A Career Solution from Directioneering

Mind the (career) gap:What they don’t teach you at university

What happens when your university degree doesn’t lead to a job? TwoPointZero CEO Steve Shepherd shares his career advice.

For many young people, the path to career success seems straightforward: finish high school, go to university, get a degree, begin a career. They plan to start at the bottom and work their way up through the ranks.

Unfortunately, however, today’s employment market often sees university graduates unable to find work in a field related to their area of study.

“They quickly realise that getting a job isn’t as easy as they’d thought, despite their degree,” says TwoPointZero CEO Steve Shepherd.

“The next thing they realise is they don’t have the skills to market themselves, or the knowledge to even consider alternative career paths. Some have had casual work, but how do they talk to an employer who’s looking for somebody ‘with experience’?”

Shepherd says there are many challenges facing young adults moving from university into employment. For one thing, it’s now taking them much longer to find full-time work.

According to Graduate Careers Australia, in 2014 almost one-third of university graduates still hadn’t found full-time work four months after graduating, up from 15 per cent in 2008. For Certificate III or higher graduates, just over half (58 per cent) had found full-time employment.[1]

Why is it so hard to get work?

In an article in The Sydney Morning Herald, Vicki Thomson, Executive director of the Group of Eight (Go8) universities suggested the recent surge in university enrolments has left too many graduates with “broken dreams and a large student debt”. [2]

“Many entry-level jobs, where you could start at the bottom and work your way up, no longer exist,” says Shepherd.

“Technology, automation and cheaper off-shore labour markets have greatly impacted those roles. Research shows that 70 per cent of entry-level jobs are likely to be automated in the future, and 60 per cent of young people are currently studying for jobs that will be radically affected by automation.[3]

“Graduates now have to sell themselves into positions that are closer to the middle than the bottom, and be flexible around what that work might entail.”

Bucking the trend

So what steps can graduates take to find a job that suits them?

Though the statistics may be daunting, Shepherd believes there are ways to avoid being one of them.

“With the workplace changing so rapidly, graduates need to be prepared to use their degree in unexpected ways,” he suggests. “For example, using your science or engineering degree to get a business development or account management role.”

He also offered the following advice to jobseekers:

  • Have a clear plan about where you want to be.
  • Recognise your skills, passions, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Develop the skill set and discipline you’ll need to get a job.
  • Leverage your networks (friends, university lecturers, business associates, family connections).

How a career coach can help

Finding a job often requires more than a hard-earned degree. It’s important for graduates to have a clear understanding of what suits them and what they’re passionate about, as well as to recognise opportunities and develop the job-search skills they need.

This is where a good career coach can be invaluable, as it provides an opportunity to work with someone with the expertise to guide and advise you.

“Our task is to help develop the skills you need, and keep you focused on your goal – much like a personal trainer does for physical fitness,” says Shepherd.

“When you’re applying for that job, we make sure you have everything you need to be the standout candidate.”

[1] Foundation for Young Australians’ report card 2015
[2] “Big debts and broken dreams: students without degrees branded as ‘failures’” by Matthew Knott, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 2016
[3] Foundation for Young Australians’ report card 2015