How To Avoid Becoming an Unemployed Graduate

How To Avoid Becoming an Unemployed Graduate

Become an employed graduate

Although the latest economic reports suggest the grip of the recession has been ever-so-lightly loosened, the economy remains slow continuing its impact on the job market. Graduates are finding the job opportunities they expected to be waiting for them after years of study are not as plentiful as they had hoped. A dwindling number of graduate positions and large numbers of emerging students make for a frustrating combination. The lucky ones make industry connections alongside their studies moving into roles straight from university or college.

Mature graduates with little or no experience in their new field of qualification often find it difficult to secure an entry level position, with some reporting they have had to take extended periods of unpaid work in an effort to gain relevant work experience. Not an ideal situation if you have a family to support, a mortgage and other bills to pay but it has helped some to eventually move into their field of choice.

Younger graduates too can struggle to step on to the career ladder once they’ve emerged from university or college. A lack of practical work skills and relevant work experience can hinder even the most dedicated of graduate job hunters. It’s important not to take job rejections personally and to recognise the impact the current economic situation has on the job market. In a flourishing job market there would be more opportunities and less competition for those opportunities that are available.

So how can you avoid being an unemployed graduate?

My advice would be to turn your attention to developing a really good career action plan. It’s likely you’ve created a linear career path in your mind before you began your studies, fully expecting to walk into your dream role (or something close to it) upon graduation. That’s still a fine goal to have as a Plan A but it’s vitally important you also develop a Plan B and even a Plan C.

Let’s take a creative arts graduate for example. Given the cuts to government and other funding for arts projects together with a sluggish economy, there’s likely to be fewer opportunities right now for a recent graduate with little or no experience. That’s not to say the situation won’t change in the near future but right now, it’s the reality.

A typical Plan B could be finding a position where you can use your new skills together with some of your existing, transferable skills. Find out which industries are thriving in the current economy and identify where you might fit in. Knowledge of film editing and scripting might be well regarded in the booming e-learning industry for example. Your strong creative, IT and communication skills together with your shiny new degree could be just the right combination to help land you the job.

If Plan B fails you might need to resort to your Plan C which could be looking at what other employment opportunities are available. The jobs available might not be what you want to do long term, but can be a stop-gap until your preferred industry recovers. At least you’ll remain connected to the labour market, maintain skills currency and generate cash flow. And you never know, you might make contacts that will help you towards your long term goals. Of course, you should do whatever you can to keep a foothold in your preferred industry and be ready to leap when an opportunity comes up.

You should also invest a considerable amount of time in networking. Some examples of networking include using professional social networks like LinkedIn, BeKnown in addition to joining and becoming an active member of relevant professional associations. The aim of networking is to develop contacts, put yourself on the radar of potential employers and participate in professional development activities.

This is not the first economic downturn we’ve seen and it won’t be the last. The economy will bounce back and the labour market along with it. In the meantime, it’s vital you take charge of your career and go the least path of resistance to keep afloat during these challenging times.

Make use of the resources available, your university or college careers service is usually available to assist you even once you’ve graduated, contact them to see how they can help. Alternatively, you can enlist the assistance of a Career Development Practitioner.


Lisa LaRue is a registered Career Coach at CareerWorx with more than 20 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

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