Do I need to be a graduate?

One of the big decisions you face is do you need to be a graduate? Not necessarily.

A recent UK survey showed that a quarter of University graduates earn less than people who have completed an apprenticeship.

And the lowest earning 40% of graduates are more likely to have part-time roles than people with an apprenticeship.

Why do employers value a degree?

Employers face a dilemma when looking for staff –how do they know who has the qualities they need from their staff? A degree acts as a filter for them, they know anyone who has achieved a degree has a certain level of intelligence, and the tenacity to start something and complete it.

But that’s about all it does tell them. Doesn’t seem much to show for all those years of studying, does it? Obviously you have the body of knowledge that goes with your degree subject, and the ability to carry out research too. You probably have maturity, the ability to absorb and assess information, and argue a case.

Essentially though it is a filter. It indicates a level of ambition, the ability to take on a project and manage it through a period of time. So it will get you through the door in a lot of companies, and get you to interview stage at least.

Graduate career schemes

But you still need to make the decision about the job itself. What exactly are you going to do?

Many large corporations run a graduate entry scheme, which is purpose built for this situation. They usually run for 2 or 3 years, and allow for each graduate to spend some time in each of about six departments, which will obviously depend on the company’s business. For example in a retail organisation it would include Buying, Merchandising, Store Management, Warehouse Management, Logistics, and Marketing.

The aim is for the graduate and the company to have a good look at each other, and find the best match for the graduate’s skills and the company’s requirements. At the end of the scheme the graduate will be placed in a department that ideally suits both them and the company. The bonus for the organisation is that there is a body of people recruited into the company in this way who have risen to become middle and senior management, who understand how all the departments work and fit together, which is vital in a large company.

It has other less tangible benefits too, in that people who have been through the graduate scheme will tend to know each other and as they will be the senior and executive managers of the future, can help immensely with interdepartmental cooperation.

It is not what you know, but who you know, in all walks of life, and many situations.

Graduate jobs

There is another dilemma once you have achieved your degree, and now need to get a graduate job. Unless you have studied a vocational degree such as nursing or paramedic, then the value of your degree is more difficult to define. You need to decide what your goals are, where you want to work, what kind of work are you interested in.

Look at job sites, and see what kind of work is available. Read the detail of the job specification to give you an understanding of what you would be expected to do on a daily basis. Check you have the skills required, if not, try to acquire them by taking a relevant internship or part time job, possibly unpaid. Or volunteer, or join professional clubs or networking groups that might help to build your skills.

List employers that interest you. Research them using company review site such as Glassdoor. Try to find out about the company, its values and culture, management, opportunities there.

Talk to anyone you know who works in a company you are interested in, and get feedback from them about the company and the work. You might even get to spend a few hours in the company.

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