A new study reveals that a considerable amount of graduates have taken over six months to find a professional job since leaving university.
Half of new graduates have stated that it’s taken them over six months to find professional employment since leaving university – whilst less than a fifth (17%) of experienced workers (non-grads) have stated that their job hunt has lasted this long.
In fact, the trend seems to have impacted their time at university – with 50% of graduates who studied post pandemic (2020-23) stating that they were unable to secure relevant work experience whilst studying, with a further 27% stating that what they found was only for a short-term basis (1-6 months).
According to findings from a recent poll conducted by staffing firm Walters People, those who have graduated in the last 12 months feel that their new graduate-status hasn’t earnt them much bargaining power on the jobs market – with 72% feeling that they don’t have ‘much of an edge’ on candidates who did not go to university.
A startling 45% of recent grads don’t think their degree has armed them with the skills necessary to be successful in the current jobs market – with almost 20% believing that work experience would have been more useful.
Earlier this year the Government revealed plans to crack down on what they deem to be ‘rip-off degrees’ – categorised as those with a high drop-out rate or having a low proportion of students finding a professional job after graduating.
However, findings from the Walters People research have established that the struggle to find a job was across the board from graduates – and not those from a select few university courses – begging the question; what’s to blame for over half of graduates struggling to find professional employment – ‘rip-off’ degrees or a difficult jobs market?
Janine Blacksley, Director of Walters People comments: “New graduates are entering the most challenging jobs market seen in close to a decade – a mixture of less vacancies, salaries that don’t match the cost-of-living, and high competition bought about by access to remote & global talent – is certainly playing a part in the time it takes new graduates to find a suitable job role.
“Added to that, we have seen a trend emerge amongst Gen Z’s who – potentially having witnessed their parents or older siblings work in a pre-pandemic corporate world – now place much more emphasis on the enjoyment of their job, the values and purpose of the company, as well as well-being and work-life balance – which is all leading to a longer time being spent on the job hunt.”
Dwindling market value
Over a third (39%) of graduates now think their degree isn’t at all valued by the market, with a further 19% feeling it isn’t as valued as they expected. And they may not be wrong.
According to research from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), the proportion of companies requiring at least a 2:1 qualification from graduates fell below 50% for the first time last year. New data from LinkedIn illustrates a +90% increase in the share of UK job postings that do not require a university degree at all.
In fact, the likes of Kellogg’s, Google, EY, IBM and BBC have dropped their traditional requirements for being degree educated – and with increasing prominence being placed on diversity, more companies are recognising that they are able to attract candidates from varying socio-economic backgrounds if they do not put an undergraduate degree as a requirement.
Janine comments: “The purse strings are indeed being tightened by companies – which in turn means there is less to spend on training, and so for companies work experience is far more attractive than a graduate with a degree & no experience.
“With the market being as fragile as it is, employers are on the lookout for professionals that have the ability to hit-the-ground-running, rather than needing their hand holding”.
Degrees not matching jobs
Of those graduates who have found employment, over half (53%) have said that it isn’t at-all related to their degree.
Janine adds: “Whilst it is becoming common for graduates to start roles in positions unrelated to the field which they studied – doubt is being cast over the suitability of many degrees given the cost it now takes to attend university.
“Unfortunately, this is leading to a significant number of graduates having to rethink their entire career trajectory in order to secure employment.”
What do graduates really want?
Although some graduates may finish their degrees with a clear career path in mind, there are other factors which are also important to them.
When asked about the most important factor when looking for a professional position after graduating, young people prioritised progression (38%) and salary (35%), ahead of the role needing to be in a field related to their degree (15%) – with job stability coming out last (13%).
Janine comments: “Recent graduates have their eyes set firmly on progression, as many will start in a company at an entry-level position, they want to feel secure in the knowledge that there is a clear path for upwards and a salary scale to match.”