of job alternatives, he determined to pursue it full time. “We have been doing well,” he says. While he feels he was compelled by circumstances, exploring alternatives exterior the normal job market “has boosted my early career prospects by forcing me to innovate”, he says. 

Similarly, PhD pupil Bevington — who drew on the teachings of ending his undergraduate course throughout a recession in 2011 — additionally determined to begin his personal firm, a non-profit within the space of area analysis. “When I approach would-be employers about my company’s offering, they can’t partner quick enough.”

Portrait of Alex Morgan, who did a political economy MA at King’s College London following undergraduate studies at Leeds
Alex Morgan feels that the pandemic helped him pursue totally different objectives © Tolga Akmen/FT

Brian Massaro, an utilized economics masters graduate from Marquette University in Milwaukee within the US, has accepted a full-time place following an internship throughout his research, however he and a buddy have been making use of to start-up incubators and accelerators to develop a web-based publishing firm he has been engaged on for the previous few years.

While college students felt the pandemic has had a knock-on impact on their quick profession prospects, many respondents’ sentiment was cautiously optimistic for the long run. But some felt that governments and firms must be offering extra assist and investing in graduates.

Morgan provides that companies might have additional incentives to present high-quality graduate roles. “We heavily encourage young people to go to good universities, taking on a lot of debt to do so,” he says. “It seems, in my peer group, that there is a raft of graduates (from top universities) who are unable to find roles which challenge them. That is not to say they are entitled to one, but I think there is a clear gap between the promise of university and the reality on the other side.”

Fried provides: “I believe both businesses and government should be taking steps to invest in graduates. Social mobility is very low and those impacted most by lack of opportunities are marginalised groups.”

Rahul, an India-based MBA graduate who didn’t need to give his final title, says corporations want to enhance the recruitment course of and pay graduates based mostly on expertise: “Do not reduce pay just because people are in need.” He additionally says that point taken to rent wants to be decreased to 30 days. “[Some] are taking almost 100 days for one recruitment process. It’s inefficient.”

Despite the challenges, some respondents are upbeat. “It is tough for us graduates,” provides a Brighton college graduate. “We’ll be all the stronger for it though!”

Graphics by Chelsea Bruce-Lockhart



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