Korina Karampela talks to Gary Argent – the Director of Careers at City University London – about how students can enhance their employment prospects upon graduation.
At a time when graduate unemployment rate is at record high levels, many employers struggle to recruit skilled university-leavers. What is the reason for this mismatch?
I think there are a number of reasons. Sometimes students find it difficult to articulate their skills, and they don’t realise that employers are looking for a range of experience and competencies in the graduates they hire. Some of this experience will come from the course, but often it is the broader experience that they have gained outside of their studies that makes a difference – so it is important to consider that as well.
The difficulties can also be on the employer side. Some companies find it hard to know how to market their vacancies and a university campus can be a very crowded and confusing place early in the autumn term when many recruiters are looking to advertise but can struggle to stand out from the crowd. A good careers service will help employers to overcome this challenge by helping them find the best way to be seen on their campus.
What is the most common misconception that students have about their job search?
That a 2:1 or a first is all you need. Employers look for a whole range of skills and they want you to talk about what you have done outside of your course, as well as academically.
Part time work, internships or placements, clubs and societies, a mentor in your chosen industry and getting involved in volunteering are all great ways to build experience, and give you different examples which you can use on your CV or when you are being interviewed.
What universities can do to help undergraduates become more employable?
The Careers Service should be a hub for a whole range of activities which take place before, during and after a student’s time at university.
We provide information about graduate destinations which help pupils make informed choices about what to study. We connect students to a range of activities that they can get involved in alongside their studies, especially during the first and second year when the course load might not be quite so heavy.
Once you have got involved in those activities, a good careers service will help you to reflect on the experience you have gained, think about how those skills are applicable to the industries you might want to work in, and prepare your “story” – so that you know how best to articulate these skills to an employer.
And, of course, we will help you connect to those employers – here at City University we have hundreds of firms on campus every year, all eager to meet our students and hear their stories.
What are the 3 ‘Dos’ and 3 ‘Don’ts’ university students who want to improve their job prospects upon graduation need to be aware of?
The Do’s are:
- Do make sure you come and meet your careers service early when you have more time to act on the advice we will give you.
- Do take the time to get involved in lots of extra-curricular activities alongside your studies.
- Do try to think about things from the employer’s perspective before you meet them. If you can appreciate how you (as a potential future employee) look from their standpoint you can make sure you present yourself in the best possible way to catch their attention.
The Don’ts are:
- Don’t assume that a good degree grade is all you need – it is just the first step to catch the recruiter’s eye.
- Don’t put off your career search until your final year – you’ll have too much on your plate by then with lots of study deadlines, and your fellow students will have a head start on you as well.
- Don’t assume that there are no jobs out there – they are, you just to have to work hard to find them. And that is where a great careers service can help you.
The bottom line: Employers are looking for a range of skills. Undergraduates who want to improve their job prospects need to get involved in many other activities than simply being good academically.
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, coach and speaker. She is the author of “b4iapply to uni” and “b4iapply to college“. She has worked as senior pharmaceutical executive for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.