Earlier this year, youth unemployment hit record levels. This week, the number of young people out of work rose to one million. As a graduate now in employment, I have been one of the lucky ones.
Just over a year ago I completed my MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice at King’s College London. I worked hard at university, achieved good grades and assumed that finding a job in Social Research would be pretty easy.
On finishing my MA, I applied for countless grad schemes and jobs, but with little success. It seemed that to gain experience and get my foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, the only positions on offer were unpaid or very low paid.
Fortunately, through a contact at King’s I was offered an internship as a Junior Analyst in a consultancy starting the October after graduation. Alongside this, I did voluntary work for two organisations that worked with young offenders and potential offenders, and I worked for another organisation as a freelance researcher conducting criminological secondary research within the prison system. However, not all graduates are in a position to work for pittance just to gain experience and it seems unfair that people should be pushed into alternative fields.
Meanwhile, I continued applying for jobs and graduate schemes. Interviewers gave great feedback, but competition was fierce. I got pipped at the post throughout the selection process, by people who were just that bit better than me. It was very disheartening and demoralising.
Eventually the hard work paid off and I found my current job at NatCen. With hindsight, the poorly paid jobs and knocks to my confidence were worthwhile. But, I can see why graduates are anxious, and why they are moving into fields that they are not interested in. There are fewer jobs and more applicants!
Unemployment is not pleasant and mass youth unemployment is bound to take its toll on a generation. It is a terrible shame because the youth are the future. By the same token, having encountered other graduate job-seekers, it is not for a lack of talent that they find themselves in this position.
I guess the only advice I can offer graduates is to be proactive. Do voluntary work, take low paid roles with good experience – and hopefully you’ll get the lucky break I did. It’s definitely a tough time for young people but I just hope they realise that they are as bright, as well-educated and as talented as ever.