The outgoing head of UCAS, Mary Curnock Cook, has said that university students ‘should not feel compelled to get a job until six months after graduating.’ It’s advice that goes against the grain. Typically students are encouraged to find a graduate scheme early, to tie up their future while they are still studying or otherwise slip into a black hole of desperation and struggle, amongst limited opportunities post-exams.
However, the six month figure is something we’re quite familiar with at Step. In June of last year we ran a poll asking our 2016 graduates how long they thought it would take them to secure their first graduate role. Almost half (45%) of our 2016 graduates indicated that they thought it would take six months or more to find a graduate role. At the time we considered this quite a bleak outlook.
We thought the consensus among graduates was that they would have to toil away for months and months, competing with hundreds of other peers for a single role. We know personally that there are more than enough graduate opportunities to go around, especially among smaller businesses, which means it shouldn’t be taking six months for a graduate to find a role. However, maybe Ms Curnock Cook is correct in stating that students shouldn’t have this social pressure to find a graduate role straight out of university. That graduates should have the option of taking break, if they so choose and that perhaps not jumping straight into a permanent graduate role is better in the long run.
This social pressure to jump immediately into a permanent graduate role is a major contributing factor to 1 in 4 graduates quitting within a year of starting work. According to that article graduates are ‘rushing into the wrong roles for fear of having a hole in their CV after university.’ So instead of having graduates panicked into taking a role that leaves them unhappy (and leaves the employer with a bad taste) perhaps they should be taking six months off to go home, relax and find their feet.
Or perhaps there’s another option?
With regards to how students should spend this six months after graduation Ms Curnock Cook stated ‘I don’t think there’s any harm in doing temporary, voluntary or non-graduate work to fill the gap before finding something more permanent.’ So perhaps the best option of the lot is an internship?
For a graduate a paid internship provides valuable experience, it means they aren’t tied down if ultimately they decide to change the direction of their careers and it fills the gap in their CV, before they find a permanent opportunity (80% of Step internships turn into permanent graduate roles upon completion so many graduates are finding the right opportunity for them through an internship).
For a business an internship can serve as a way of trialling a graduate or the role itself, without the long-term commitment of a permanent position or alternatively it can be a great way of getting an important one-off project or piece of work completed.