Graduation time: What comes next?

So, you’ve completed your degree and have been awarded (hopefully) a good classification. When I was receiving my degree four years ago, I remember reading an awful article in the Telegraph telling me that my year was about to go into the worst job market for 20 years with three hundred thousand graduates competing for around thirty thousand jobs.

Fast forward to 2014, the economy is beginning to pick back up but there are still challenges and pit falls for young graduates out there. This post is my attempt to give those receiving degrees advice that I wish somebody had given me on that day in the Waterfront hall in early July 2010.

  1. The days of graduates walking into jobs are over-yes, having a degree is not something that is either unique, nor will it get you in through the door of a particular firm. You need to realise this early and not just assume that because you have a few letters after your name that you’re definitely going to get a job.
  2. Have a plan-like anything in life your education can only give you real value if know how to apply it in the real world. Education gives you the foundation to be able to write, read and deal with problems when they are put in front of you. If you have no idea how to apply these skills or a plan as to what you to do then you will end up drifting. Take some time, get out a sheet of paper and write down what you want to do.
  3. Once you’ve decided what to do pick up the phone and make some contacts. My experience is that most employers will actually like the fact that somebody makes contact to seek advice about how you can make progress in a certain industry.
  4. Volunteering/internships- I know this is a contentious area, but if you can get some experience over the summer in a firm or somebody’s office you SHOULD NOT turn your nose up at it. A lot of these stints of work will get you another reference and some real life experience which in the long run will help you out.
  5. Be brave! Sometimes your opportunity in life just may not be here, nor is it with the firm you wanted. As late as May 2010, it would never have occurred to me to do a PhD, but it ended up being one of the most rewarding and interesting projects I have ever worked on. Take opportunities as they come and adapt yourself to change.

These are just some of my tips which I hope are of some use and to those graduating it will be an uncertain road ahead but one which I hope has a successful end destination.

  • cynic2

    Why not try your hand in poliotics

    No experience necessary although a relative in office will be a decided advantage and its the one area (other than teaching media studies) where your degree in media studies will have some value

    In polotics you will be requyired to be seen to work hard for 9 months of the year and either

    1 walk the streets in a silly hat or


  • cynic2

    Why not try your hand in politics

    No experience necessary although a relative in office will be a decided advantage and its the one area (other than teaching media studies) where your degree in media studies will have some value

    A post graduate diploma in shroud waving may be useful

    In politics you will be required to be seen to work hard for 9 months of the year (perception is everything in this) and either

    1 walk the streets in a silly hat or

    2 retire to a Donegal hideaway to learn Irish

    for the other three.

    An ability to shout loudly and demonstrate ignorance and intransigence in balanced amounts is essential – especially when dealing with Dublin or London Culchies or asked to discuss the block grant

    An inability to count, to budget or to understand basic economics is not a disadvantage (except when it comes to grafting for donations from friendly contractors)

    In return you will receive a job for life for you and your children in perpetuity, an unlimited supply of flegs an emblems, free flowers at Easter / July as you wish and enormous opportunities for travel abroad to be bribed by the US into speaking to your fellow citizens or to lecture poor benighted souls in other hell holes on how the peace process really works (in return for an appropriate top up fee – tax free ‘natch)

  • cynic2

    Sorry about the misfire!!!

  • Roy Walsh

    Good man David excellent advice, although I would suggest the day’s of graduates walking into jobs have been past for several decades.
    Mind you, getting real jobs is even more difficult for those who do not go into education, as I told you once, those who can, do, those who can’t teach, those who can’t teach go into politics. So there’s hope for all the young people coming out of the Waterfront or Whitla halls this summer.

  • Snobbery ….
    Snobbery be-devilled Higher Education when I was first involved over forty years ago…and it still did in 2005 when I returvned for a second bite.
    And it always will.
    Back in the early 1970s, a university degree was comparatively rare. Certainly many people would identify with Neil Kinnock who famously speechified about being the first of his family to get to University.
    Back back in the 1950s, tne established middle class (solicitors, doctors etc) could afford to be patronising and tolerant towards working class kids who made into into the Hallowed Halls.

    Am I right in recollecting that sons and daughters of doctors, solicitors actually got points towards university entry on that very basis.
    Nowadays of course it is fashionable to say that too many people go to university and too many people are graduates.
    Of course it is often said by the anti-intellectual, “I went to the University of Life” type of person but also surprisingly by graduates…graduates who actually have a job and are worried that their graduate children wont get one.
    The professional middle class might be re-trenching to protect their own.

    Or maybe the wrong courses are being taught. Media Studies is always the target.
    But certainly when I went back to further education, I was a little surprised that during a tutorial, a fellow student asked the tutor “Doctor XXXX…..Margaret Thatcher was Conservative and James Callaghan was Labour?”
    So much for 2005 Politics tutorials. maybe that student had chosen badly.
    And maybe in 2005, I should not have been there either. I never intended it as a mere post early retirement “hobby” but certainly I was aware that the chances of actually using my degree and paying off my student loan was increasingly unrealistic as the Financial Crisis set in.

    Certainly when I needed the immersion heater fixed my Degree was not a help. And at the scene of a major accident, I dont suppose anyone has ever shouted “lemme thru, I have a degree in Media Studies”.
    But Snobbery is there.
    I know lorry drivers who boast of their daughter “the solicitor”.
    But I dont know any solicitors who boast of their son “the lorry driver”.
    Well not entirely.
    The value of University is not the degree itself….it SHOULD improve the quality of Thought. Makes a person more “rounded”.

    In part at least its not what you know….its who you know. Or who Daddy and Mammy knows.
    Or to be more polite….pre-university contacts.
    And it helps if you know exactly WHAT you want to do when you graduate.
    And toadying about and good old fashioned arse-kissing and brown nosing seems to work.
    “I just read your brilliant book Professor”
    “What an amazing televised performance Doctor”
    “of course, Id be honoured to have a coffee with you”
    “Can I intern at…..”
    “May I invite you to our Society ….”
    “can I take a selfie”

    All good solid advice.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think internships are a good idea, because they allow you to get a real sense of whether you and a potential type of work are made for each other.

    I’d encourage students to do an internship each summer.

    I did them and they helped me — but I wish I had been more adventurous and done more. Its really helpful to have a wide range of work experiences early on in life.

  • Roy Walsh

    Good point John, solicitors do have, at least in Ireland, a very specific, necessary role though, without lorry drivers we’d all be bandaged as our foodstuffs would be unavailable.
    So too with sparks, plumbers, joiners or brickie. When your pipes burst during winter freezes there’s not much point calling a lawyer, less so a social science or arts graduate.
    Let us please look at rearranging our education system so greater emphasis, and pride, is placed on vocational subjects with apprentices obtaining additional qualifications in languages (verified through university certificae) with which they can use their qualification to go abroad to get work.

  • sergiogiorgio

    Use the last of your student loan to buy a plane ticket. Preferably one way.

  • derrydave

    1. Head to the airport. The world is a big place – an educated mind should be a curious mind, so get out there and see the world.
    2. Staying in the North will simply limit your horizons and opportunities. Massively.
    3. Ye can always come back at some later date if the ‘dreary steeples’ keep pullin at your heartstrings whilst sittin in Bondi !

  • Barnshee

    What about a glance at some of the root causes?

    The use by the state of education process to “expand” education!! and fudge the dole queue for few years then shit bricks when the “expansion” cannot be funded without enormous student debt

    Population growth out of step with economic growth with emigration the only safety valve.

    Surplus graduates and subsequent mismatch with actual labour market requirements

    Its the biggest cock up since the Somme

  • John Ó Néill

    If you are waiting until you have graduated to decide what you are going to do with your degree you have already left it too late (for the moment).
    That’s not being negative, that’s simply the reality of where recent graduates are at this point in time. If you haven’t graduated from a degree with a relatively visible career pathway you do need to recognise that you have to work out two things pretty quickly (a) what work there is available, and, (b) what work you want to do. To some extent (a) is easier to identify while (b) may take you some time (particularly if it hasn’t crossed your mind to think about it up until now). If you’re struggling with (b) you should be realistic and do your best to get a job of any kind – the basic experience of full-time working life, its routines and disciplines (or lack of) will stand to you no matter what you do. If you discover your ideal job or career might require further education/training you will at least be able to fund it (if needed).
    The plus side is that, having graduated, you have demonstrated your ability to achieve a significant milestone in life. But it is A milestone, not the be-all and end-all. It gives you a great platform to build on and greatly increases the future challenges available to you. And I’ve deliberately used ‘challenges’ rather than ‘options’ there – don’t underestimate what you might have to do in the future, or, the rewards you might get for it.

  • streetlegal

    If seeking employment in Northern Ireland the best advice would be to apply for membership at the local Orange and Masonic lodges. Masons and orangemen still dominate recruitment interview panels, both in public and private organisations.