“I feel I’m behind”: Graduates work hard to find good jobs


For Felix, finding a job is a “complete chore.” The London graduate prefers to reveal only his name. He said he neglected his university work in order to write a cover letter and complete an evaluation. “The lack of feedback from (many) rejections has led to a very vicious circle. Often, companies simply shut you out instead of a rejection email.”

After he discovered that the traditional route proved to be stressful and unsuccessful, he focused on cold mail and finally received an offer. “[It] It seems to be a game of luck and numbers,” he said. “The graduate job market is absolutely overflowing, and so are graduate applications. “

Like other 2021 graduates, Felix is ​​entering a global job market with fewer opportunities and increased competition. He is one of more than 70 people who provided detailed answers to the Financial Times survey on graduation from the pandemic.

Many interviewees, including those who graduated from top universities such as the London School of Economics, Cambridge University and the University of Dublin, described their difficulties in obtaining entry-level positions.They also emphasized that they are competing with 2020 graduates and they are Postgraduate courses are suspended.

The vast majority of respondents believe that graduates have fewer job opportunities. Many of their personal experiences have highlighted a highly competitive job market, which may be demoralizing.

Many people also believe that they have not found a job that meets their professional ambitions and have to accept positions with lower salaries than expected. About half of people believe that the pandemic has hindered their early career prospects.

However, although more than one-third of people believe that they have been forced to change their careers due to the pandemic, they believe that the results are not necessarily negative.

A highly competitive job market

A graduate of the London School of Economics, who asked not to be named, said that finding a job was “a struggle.” “Despite your high quality, you are competing with people who graduated a few years ago but still apply [do] The same job as you, because they can’t find a better job. And you can’t really compete because they have experience you don’t have as a young graduate. “

In the UK, 29% of students who graduated during the pandemic lost their jobs in their last year, 26% lost internship opportunities, and 28% of graduates’ job opportunities were postponed or cancelled. According to Prospects’ research, A professional graduate employment organization.

At the same time, those who run a large number of graduate programs report that the number of applicants for admission this year has increased significantly.

Hywel Ball, chairman of the professional services company Ernst & Young UK, said that compared with 2019, postgraduate applications have increased by 60% and by 12% compared with 2020. International law firm Allen & Overy stated that applications for its UK graduate program have increased by 38% this year, and the past three application cycles have increased year-on-year.

Consumer products company Unilever recruits graduates in 53 countries, and from 2019 to 2020, the number of applicants has increased by 27%.

Complicating the problem is the increasing number of entry-level jobs that require work experience. Even before the pandemic, 61% of entry-level jobs in the United States required three years or more of work experience. According to TalentWorks 2018 analysis, A job search software company.

Some students feel that the application process for some companies is becoming more and more difficult. James Bevington, who recently received a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, said: “When power dynamics are so bad for you, there are hundreds of applications for each position, and the recruitment process can become abusive.”

He described how to get two days for a 24-hour evaluation when submitting the application, but he had to give up everything. He did not have the opportunity to ask basic questions about the company, and only received an automatic rejection after he got a full score in the evaluation. “Why?” he said.

A London engineering graduate who asked not to be named said: “So far, I have failed to apply for more than 230 entry-level jobs. I graduated [in] In computer science, I am now between applying for different jobs and working hard to build up the motivation to move on, as a delivery driver to increase income for my family. I feel that I am behind, not only in the job market, but also in the institutions that provide me with education-I am proud of my academic achievements, but the job market seems to completely ignore them. “

Safety and curiosity

Another recurring theme is that some people who get jobs are actually curious about exploring other opportunities, but uncertainty means they are reluctant to leave their current employer and try different roles in another company. Finding a guaranteed job is more important than finding a job with a sense of accomplishment.

Another London graduate, who did not want to be named, found a job in an investment bank, but quickly decided that it was not suitable for them and wanted to change careers. But “it’s hard to find different opportunities… It’s easier to stick to a safer and more rewarding path than to take risks and eventually become superfluous,” they said.

Portrait of Elliot Keen, a civil engineering graduate from the University of Birmingham

Elliot Keen believes that new entrants to the labor market will seek long-term positions instead of walking around

A graduate of the University of Dublin Law School in Leuven, Belgium, who followed a master’s degree from KU Leuven, who asked not to be named, said: “The pandemic has affected all our anxiety levels, but it has little effect on workers. Proportion really makes job security my top priority, not finding a fulfilling and enjoyable job.”

Elliot Keen, a civil engineering graduate from the University of Birmingham and now living in London, said that new entrants to the labor market may default to “lifetime jobs” instead of walking around: “I think people will Continue to serve in their role for five years, maybe ten years or more.”

Unexpected success

Among those graduates who felt compelled to turn in another direction, some of the results were positive.

After getting his undergraduate degree from Leeds University, Alex Morgan studied for a master’s degree in political economy at King’s College London. He said that the pandemic was “helpful to me.” Last year, he decided to continue his postgraduate education “because the postgraduate job market feels very abnormal.” After obtaining a master’s degree, he found a job in the civil service. He has no plans to study for a master’s degree, adding: “Without it, I don’t think I can get a job like this.”

It seems that many other students have also chosen postgraduate courses. For example, an analysis of the rankings of business schools in the Financial Times shows how applications for graduate programs such as MBA or Master of Finance have increased.

Bar graph of annual changes in enrollment* (%) shows a surge in interest in MBA

He also believes that forced changes in work habits can balance the competitive environment and accelerate progress-especially for those who do not work in London.

Nathaniel Fried is a graduate of King’s College London, majoring in geography. He is setting up an information security company part-time. Anticipating a lack of job opportunities, he decided to pursue it full-time. “We have been doing very well,” he said. He said that although he felt he was forced by the environment, exploring opportunities outside the traditional job market “boosted my early career prospects by forcing me to innovate,” he said.

Similarly, Bevington, a doctoral student who completed his undergraduate course during the 2011 recession, also decided to start his own company, a non-profit organization in the field of space research. “When I made recommendations to potential employers about my company’s products, their cooperation was not fast enough.”

Portrait of Alex Morgan, who obtained a master's degree in political economy from King's College London after completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Leeds

Alex Morgan thinks the pandemic helped him pursue different goals © Tolga Akmen/FT

Brian Massaro, a graduate of Applied Economics from Marquette University in Milwaukee, USA, accepted a full-time post internship during his studies, but he and a friend have been applying for entrepreneurial incubators and accelerators to develop online businesses. The publishing company where he has been working for the past few years.

Although students believed that the pandemic had a knock-on effect on their career prospects in the near future, many interviewees were cautiously optimistic about the long-term sentiment. But some people think that the government and companies should provide more support and investment for graduates.

Morgan added that companies may need further incentives to provide high-quality graduate positions. “We strongly encourage young people to go to good universities and have taken a lot of debt for this,” he said. “Among my peers, it seems that many graduates (from top universities) cannot find a role to challenge them. This is not to say that they are entitled to it, but I think there is a clear gap between the university’s promise and the reality on the other side. difference.”

Fried added: “I believe that both companies and governments should take measures to invest in graduates. Social mobility is very low, and the most affected by lack of opportunities are marginalized groups.”

Rahul, an Indian MBA graduate who declined to give his last name, said the company needs to improve the recruitment process and pay graduates based on skills: “Don’t cut salaries just because people need it.” He also said that the time required for recruitment needs to be reduced to 30 days. “[Some] A recruitment process takes nearly 100 days. This is inefficient. “

Despite the challenges, some interviewees remain optimistic. “This is very difficult for our graduates,” the Brighton University graduate added. “But we will become stronger because of this!”

Chelsea Bruce Lockhart’s graphics



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