Is the University careers service doing enough to help students find a career they actually want?
So you’ve discovered the University has something called a Careers Service, whose only purpose is to shepherd lost students from the state of teenage leech into the world of fulfilled employment. The prospect of finding a job doesn’t seem so harrowing anymore, what with a whole department dedicated to helping you find something to do with your life other than perpetually recovering from a hangover. You might even dare to dream of finding employment in a field you are vaguely interested in.
However, a quick glance on the University careers website and you will soon realise that the overwhelming majority of career and recruitment events are to do with engineering, technology, consultancy and banking groups. When asked about their recruitment events, the University said, “the Marketplace, the Careers Service’s general recruitment fair held in the first semester, this year had 53 companies attending, 13 of which were from the media and public sector and 30 were from sectors other than finance, science or engineering.” Presumably offering Human Resources roles. They did add, "media organisations are invited every year but do not always attend... For example, the BBC took a stand this year but pulled out at the last minute". Little solace to those hoping to pursue a career in media.
So what is the Career Service doing for those who do not want to work for KPMG/Deloitte/PWC etc? Well, in terms of access to employment opportunities, not much it would seem. Though you can have your CV checked over by professionals and get guidance on how to approach looking for employment in a more general way, there are no recruitment visits, and only one fair for those looking at anything else other than consultancy/engineering/financial.
The University also advertises a wide range of job opportunities so you might think your chances are better there. Well, apparently not. At the time of writing, on a page of 50 job adverts on the career service website, about 27 adverts are either with a bank or financial service, around 12 are with teaching and 7 are for a recruitment company. Though, the University claims that “[the] Internship Hub advertised 370 positions in 16/17. Of these, 54 were in Marketing, Social Media, PR; 68 were in Research, 17 were in Events, 38 in Museum Related and 5 in Media and TV.” Amounting to about half of the careers advertised.
Do these numbers reflect the state of employment overall? Probably. We live in a service dominated society so it would make sense that the majority of jobs are in different manifestations of the service sector, predominantly financial. But surely not everyone has to be a banker? What if you want to get paid to write articles? Or even start your own business? Some argue that a lot of jobs gravitate around London or bigger cities, but that doesn’t explain the intensity with which financial institutions recruit in universities. Or the fact that the University is not only allowing for this encroaching of recruitment activities by the financial sector but encourages it.
Ultimately, if you get a job after graduation this impacts on the University’s ranking, which means more future applications for the University which means more money, improved reputation and the likes. It doesn’t matter that you never wanted to be a financial data analyst or that you actually studied history of art. It’s almost like universities are pushing their students towards these positions in order to meet their own targets. It seems to me we live in a culture of graduate schemes now where universities have relinquished the responsibility they hold for their students’ future to big employers that suck in thousands of fresh graduates every year, and for those who don’t make it through, well they’re just negligible statistics.
It is not easy to try and find a job outside of the path marked by Asda on one side and KPMG on the other, as the careers service is inundated by recruiters almost identical to the aforementioned. The impact this has on recent graduates’ morale who don’t want to go down that employment path is dire. I’ve heard many people talk about their arts and humanities degrees as though they were useless. It is now becoming increasingly normalised to forego any interests you might have in favour of a so-called, safe and somewhat vocational subject in a field you knew nothing about until yesterday. Very often these positions also mean moving away to other places like London or Edinburgh.
Well, you might ask, should the universities artificially create jobs just so that millennial snowflakes can continue their delusional life of self-indulgence? I’m not saying the University should make jobs, but it should at least provide a range of employment opportunities that caters to its very different degree programmes. When I graduated from my undergraduate degree, I didn’t get my first job through the university career service (although I used its advice services a lot over the years) but through a graduate recruitment service. It was funded by the Scottish government and connected small organisations with individuals looking to do something other than banking; a service born out of the reality of my previous points.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that universities have the structures in place and also the resources to provide support to their students across all disciplines in finding employment. They also have the capabilities to create collaborations with other organisations and facilitate a transition from studentship into a career other than consultancy.