After three years of varying levels of graft, you've now got your degree classification and are ready to face the graduate job market. So what does your grade mean for you?
You have been there before, you know the drill. The spate of Facebook updates, sharing their smug achievement, the notable silences from some and the moment you have to check yourself and take the plunge. But it's done now, you've got your grade and now it's time to plan and assess the way forward.
Graduates can be forgiven to thinking that this is the defining element of what they can offer to employers. This is only the case when you don't have anything more productive or valuable to offer them, like actual work experience. But I digress, and graduates have got to work with what they have and make the most of whatever grade they received.
It is unavoidable to not acknowledge the difference between the two main grades. Despite different institutions offering the grade, many employers have decided to place the divide between the two big graded groups. Firsts are rare, sometimes very rare, and the same goes for Third class degrees. However, some employers like to split graduates up between the Upper and Lower Second class degrees – the 2.1s and 2.2s if you'd prefer.
What you should do with your degree grade depends on what you got, obviously. But you'd be surprised, and probably quite saddened to learn that, unless you go post-grad, this is the end of academia and it's the working world now. So let's start with the big'uns.
Just because you've got a Third class degree, doesn't mean you can't get a fantastic graduate job. You need to offer employers the full package and show you can hit the ground running. Employers know despite your degree grade, you can still be a first class employee. Remember - Graduates with Thirds won't be applying for academic seats, but real world jobs.
The majority of the high profile graduate schemes will require at least a 2:1 degree or higher but gradautes with a third will need to be smarter with their job hunt and look at the broader picture. You might not be able to land your dream job instantly but think of ways you can work towards it. For example if you want to work in Advertising and PR, apply for entry level work in Media and work your way across.
You got a 2.1 degree!
Well done, you've got a 2.1! They don't come easy and you've obviously worked hard and made the next few months a lot easier for yourself. The hallowed 2.1 degree is certainly a massive boost to your employment opportunities if not your chance at getting a job.
This is important. You should note that while you may have more opportunities open to you, it will still be difficult to get over the line into employment. It leads onto one of wider points of why employers ask for graduates with a 2.1 or higher.
Most of them understand that graduates with a 2.2 degree might be able to do the work as well as a graduate with a 2.1 but they will be anticipating a large volume of applicants so must limit the number of applicants. Which is a shame but a risk on the behalf of employers, so graduates with a 2.1 shouldn't necessarily worry.
It would be naïve to presume that this was the only reason. 2.1 degrees do show a higher level of intelligence and application that employers do like to see. The 2.1 mark shows you've put the work in and you've definitely got something between the ears, what more could an employer want?
The problem with the issuing university is difficult one and there has never been much consensus amongst employers as to how they limit what universities they target. Russell Group? 1994? Oxbridge? Red Brick? It gets complicated and employers never seem too fussed. And in hindsight it would seem harsh to judge graduates on a university choice they made three or four years ago.
Graduates with a 2.1 degree can expect a much more fruitful graduate job market and will reap the rewards of their hard work. With a bit of nous around getting the right work experience and key skills nailed they will be on their way getting that graduate job.
You got a 2.2 degree!
Graduates with a 2.2, on the other hand, may find the graduate job market a little trickier to navigate. 2.2 graduates are faced with the burden of having to get over the hurdle of employers cutting off applicants at 2.1 or higher. The only thing about this is - it's not entirely true. Yes, some employers do look for graduates with a 2.1 or higher, but the majority look for graduates who can do the job.
This is where 2.2 graduates can come into their own and shake off the potential burden of their academic credentials. Having a 2.2 degree is not the end of the world. It's not. Believe me. I've written about it before, and your life and university efforts are not worthless. 2.2 graduates are not condemned to the unemployment stats. Like 2.1 graduates, 2.2 graduates have got to show they've got the workplace skills to do the work. Whether this is going out of your way to get industry experience or do an internship, if employers can see you're a lean, mean working machine they should forget your grade entirely.
It's an ask, to go above and beyond like this. But there's no other way, you have to alter your approach to job hunting otherwise it's not going to be fruitful. You've got to make the most of what you've got too. This is to say, while not feeding employers BS, it's worth maximising what you've got. Did you have a part time job while at university? Retail or bar work can give you excellent customer service skills and that hellish month you cold called grannies for money gave you an excellent telephone manner and sales skills.
Another mode of attack to use is to give employers no reason to turn you down. If they are left with two similar candidates late on in the process it might be the degree grade that swings it away from you. So you've got to really target your approach. Read the job description, highlight what they are looking for and then you show them how that was basically written for you.
What graduates need to do, when they've got a First or a Third, is surprisingly similar just at opposite ends of the scale. Just because you've got a First class degree doesn't mean you've instantly earnt yourself a job. Not to take the shine off your hard work, the grade will stand you in good stead. However, employers need the full package rather than just academic excellence.
This means you need to show employers you can do the job too. If you're coming from an engineering or science degree, this will help as it shows your high level of understanding, but you still need great communication skills and team working skills.
And this is the crux of it for all graduates whatever grade they received. You're not applying to be professors or university lecturers and even if you were you'd still need to offer something that a qualification start. More tangible things like communication skills, ability to work well in a team as well as independently, the ability to keep on top of a changing work load and prioritise accordingly. These are just a few examples but they are things your degree may struggle to show.