‘My flatmate had to remove her degree from her CV to get a job’
An 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 ImagesTagged in: CV, education, emplyment, graduate, jobs, qualifications, unemployment
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