I don’t envy today’s business graduates. Times have never been harder (or so people keep telling us), most major corporations have either abandoned or significantly cut their graduate and junior intakes, competition is rife, and being smart and hard working are simply no longer enough to secure a bright future in tomorrow’s business world. It’s all doom and gloom... or is it?
As the director of a recruitment firm specialising in the professional services sector in London and the west of England, I've been well placed to view the carnage of the UK job market over the last couple of years. And there is no doubt it has been especially hard on business graduates who probably thought that their futures were fairly secure when they got into a business school. Things are beginning to look a little brighter but we are far, far away from the heady days of the early to mid-noughties.
However, there are still ways to get ahead of the pack and secure yourself that sought-after role with your employer of choice.
Adam Tobias, Director of Wells Tobias Recruitment: prefers to be around pleasant people
Firstly, London is NOT the be all and end all, certainly in the short term. Most of the big firms we work with have offices across the UK and their regional centres have been less affected by the global business downturn. Their clients are often localised organisations that have weathered the storm better.
Also, competition for jobs in these locations generally is less intense. If you get into a Big 4 Accountancy Practice for example, your CV is not going to be affected if it’s in their Reading office or their London office. The work is similar, the training is the same and future employers are going to be focussed on your experience not necessarily the town or city where you gained that experience.
Secondly, experience is king. Any experience is better than none. I am often shocked by the attitude of some business graduates who believe their qualifications are enough to secure their dream role. In today’s climate, graduates need to try and secure some relevant work experience, unpaid even, to demonstrate a willingness to enter the job market. And it definitely doesn’t have to be in the area or sector you see your future in.
I come across many graduates determined to build a career in investment banking, for example, who show an unwillingness to work in any other sector than banking, even though we all know the banking industry has been hit hardest.
We, as an agency, are much more likely to be able to assist a graduate if they make themselves flexible in terms of the kind of work they will undertake. Temporary work is totally acceptable in this market, and will not damage your CV.
Thirdly, interpersonal skills go a long way. The simple truth is, if we like you we are going to work harder for you.
Don’t get stroppy with agents no matter how frustrated you are feeling; if we can place you we make money. It is how our business works. Candidates who call regularly and demonstrate a can-do attitude (and trust us to give sound advice) will always go to the top of our list. Try to be as friendly, upbeat and enthusiastic as possible. Those sounding miserable and depressed (no matter how much you feel it!) are a drain and our clients want staff to be pleasant to be around. Approach any work you can secure with gusto. You never know who you are going to come across.
Finally, have faith! The job market for business graduates will not be this tough forever. Along with death and taxes, one of the few things you can always be certain of is that an upturn will follow a downturn. If you can get through this, you can get through anything.