As recruiters, we spend a lot of time managing the expectations of fresh graduates and candidates looking to step onto the career ladder. The common theme to many of these conversations is: ‘I have the degree but no work experience’ vs ‘I have work experience but no degree’.
For the sake of ease, the former are chickens and the latter are eggs. What came first the Chicken or the Egg?
You typically have a relevant degree, 2:1 or above, and may still be struggling to land that first job after graduation. Why? A report by 'High Fliers Research' stated that there would be a 7.5% rise in employer graduate programmes in 2017, with more roles than ever. So why is it that graduates can’t land their first role after university?
There are a couple of factors that could be contributing to this graduate deficit. Firstly, some businesses may have seemingly unreasonable expectations during the recruitment process. Obviously, you need the right foundation of skills to build upon, but if you don’t have previous work experience, that could put you at a disadvantage when being compared to other candidates.
Another factor is attitude. Some graduates could be accused of being narrow-minded in their approach to graduate programs. A lot of grads only apply for blue chip and highly publicised corporations – these companies receive high volumes of applicants, therefore reducing your chances of selection. 50% of graduates eventually work for companies with less than 200 employees. Our best advice is to look at emerging companies, like start-ups, who might not offer a full graduate programme but will offer valuable work experience and give you the opportunity to be a part of a growing business. Whilst you may be given rotations through various departments in a big corporate, you will doubtlessly get stuck into all aspects of a small business, given the nature of the environment. Don’t dismiss an opportunity that will provide you with the skills required to put you onto the right pathway to your dream job.
How do you best combat this chicken scenario? Our advice is to do a sandwich year if possible. If that isn’t an option, do summer internships every year and get that valuable experience onto your CV. Showing initiative before you enter the working world will stand you in very good stead. As much as you would rather be frolicking in the sunshine, summer holidays provide you with valuable time to gain experience that could see you land that first job a lot quicker.
You have just left school and want to start somewhere on the career ladder but you feel university is not quite for you. Some might say that landing your first role after school, in the relevant industry, will give you a head start when chasing a career. In a marketing role, you will be exposed to all the core elements learnt in a degree. By working alongside experienced marketers, you will gain knowledge and experience. Fewer than half of students currently aged 14-18 will ever go to university. Most of the population does not have a degree and never will.
Working your way up from the bottom can be just as valuable as having a degree. It can provide you with an applied education whilst learning from industry professionals. There are also multiple examples of people working from an entry level position to becoming the Managing Director of a company. For example, David Potts, who started his career as a shelf packer, worked his way up to become the CEO of Tesco.
All that said, there are many businesses that still require a record of professional development or skills-based training and you may still be at a disadvantage later in your career without that elusive degree.
Our recommendation to avoid being an egg, is to continuously add to your skills set. Ask for training at work – do your research on what is happening in the sector and ask to be given the opportunity to develop in those areas. There are also multiple courses online and free conferences that you can attend to demonstrate your desire for continuous improvement.
In conclusion, there is no guaranteed right answer. Neither the chicken or the egg comes first as there are several pathways to working your way up the career ladder. It will come down to attitude and willingness to learn and develop that will help you climb.
Tops tips for all candidates:
· Read your CV! Make sure there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. Get someone to read over your CV to ensure it makes sense
· Ensure that the profile of your CV is constructed as an elevated pitch
· Have a positive outlook when searching and don’t let rejection pull you down – keep trying
· When interviewing smile, and be engaging with potential employers. Have a firm handshake and make eye contact when you meet your potential new employer
· Personality and culture fit are invaluable to your application, 75% hiring based on cultural fit
· Build a relationship with a trusted recruiter, don’t register yourself with lots of agencies. Pick one relevant recruiter that gives you valuable advice
From Ball and Hoolahan