Pouring one out for your Graduate Career

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Pouring one out for your Graduate Career

This blog goes out to all the BA'd bar staff, the BSc'd Retail Assistants and other graduates on the minimum wage, waiting to break into their dream career.

There will be a large section of you graduates and soon-to-be graduates out there who are looking to start their graduate careers in their dream area and the having to bide their time pulling pints or stacking shelves for pittance and pennies. This is a love letter to you guys. Stay strong comrades.

But is it the worst way to start your graduate life? Well it's not far off, but at least you're counting in some pennies and a bit of youthful struggle never really hurt anyone - you've just got to ride it out.

So you packed off a load of applications to Graduate Schemes and they all said no thanks. You've sporadically applied to a few jobs, some you're way too underqualified for and some you're underestimating the competition or the effort that needs to be put in.

Around now, it's going to hit those who haven't finished university yet that this is very real. Very real indeed. But it is not worth panicking about. That's not going to help anything. The typical response to this dawning dread is tearing through every vacancy on graduate-jobs.com throwing your CV at everything that looks like it might pay. Don't. It'll send you into a downward spiral of depression when the rejections flood back with equal ferocity.

Mind the stop Gap

The following advice is not something you'd expect to see on a graduate job board, but worthy advice from someone who has been in your position not too long ago. You need to secure yourself where the work is. Moving home, as some of you might be aware, can be a dangerous trap. The full fridge of your mother's, warm house, freshly washed and pressed clothes and all the comforts you had to wait until Christmas for are now common place.

But, it is far too easy to get comfy here and suddenly the world won't seem too bad and time will slip you by with more graduates entering the fray for jobs. I'm not advocating near poverty for you soon-to-be graduates, but it's something to consider.

The noble bar staff up and down the country are often the most overeducated people operating. During my stint behind the taps, nearly all of my colleagues were university graduates or current students trying to cut their teeth and start careers in London. This is, arguably, the biggest tragedy of graduate life - that one of the most expensive cities in the world is where the majority of graduate positions are.

But there's nothing you can do about it. Graduates would be better struggling to get by on, if you're lucky, getting by on the London Living wage. Young's brewery didn't see fit to pay me anything more than the legal minimum wage so I can testify that it ain't easy. Earning just over £6.10 an hour ain't easy, but it gave me the impetus to make sure I get a shift on and give the graduate job hunt the attention it deserves.

Benefits of being Brassic

Traditionally, graduates and giro was a match made in heaven. Graduates had barely shed their mortarboard, before they were down the dole queue signing on. Not much has changed in this factor and without delving into the politics of it too much there is no shame in signing on - although it is much more difficult than it was in our parent's day, but what isn't?

Sign on if you want to, but before that realise that the options for graduates in "menial" roles can only benefit them in the long run. Without patronising you with talk of cutting your teeth, knowing you're born and so on, but there are several impressive things that can give your CV and Application form an edge.

Whether you are working in an overpriced city centre pub, an anonymous high street shop or a harassing people on the street for another donkey charity, there are a stack of skills that can be used to show employers you're not just another university graduate with no "sense of the real world":

Communication skills - While I have never been a chugger (Charity + Mugger = Chugger) or clipboard high street warrior, we've all been on the receiving end of their advances. If you've even had the slightest success in this you must have pretty good communication skills.

Customer Service - Picture this, the most abrasive, obnoxious city-boy banker-wanker disputing his tab at closing time. Not only is he "well on his way", he wants to tell you exactly what he thinks of you. While this could be sometimes described as conflict resolution, it could also be referred to as providing a great customer service.

Organisation - Waiting on tables is the quintessential graduate/student position. And it does, with no confabulation of the truth, take a serious amount of organisation to be successful in this position. Employers appreciate the pressure placed on student or graduate's organisation skills for them to be a success in this position.

Sales Experience - Sales graduate roles can be a first step for graduates as they begin their careers. But they will require some evidence of sales experience and while telesales people are often regarded as the worst people in the world, Sales employers do appreciate the effort it takes to be even slightly successful in the field.

I used the term "menial" before and I do not mean that to sound so derogatory. Graduates and soon-to-be graduates in these positions can find satisfaction in at least working. Graduates and students alike should take on these roles even as stop gaps to help bolster their CVs and keep them ticking over.

By James Howell