‘My flatmate had to remove her degree from her CV to get a job’

Rhiannon Bury

CV 300x225 My flatmate had to remove her degree from her CV to get a jobAn ordinary morning in my flat goes something like this: there’s a crash as someone drops a bowl on the kitchen floor, screeches from the shower as the last person in realises there’s no hot water left, running feet, four hairdryers on at once, and then the front door bangs, four times.

For the four female graduates in residence, each morning starts with a trip to work. But while two head off to offices, two saunter to the bus stop to go to low-level jobs in the service industry – one in hospitality, and one in retail.

We are the embodiment of data published by the National Office of Statistics this week, which shows in the final three months of last year, a third of people who completed their degree in the last six years was working in a role that was suitable for a school leaver. A decade ago, it was around a quarter.

For the four of us, it has been a bumpy journey to even get this far. The NOS research suggests a fifth of graduates don’t have a job at all

Sarah, 24, left a top 10 university in 2009 with a 2.1 in English, plus an art foundation degree and a bulging portfolio of illustration work. Frustrated after two years of almost consistent unemployment in her home town in the Midlands, she moved to London in the hope of finding a job in the arts.

Seven months later, she’s still looking. There’s little to stretch her in her waitressing job at a local café: she had to remove her degree from her CV when she found jobs weren’t available because she was seen to be overqualified.

She’s got demonstrable experience in arts work and has been paid for freelance drawing commissions in the past, yet each day brings more rejection, or just no response at all.

Jen, who at 23 speaks Italian and Spanish fluently, and passable French, landed a job flogging confectionary in a well-known chocolate shop in the City after a few weeks in London. She’s happy – the job is easy and flexible, and because she’s polite and intelligent she was promoted within six months. But she’s not using any of the skills she got from her languages degree and admits that actually, she need not have done it at all.

For her, university was an expensive, if fun, experience, but not one that has got her a job. Yes, she’s in work, but apart from the odd conversation with her French colleague, she’s not using her hard-earned skills.

Clare and myself, both 24, found that despite each having a 2.1 in a humanities degree from a top university, without a masters degree we would struggle to get a job in journalism. As it stands, Clare is on her third post in 18 months after a shock redundancy and a stint scraping along on freelance work.

I was luckier, landing a job on the back of a work experience placement, but without the financial backing of my middle-class family to fund me through a fourth year of study, it would have been much harder.

The problem isn’t even that graduates are being forced to take any job to make ends meet – there are hordes of people who believe a degree is the only way to land a job, when statistics suggest that only slightly fewer people without a degree are currently in work.

Even in a time when the latest government figures put unemployment at a record 2.67 million in the UK – the highest level for 16 years – the difference between graduates in work, and non-graduates in work is only 14 per cent. It’s a slim margin, given that graduates who wore their mortar boards in 2009 are at least £9,000 poorer after three years in the library.

For four girls who graduated at the same time, we’re in very different places. But, perhaps this is all part of the experience. Sarah’s made friends with her colleagues from, at the last count, eight different countries. Jen’s got an unrivalled knowledge of cocoa content and, more importantly, brings home an un-eatable numberof samples. Clare knows how to deal with redundancy and complete her tax return for freelance income. And me, well, I know the value of work experience and doing a huge amount of brown-nosing.

But you don’t learn that at university, do you?

Picture credit: Getty Images

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  • monkyvirus

    The negative attitude to humanities degrees is, I believe, plenty graduate jobs don’t care what your degree is in. They care about your grade and many people are rubbish at maths but excel at history so why shouldn’t they get the 2:1 they deserve?

    The margin between graduate and non-graduate employment rates is undeniably worrying but there’s not a lot you can do about it. Science graduates are more likely to get jobs but we’re hardly rolling around in subject specific career opportunities. Also, if we all decided to do vocational degrees there wouldn’t be any jobs left (you only have to look at the rising number of NQTs who are unemployed after their first year to see the perils of encouraging that sort of trend, I should be clear that I only have knowledge of this problem in Scotland). Equally, degrees in education or medicine (and their related subjects) should really only be taken by people who truly care about their subject’s role in society. That dedication can’t be taught and people should think carefully before embarking on those degrees. While there are other vocational degrees that aren’t as much of a personal “calling” I still don’t think there’s enough to go round.

    The biggest problem is we’ve been taught by our parents to aim high, but then Tesco refuses to hire you because your over-qualified and they think you’ll just leave straight away. The jobs you are qualified  for have too much competition and you end up in an over-educated unemployed limbo.

  • Geeta

    I can not agree with this article more. After spending all my savings, help from my family and three part time jobs and three hours of sleep each day, in my final year to pay for my studies in London,, I often wonder,,,,was it worth it? My degree was in Fashion with business. However the business jobs I applied for would often prefer ”pure” business students. It seemed as the word “Fashion” scared them away. I then tried to enter as a fashion buyer or merchandiser, but was told I had to start on the shop floor as a retail assistant for at least a year or two and work my way up. (what use was studying all those years then? I could have had the job by now instead).

    I then tried setting up my own fashion label. A fellow classmate had done the same and received great help from the princess trust. I will never forget my experience with the Princes trust. The gentleman who interviewed me over the phone, asked what I had studied etc. The words went somewhat like this, Interviewer (I):” Are you pregnant?” Me(M):”No”, I:”Are you a single mother?” Me:”No”, I:”Do you have a degree?” M:”Yes”. I:”Well, then sorry you are not qualified for us to help you.” On asking the gentleman why, just because i had a degree, he flatly answered:” Well, that;s your own fault you have a degree!”. I was so amazed and discussed this with my friends, who told me how some students with children, got a house, a car and refused to get married as they would then loose all they got in help and they got help from the princess trust for their business with start up funding too.SO, not only do we have a society which recommends people to spend years of their life, all their savings to get a degree, but offer no jobs which match the qualification. Moreover single parenthood, pregnancies seem to be the recommendation, if you actually expect to get any help. It’s disgusting! It seems the Elite will be the future great job owners, the ones with the contacts, and the revenue to pay for their studies and their won start-ups. for the rest of us, we can try and work our way up and some may reach there while the most will have to step down from their qualifications or seek alternative routes.

  • Paul Ward

    I see the odd comment about “degrees in ridiculous subjects”. I presume these are from people who didn’t quite manage a “hard science” degree and seek to bolster their ego somehow. FYI, after thirty years in the IT industry the major degree seen as a useful qualidication in IT for someone who will train up is Geography. History comes second. The onlt degree I wouldn’t take on unless the candidate had good work experience is computer science.

  • Peter Coleman

    i cant stop laughing , yes uni if fun as she says , especially when dad and the state pay for it ,
     leave school at 15 and get a real job 

  • Lorri86

    So, for you culture, literature and the arts have no place in our society? Well Sir, if that is the case I suggest you stop wasting your time reading articles written  by those with ‘degrees in ridiculous subjects’ and get back to work. Perhaps, however you could do with re-educating yourself in english as you seem to lack basic grammar.

  • Lorri86

    So, Sir, for you literature, music and the arts have no place in society? If that is the case then why I wonder are you wasting your time reading articles written by people who have studied for ‘ridiculous degrees’? 

    Also, I would suggest that you yourself may consider some english lessons as your grammar is somewhat lacking.

  • ar8393

    She had enough money to move to London after two years of almost consistent unemployment?

    Presumably it wasn’t her money then? Buying her way up with daddy’s money. Waa waa waa.

    The rest of us wish we had it as good.

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