Better jobs for graduates? Ha ha ha

“Graduates get better jobs, more money and have greater job satisfaction”, or so I was told as a teenager considering my university options. A decade later, I beg to differ. Graduates on certain courses, following certain career paths, who exercise wisdom and have employable skills (or incredible luck), have better jobs, more money and greater job satisfaction.

There is a discrepancy between the number of people with degrees and the number of people who actually get hired for jobs. The human capital system is plagued with graduates without the vital skills to get the jobs they want, or the jobs they studied for, due to a dearth of work experience and skills. Here I am not referring to those transferrable skills, which we are all told we have as graduates, because we can make Powerpoint presentations and talk about them in front of five people. This does not, I am sorry to say, a public speaker make, nor does it sell soap.

It has become imperative in our present age to have work experience and skills related to the job for which one is applying. It has never been more important to get involved in university life, join clubs and societies, volunteer and push oneself further and harder than previous generations. By such means one acquires the edge, just to be considered for the same jobs.

Work placements, work experience, summer schools and internships have become career shibboleths, and without mention of at least one of these, your CV is cast aside in favour of that over-achiever who has spent every summer working for peanuts in some firm. I am not one of these people who believe that degrees are overrated, but I have firmly come to believe that they are not always necessary. Unless like me you want to be an academic, heed these words.

There are alternatives. Financial powerhouses such as PwC have a school leavers programmes which offers one the opportunity to work and study towards a qualification. This is a fantastic alternative to a degree in Accounting, because at the end of such an accounting degree, one would still need to do the ACCA to become a chartered accountant. Unless the university life and all that it offers are of vital importance (think £9000 a year), then it is worthwhile to consider one’s options carefully.

Professional institutes offer qualifications ranging from human resource management, marketing and risk management, to tourism and hospitality. There are many ways around the chasm, but it does take effort and a willingness to be informed, and the ability to take the initiative.

Investing in one’s future now means more than getting a degree; today’s increasingly globalised world has widened the pool of competition and one must be prepared to pull out the stops to get a good job. One no longer has to contend with the best qualified graduates within one’s own country, but internationally too.

Present or prospective students must stop playing snakes and ladders with their lives and graduate to chess. Strategic planning, research and a good work ethic will ensure that one succeeds in this new world. Movies like ‘The Hunger Games’, should prepare the new graduate for what to expect in the world out there. Say goodbye to the fragmented world in which education and employment followed a linear trajectory, and say hello to the present condition, a veritable spider’s web of opportunity and loss. It is no longer wise to start a degree without knowing what will follow. So many people now have first degrees that will prove essentially useless in their future as they turn to qualifications to actually get jobs.

If you don’t know what you want to do, work and make up your mind, try out new things. We must let go of the social snobbery so long a part of African thinking that encouraged one to have a degree at all costs, so the neighbours can know that there is a graduate in the house. Let us prioritise having employed people in the family. If it’s going to be a useless degree, there are more fruitful and enjoyable ways to waste £27,000!

Here is a word of advice; look into the career you want. If you do go to university, on the first day after Fresher’s week, pretend you are going to apply for that job. Check the skills and experience needed, and then work to get them during the degree. Now I am aware that it is not always so simple. If you see that it might require working for free for a couple of months, put a little aside monthly towards an internship; invest in yourself, because while it may be a big pain it is worth it. Take it from one who wishes she had known and started publishing a lot earlier.

Post published in: Analysis
  1. Israel

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