Everyone’s pretty down on graduates today, with reports from the Association of Graduate Recruiters citing that one in seven job offers are rejected by uni-leavers and quotes like ‘playing hard to get’ being bandied around as if those in question are taking the piss out of the current unemployment problem we've got in the UK. And the world.
Despite there being an average of 75 applicants for every grad position, nearly half of employers have claimed they’ve had graduate roles that weren’t filled, and last September, the Association of Graduate Recruiters also reported that nine out of ten graduate employers still had job vacancies. So are grads absurdly picky, eschewing jobs unless they’re suitably senior or impressive, or are we not seeing the whole picture here? It’s definitely the latter, according to Tanya de Grunwald, founder of Graduate Fog and author of How to Get a Graduate Job in a Recession.
‘These stats will surprise many job-seeking graduates – and they’re right, all is not as it seems. We are not seeing a sudden surge of thousands of ‘picky’ graduates turning down jobs they don’t fancy,’ she told The Debrief. ‘The first thing to remember is that these stats are from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, whose members are the UK’s biggest employers, who run the big graduate schemes. To me, the figure is not at all surprising – and reflects the way that graduates apply to these schemes.’
Apart from the fact that they may have been offered a job elsewhere, or chosen another grad scheme that better reflects what they want to do (the bastards!), it could also be down tothe time frame: ‘One group [of grads] will simply have gone off the job – as it was so long ago since they applied for it,’ explains Tanya. ‘Students they often feel rushed into applying to these schemes a year (or more) before they graduate. A lot can change in that time – and I’m not surprised that by the time the job offer is made, some have had a re-think. So there’s a time-lag element going on here.’
Another possibility is that yes, the grads are rejecting offers because they're not good enough – and what’s wrong with that? ‘[They] will have applied to lots of schemes and will be playing a “numbers game” – seeing what offers they get and then weighing them up and deciding on a winner,’ Tanya says. ‘You could call these graduates picky, or you could call them smart. Either way, I don’t think employers can complain. These grads are only playing the big firms at their own game.’ On top of this, it’s better to hire someone else, than have a grad accept a job that they’re not really interested in. It’d also help decrease the number of people who drop out of grad schemes mid-way through.
Finally, it’s scary out there. And getting locked into a career that you’re now second guessing can be a huge commitment. A lot of those who leave uni, might have been forced into doing degrees because its what they felt they ‘had’ to do – but now it's time to make the leap into fully-fledged reality and things can get terrifying. ‘After years spent in formal education, that’s what feels safe and comfortable. But by the time some people graduate, their mood may have changed,’ Tanya says. ‘When they apply for these schemes, it is not the job (or the firm) that appeals the most – but the idea of having a clear and structured path laid out ahead of them. Suddenly, it feels scary (not safe) that their next three years is “mapped out” for them.’ She suggests that graduates should embrace flexibility and having more thinking time – because schemes aren’t the only option.
Or, of course, grads could just be really lazy and not even want jobs anyway. That’s easier to stomach, and easier for generating headlines, right?
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.