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.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs