In It Together: The Postgraduate Milieu
If you were to go into a bookmakers to make a bet on your favourite sports team and the odds were 41-to-1 you’d most likely not gamble with more than a pound. Yet these are the odds that are stacked up against us as postgraduates when entering the job market. And to make matters more complicated, we’re pitted against one another.
When I left The University of Salford 6 months ago in June I thought that my well-earned 2:1 degree in Journalism and work experience credentials would guarantee me a position with a good postgraduate wage. The reality is that if you approach the beginning of your new career with this level of naivety you’re likely to be disappointed. So, what are the options available to us when we leave university if the competition for jobs is so high?
The first step is to consolidate your experience. If you’ve accrued any credentials during your time at university, like extracurricular activity or work experience, perhaps an internship, it’s all good material for your CV. Try to identify what the common thread is to all your experience is and concentrate on developing that.
A good way for students and postgraduates alike to gain valuable work experience, during university or after, is volunteer work. The common thread to the credentials that I’ve personally accrued is my experience of working as a member of the press. I worked for charities collating press materials, wrote as a clone-blogger reworking press releases, and got a job at a student paper. I was also lucky enough to do some work experience at a regional newspaper prior to university.
Whilst at university I joined the National Union of Journalists as a student member of the press. This allowed me entry to various different events and identified me for what I was so I could approach press assignments with confidence. If there’s a students union, perhaps at the national level, for your particular trade, join it whilst you’re a student because it’s most likely going to be subsidized. Plus, joining a union gives you a great feeling of solidarity and helps you identify with what you’re doing.
The other option for postgraduates is remaining within academia and go on to do your Masters. Since the Tory government made tuition fees three times larger than what they were previously under the former government it is a good idea to do a little research into programmes that do not require you to pay any tuition fees whatsoever. These types of programmes tend to be in Europe or other states that are part of the Common Market, like Scandanavian countries for example. I was offered a place on a Masters course at Uppsala University in Sweden whilst finishing my final year, which was a good option since the European Union subsidizes all foreign applicants. For high-achievers, the US-UK Fullbright Commission offers scholarships to academic bodies in The United States. It is highly worth researching all these avenues since through these you could have a good opportunity to specialize and if you can do it for less of a cost the better.
Since leaving university I’ve managed to get some interviews under my belt which have come through ironing out some creases in the material as I’ve gone along. The more interview experience you get, the closer you know you are getting to those top 3 or 4 people out of the forty-odd you are competing against. What you’ll notice the most is that you’ll find yourself becoming more and more adaptable to the job market and the more this happens the more you’ll be chiseled into that job-worthy candidate who has the confidence to go the final mile and get that position you’re looking for.
My final piece of advice to each of us alike is to not get discouraged or downbeat in your search for that first step in career. Consolidate your experience, review every single possible option available, and be amenable to changing your approach if you find that you’re hitting a brick wall. Like all good things who come to those who wait that thing that you’re looking for is just around the corner, and with patience and determination you’ll naturally fit into the role that’s right for you. And remember, it doesn’t all have to be dog-eat-dog; we’re in this together, and who knows, we could all end up working with each other as colleagues at some point!