The Graduate Market in 2014

Well, it’s late as I’m writing this, so I’ve only had a quick scan so far but the  new report by High Fliers Research entitled “The Graduate Market in 2014 makes interesting reading – in fact almost bedtime reading so thank heavens for executive summaries.  Now I’m not going to regurgitate endless stats or headlines, I’ll let you read it for yourselves for that, but one aspect has got me pondering.  I know I’m breaking my promise of non-regurgitation as the following extract doesn’t really tell myself or my fellow careers professionals anything new regarding the graduate recruitment landscape.  However, it is the cause of my pondering and I’ll tell you why.

“Over half the recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes”.

There is reference in the report to how most top employers target their resources towards Russell Group universities.  I can understand that rationale and bias to  a point in that if you have limited resources you cannot very well target, say 100 universities.  If you then link this to the 37% of graduates at these top firms who have been directly employed from their work experience programmes then we reach the beginnings of my pondering.  If firms are targeting Russell Group universities then clearly they are likely to receive more applications from said universities for their work placement schemes – although no figures in the report to confirm this.  Even assuming if there was no bias in the recruitment of undergraduates to work placements on the basis of where they are studying (you can make your own minds up on that), then  a certain logic follows that if there are more applicants from Russell Group universities those students stand more of a chance of getting on a work placement scheme.  Once that placement is completed then there is a much greater chance of gaining  a graduate position with that firm.

Consider if you were a graduate from a post 1992 university with a great degree and relevant work experience.  Regardless of how you perform, if you apply for a graduate job at one of these firms that didn’t target your uni then you know 37% of places are going to undergraduates who have already completed a work placement there.  It brings to the forefront the debate of higher education being an enabler for social mobility when outcomes for graduates are now being determined far earlier in the education pipeline.  With high competition for graduate jobs how far do we still have to go in terms of recruitment decisions being made earlier in a persons career?  For example, pre-entry conditions onto year two work placements being made at the start of year one.

 If I could use a football coaching analogy to try and quantify this concern it would be there are many promising youngsters who don’t follow the standard developmental curve and are left by the wayside early in their footballing career (despite eventually catching up and sometimes exceeding their peers). Missing the bar in one early window of opportunity can severely limit and narrow future opportunities regardless of how far you may have developed since that early setback.

So that’s my main concern, that despite all the progress a student may well make over the course of a three year degree missing out on small windows of opportunity early on can limit opportunities upon graduation.

 

Reading for 2014: Careers theory & bedtime reading.

What better way to kick off my blog than with my reading plans for 2014.  I’m not going to be too rigid in terms of when and how long it will take for these books to be digested (work, family commitments), but when it happens you’ll know about it here first!  Firstly, in terms of my own experience and with my professional hat on as a careers advisor I have found, on occasion, that serendipity and chance have played huge parts in shaping my own and the clients that I have worked with career paths. This extends not only in achieving preferred outcomes but also when we feel life has dealt us an unfair hand.  An unfortunate example for myself was attending a job interview in my younger days and having my mobile phone that I thought had been turned to silent go off halfway through an interview.  Needless to say I did not get the job (or maybe it was the stripy tie) .

Now, apart from learning an obvious and important lesson, it does get you thinking in the chick-flick sliding doors sense, what would have happened if the phone hadn’t have gone off?  If whoever had called me had done so 10 minutes earlier or 20 minutes later and therefore hadn’t broken my concentration and incurred the unspoken wrath of my interviewer?  Parallel, divergent universes or whatever you call them aside, once you think of one example, it is easy to think of others that have shaped and influenced our lives and careers.  For this reason  – and also because I like my clients to be prepared and ready to face different possibilities and opportunities I plan to read The Chaos Theory of Careers : A New Perspective on Working in the Twenty-First Century by Robert Pryer & Jim Bright.

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My motivation for reading is its relationship to another career choice theory – Planned Happenstance.  I’m a great believer in today’s competitive and shifting labour market that more than ever we need to embrace and work with chance to exploit the opportunities available to us.  It’s OK not to know exactly what you want to do, non-linear is the new linear as long as you take preemptive action, respond and keep an open mind to opportunities. The big question is why do we have to decide before we take action?  I’m looking forward to reading how a complex concept such as chaos transfers into any kind of practical careers theory structure that helps us understand or “frame” the relationship of chance and other intricate factors (I think they call it indicators) affecting our career choices and outcomes. Planned Happenstance is an approach (and I believe a powerful one) in helping us to navigate through our individual career. The reason I believe this has real value is it can bring a refreshing clarity to how we approach new opportunities and perhaps unburden ourselves from the pressures of conformity that exist in academia and the workplace. Slightly off track but I read a refreshing message from Paul Redmond:AGCAS president recently that resonated (but not explicity) the value of this approach when he wrote about the lexicon of graduate/non-graduate jobs.

Not being from a physics/maths based background I’m hoping this book will be relatively accessible and offer some useful insight into the connectivity of factors affecting our career choices.  Or in continuation of my sliding doors reference perhaps it will add a new dimension to my practice (sorry).  In any case this is the first “serious” book on my list.

If you’ve read this far, to counteract the chaos, I’m currently halfway through my all time favorite author Michael Connelly and his latest novel called Gods of Guilt centered around the main character; defense attorney Mickey Haller (if you’ve seen the film The Lincoln Lawyer that’s the adaptation from the book of the same name and our first introduction to Haller).  If I was to define the genre of his work it would be crime fiction – procedural. An unusual but powerful blend but explained by way of Connelly being a former crime reporter for the LA times which reflects in his knowledge of process.  It amazes me how over the last 6 years, since I started reading his novels, I’ve yet to meet a friend or colleague who has read one of his books.  He’s an international best selling author!  So if you haven’t already give him a try.