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Articles > February, 02, 2009

What more do you want of me?

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I’m 22, have spent over £3000 on getting a degree, lost 3 years work experience and wages and at present I’m being paid £6.00 an hour to answer telephones. Not exactly what I imagined as life after graduating!

I have so far applied for 5 graduate schemes in the retail sector, and although I realise that in this current economic crisis there are going to be fewer jobs available, I am still becoming all too familiar with the “Unfortunately you haven’t made it on to our assessment centre this time around” e-mails sitting in my inbox as I eagerly check my e-mail every morning.

Now I’m not one to blow my own trumpet, far from it, but after collecting a fistful of ‘A*’s and ‘A’s at GCSE and 3 ’A’s and a ‘B’ at A-level I’ve given myself the best pre-academic base I could.  Being Head Girl during Year 13, I gained organisational, teamwork and leadership skills which add another dimension to my CV. Having had a part-time job since I was 16 and also working my way through University I have shown an exemplary work ethic, which shows employers my dedication to work and to the company. And having graduated with a 2:1 in Pharmacology, I looked forward to taking on new challenges in the world around me, and making my way up the career ladder.

However, so far I’ve had no luck, and I’m wondering what more I could possibly do!

Volunteering you may shout….but I’ve done that – a week live-in volunteering with a respite charity. Extra-curricular sports activities? Done that – was captain of a girl’s football team at University. Extra involvement at University? Done that – I worked on University Summer Schools for two years in a row.

It begs the question, what are employers looking for in 2009? X-ray vision? A sixth sense?

Maybe in the 21st Century, with more people gaining ‘A’s at A-level and more people going to University than ever before, jobs are going to be as hard to get as those exclusive places on the first flight to space!  Maybe it was my mistake to think that you’re personality, drive and ambition was also important. Unfortunately, it is hard to get this across in a CV and an interview is where you can shine, so all I have to do is get to that stage!

Maybe a change in sector is needed to further my career; hospitality and leisure might be worth a go! So I’ll start small and apply for a receptionist job, I should at least get an interview for that, right? Unfortunately they think not, apparently there aren’t any vacancies for someone with my skills and abilities. So basically I’m too well qualified for that, and not well enough qualified for anything else.

Managers in retail and or leisure and hospitality need to have several years’ worth of experience to be able to be ‘competent’, and for the smaller jobs which allow you to gain this experience they won’t take you on because they know you’ll leave as soon as you can get something better. So we’re stuck in no-man’s land, neither assistant nor manager.

But wait, what’s this? An invitation to attend an Assessment Centre!  Wow, the opportunity to shine that I was asking for. So I attend, full of enthusiasm and retail knowledge only to find that out of several hundred applicants there are only 2-3 jobs available and another assessment centre before an appointment! But someone’s got to get the job and I could be in that 2%!  So for now, its fingers crossed and I best keep answering that telephone until I hear!

I’ll let you know!

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  1. Kirsty

    The real world is difficult, and although students think some parts of uni are hard, it’s nothing compared to having your own real life with jobs (or no jobs!), bills, debts, enery and utility providers, workmen, and all the other things that don’t seem to matter when you’re at uni. I was fortunate enough to get a job related to my career on a low graduate (high for entry level) starting the day after I graduated. 4 months on and I got made redundant before the worst of the credit crunch hit. For another 4 months I had no job, and now I’m at the bottom of the pecking order in a hospital doing care work (my degree and academic background is music and business!) but I had to take what I could get because I was so desperate to get off the dole. Sometimes you have to do what you can until your dream job appears, but its never easy, even when the climate is good to boot. After attending an assessment centre for Marks and Spencers 18 months ago, I just got the feeling that even if I got the job it would be really high pressured and not me at all. Plus the fact some staff who work with graduate managers don’t believe the grads should be there when they have worked their way up over years of hard graft from floor sweeper to store or department manager. I believe I saved myself a lot of resentment and unnecessary stress by not getting a photo fit grad role and being prepared to look anywhere and everywhere for employment. PS to all you new students, start graduate job applications during your penultimate year, and applications for non graduate roles at around march of your final year if you’re not looking to be a doctor, lawyer or vet. These processes take much longer sometimes!

  2. Lauren

    As someone who left a full time job to come to university, it is a big concern that I wont be able to find a job once I have finished. However I feel it is worth the risk as fingers crossed I will be able to fulfil my dream of teaching. Most of my older friends who have been through university are now in full time employment, even if in most cases something completely different to their original degree, they have far more options and prospects than I ever did working full-time for the organisation that I did this time last year. Keep going and I’m sure your struggle will be worth it – good luck 🙂

  3. nancy

    goshhhh, I’m meant to be heading off this year and I am so worried about not having a career ahead of me afterwards! absolute best of luck in finding a job!

  4. Amelia

    I was wondering why are you applying for graduate positions in the retail sector with a degree in pharmacology? Have you tried applying for jobs that are related to your degree? Unfortunately for some companys it’s very likely that you will be at the bottom of the CV pile under people with business and management degrees and/or those with considerable prior knowledge of and experience in working in the retail sector.

  5. Ellie

    5? I applied to at least 30 jobs before I even got an interview. (I also have A and A* GCSEs and four A-levels, and a 2:1 from Warwick). Getting a job is hard. It always has been and always will be. Getting a degree does not automatically guarantee you a job, and you cannot expect to coast into a decent job. I’m working for peanuts, but I love my job, so will stick it out until something higher-paid comes along. Go to university if you are passionate about your subject, as it’s a fabulous experience and you will learn heaps inside and outside the classroom. But don’t be surprised if the real world is hard work too!

    • Thu

      Nice one Ed glad all those other companies neutrd you down so you ended up at Fresh Egg!Do you reckon studying digital media actually helps you in your job? My opinion is those degrees dont teach you the stuff you actually can use in the real world because things change too fast but I would say that as a bloody English graduate 😉

  6. Leona

    What about applying internationally? Well, this crisis definitely has something to do with it. Good luck in the future!

  7. Mikey


  8. Mikey

    Makes me wonder how people with qualifications unders yours will survive

  9. Melissa

    I know how you feel. I know even just getting a part time job these days are rough but keeping out for the job you want and dont put yourself down. You will get their sometime..just keeping going and get as much experience as you can

  10. Holly

    …and i hope you find a job as you obviously deserve it after all the stuff you have done.

  11. Holly

    Hi, I saw this article and thought I would read it. I am currently 17 and have my offers from universities but I am worried that I won’t have job opportunities when I finish uni either…or do you reckon it is just a bad time at the moment and things will clear up when I graduate in 2012?

  12. Aji

    I admire you for your courage and determination. Actually, there are less students attending University in 2009 due to credit crunch; it’s official. Could it be that the status of the University that one attends hugely affect one’s employability?

  13. John P

    * Sorry, cant believe I have spelt ‘dramatically’ wrong..whoops

  14. John P

    Hia, couldnt help but notice that your having troubles after acquiring a degree in Pharmacology from Newcastle, im starting my degree in Pharmacology at Sunderland in September and was wondering if your course had a years work placement? its just that the one at Sunderland provides this and im sure that the chances of gaining employment would increase dramastically if you could say that you have already had some real life experience of working in such conditions..