Next week (17th Feb to be precise) some of the Middlesex University Bright Futures committee and I will be attending #TRULondon. Sadly our attendance wll be a bit limited due to the raft of presentations and work due to be completed that week, however we’re incredibly excited to be coming and will be running a track on Thursday afternoon about what it’s like to be a student tackling the graduate recruitment processes these days. Well. Not me. I have almost finished my BA in Recruitment Practice but, you know, I’m not wholly sure I’ll be done in time for graduation this year… :s
Final year students face some huge challenges at the best of times: Slogging through the toughest year of their studies in addition to job hunting (though not as you and I know it) and often juggling part-time work and family commitments as well.
To you and I, job hunting probably means tweaking your CV a bit and labouring over a nice covering letter. Now this is work enough, but students have it even harder: The application forms for a lot of graduate schemes are projects unto themselves! Highly reflective, essay-style questions that take time and work to complete. If (IF!) you make it through the first round screening then there’s a good chance you’ll have to sit a raft of skills tests – literacy, numeracy and sometimes logic too. Now I’ve never sat any of these for real myself, but I’ve done plenty of practice ones and let me tell you now that all common sense goes out the window when you see a little clock ticking in the corner of the screen and a raft of numbers in front of you! I can only imagine how much more stressful they are when you’re trying to do your best to get onto a scheme with a company you really want to be a part of! Then there’s the interviews, the assessment centres and, if the stars align, maybe a job at the end of it all! I can’t begin to tell you how many hours work go into each and every graduate scheme application.
But obviously there’s not just the big schemes, and that’s often what a lot of students fail to realise and where universities, friends and family can really add some value. All those wonderful SME’s out there who could benefit from a bright, enthusiastic grad and vice versa!
The single biggest hurdle I’ve come across when working with students has been getting them to realise that, no matter what company a person works for, they are just that: A person. We get employees to come in and talk to the students wherever possible and I also like to drag them along to networking events and so on when I can. The feedback is always resounding: They are just normal, nice people! Who knew, eh!?
Aside from taking the fear away a little, the networking is fantastic. It’s so great to be able to talk to and get advice from someone who’s shoes you might like to be in a few years from now. It’s nice to hear real stories and to know you’re not the only person out there who’s found it tough. It’s also great when they identify that, actually, they have friends and family already in the industry who might be able to help them too!
The other big challenge I often face is getting students to see the value of what they do. One girl I spoke to the other week had been running her own dance business for years but it wasn’t even on her CV! Despite marketing it herself, sorting out the finances, taking lessons, working with schools, choreographing and hosting events… She’d mentioned it in passing under Hobbies & Interests on her CV and that was it. All that amazing business experience not mentioned anywhere because she didn’t consider it to be a “real job”, just something she enjoyed doing and that she happened to make a bit of money out of!
We all need to do more to help the next generation of business men and women. Many big companies won’t even come to our university because we’re not Russell Group or one of their target uni’s, and many of the students don’t have the billion UCAS points required to even apply to some of the big schemes due to personal circumstances. I understand why things are as they are, but as one person said in one of the higher ed employability forums this week: How is that not discrimination?!
I hate the term “employability” though. The meaning gets so warped that I don’t even know what people mean when they say it half the time! Judgements are made on so much more than skills and sometimes I think that being employable just means being able to distinguish yourself from everyone else! But these are all the things we will be discussing at #TRULondon this week and we really hope you’ll join us for the debate!
In addition to myself, you can meet six wonderful young men and women from Middlesex University, all of whom have done me incredibly proud this year: