Whilst sifting through this week’s employability news, the MDXworks team spat out our tea in shock while reading this controversial headline in the Telegraph: ‘Students should not have to worry about graduate employment while at university, outgoing head of UCAS says’. In the article, the outgoing head of the university admissions service -Mary Curnock Cook- suggests delaying any career plans for 6 months after graduating. We couldn’t disagree more! Here are 8 reasons why we’re resolute that there’s no time like the present, to start planning your graduate career:
1. You have a support network while you study
Students putting off career planning could miss out on valuable employment support and guidance from academic colleagues. While at university, you’ll be in close contact with academic staff who have good connections within your ideal industry (read our Set Designer-Dresser success story for example), as well as other students from your course who may be able to offer you some suggestions (read our FDM graduate success story for another example). Many universities provide employability support services to help students plan their careers, but MDX is one of the few universities that continue to offer that support after students have graduated. So if your career doesn’t quite go as planned, you can always come back to us for more support.
2. Working is not a ‘middle-class obsession’ it’s an essential part of life
Unless your life plan is to inherit wealth, live off benefits long-term (about £60 to £70 per week) or win the lottery jackpot (odds of about 14 million to 1) then working is going to be a significant part of your life for about 50 years or so, whether you like it or not. Rather than a ‘middle-class fixation’, we understand that work is an unavoidable part of life for the vast majority of people. Give it the careful consideration it deserves.
3. There’s a reason it’s called a ‘graduate job’
Ms. Curnock Cook argues that there are opportunities in this world that you can access without a degree. Yes, there are some well-known ‘self-made’ entrepreneurs who never went to university. But this pales in comparison to the countless doors that are flung open by gaining a relevant degree. Some time ago, the Telegraph published an article at the other end of the employability spectrum called ‘Graduates earn £500,000 more than non-graduates’ Need we say more?
4. Happiness, well-being, security, money…
If we could extract one well-meaning truth-nugget from the Telegraph’s article, it’s that your mental health and well-being are extremely important. But putting off your plans for 6 months will only delay any stress you may feel about entering the employment market…it will not eliminate it. Consider your financial situation: You’ve probably left university with significant debts, possibly as much as £44,000 on average, according to the Financial Times. So, knowing that graduate jobs generally pay more, what reason could you have for doing anything else? Ms. Curnock Cook suggests exploring other options, but that’s not likely to help your bank balance. We’ve heard money can’t buy happiness, but would you be any happier by not fulfilling your career potential?
5. ‘What’s this huge gap on your CV?’
It’s a well-known fact that employers generally get nervous about gaps in employment on CVs. If they spot a gaping chasm between graduation and interview, you’d better have a great explanation! Ms. Curnock Cook suggests there’s ‘no harm in doing temporary, voluntary or non-graduate work’. But that’s not necessarily true if it’s not relevant to your career plans. Working in a charity shop will give you transferable skills, which may help if you want an entry level retail / customer service role, but if that’s not your goal, then it may not be the best use of your time. The jobs market is highly competitive and ‘lack of relevant experience’ is a big problem for graduates. We recommend gaining that experience while you study, such as completing a placement or finding part-time work. But if you do leave university without experience relevant to your job goal, we’d recommend that you think very carefully about how you spend those first 6 months.
6. There’s this thing called ‘closing dates’
Imagine a possible future in which you delayed your career plans for 6 months before deciding to look for a graduate role. But wait… where have all the internships and graduate schemes gone? They’ve been snapped up by people who know how competitive the world of work can be and so secured job offers before leaving university. Now you’ve got another 6 months to wait before many employers start recruiting for graduates again.
7. Location! Location! Location!
Moving back in with your mum* may make economic sense in the short-term (although perhaps not from her point-of-view). But what are the job prospects like in your hometown? You may be better off looking for work in the vibrant city where your university is located.
*mum / dad / parent/s / guardian/s / other.
8. A degree is a big investment in your future, so use it!
Ms. Curnock Cooks seems to suggest there’s merit in doing a degree just for intellectual stimulation rather than part of a career plan. But why not have both? Take it from someone who’s never made use of their Archaeology degree and spent several frustrating years in call-centres, care-homes and job-centres until I found my ideal job; there’s no time like the present to plan your career, think about what you want to do, and think about how you will get there.
By Matt Lewis, MDXWorks On-Campus / Online, Middlesex University
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to read ‘The secret to finding a graduate job’.
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