At the beginning of your degree, it is easy to assume that by the end of your three years at university, you will know exactly what you want to do next. But, for me, that just didn’t happen. Instead, I finished university with no more idea of what I wanted to do than when I started. I am not unique in this position. In fact, 44% of students don’t know what they want to do after graduation. So, why do so many of us finish our degrees without a clear plan for our future?
During my time at university, there was a distinct lack of career advice and guidance on the syllabus. I studied Sociology for three years, yet there was barely any mention of the types of careers or jobs it could lend itself to. I had been told at all the university open days just how “transferable” it was, but transferable to what exactly?
My university did offer a careers service, but I found it all a bit of a minefield. There were job fairs, industry talks and networking events, but with no career in mind, I didn’t know which ones to attend or what I was supposed to be doing when I was there. When I eventually plucked up the courage to attend a few of these events, I left feeling more lost and confused than when I’d entered.
Struggling with the Transition from Education to Employment
It is not easy transitioning between education and employment. In fact, nearly half (45%) of university students said they felt unprepared for getting a job or an apprenticeship when they finished university. It is no real surprise we feel this way when we are expected to transition from education to employment within a matter of months. Often the two can require very different skill sets. Whereas in education, there are usually set deadlines and routines, in employment, you often have to act a lot more autonomously and use your initiative significantly more.
Navigating the Job Market
Upon finishing university, some of my friends and housemates had firm plans and were going on to do graduate schemes and master’s degrees. Others were going back to their retail jobs at home, and a number had no clear plans at all. Personally, I ended up back in retail, where I had worked during my time at university. It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it was what I knew, which made it easy to slip back into. After a few months, I began to feel incredibly stuck in retail. I was getting rejected repeatedly from graduate jobs and being told I didn’t have enough experience. In a 2021 survey of more than 7,000 students, 96% of respondents said they faced barriers when looking for jobs or apprenticeships.
Universities need to do better in terms of preparing students for the job market. Students must be able to leave university with the skills and knowledge they need to break into the job market and access the industries and careers that are right for them.