A reflective overview on current trends in graduate employment

Executive summary

  • The graduate job market is expected to grow in 2012, especially in the SMEs area
  • Graduate should not overlook SMEs which is considered as the main channel to provide graduate positions
  • SMEs provide more ambitious career in a less hierarchical environment
  • The five desired skills: communication, interpersonal skill, analytical skill, technical skill and strong work ethic are still the foundation requirements wanted by employers. However, digital and social marketing skills are increasing importantfor marketing graduates
  • Selection process in SMEs is simpler than big company 
  • My strengthsare organizational and cooperation skill, creativity, customer service and interpersonal skill, with weaknesses on analytical and research skill, and profit & cost awareness. 
  • My future plan to improve my career competencesare attending more social activities, internship, career presentation, doing research, and making notes on the budget & cost
  • My career goal is to achieve as the PR manager in a SME PR company within five years

 

Introduction

You will have no idea about what Saint will bring you for Christmas gifts. This year, on the day of 14th Dec, 2011, just 10 days before Christmas Eve, the ‘economy tracker’ report from BBC shocked people again. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), from August to October, the UK unemployment increased by 128,000 to 2.64 million(BBC news, 14th Dec, 2011). On the other hand, Charlie Ball from HECSU (High Education Career Service Unit) has an optimistic view regarding to graduate employment (Charlie Ball, 2011). As he mentioned, in 2010, 70% of graduates were employed within six months. And the unemployment rate reduced from 20% (2009) to 8.5% (2010).  How is the situation of graduate job market at this moment and in future? In terms of graduates, how to improve and enhance our abilities and competences to succeed in the job hunting competition? This report will discuss these questions in the aspect of marketing industry.

Analysis

  • Expectations of employers

In 1997, Lee Harvey and his colleagues did a research to analyze what the employers expect from graduates. According to his research result (Harvey, Moon, Geall, 1997), six aspects of attributes are expected by employers: 1. Ability to work in a modern organization; 2. Core/transferable skills; 3. Interpersonal skills; 4. Communication; 5. Enthusiasm for learning and willingness to learn; 6. Knowledge and intellectual ability.

NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) demonstrates that high grade point averages continuous to be a necessary factor considered by employers, even high grades alone are not enough to secure a position (Koc & Koncz, 2009). According to Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010, there is an existing gap between what employers want and what graduates possess (Hannerman & Gardner, 2010; Koc & Koncz, 2009; Koc, 2010; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010). ‘Relevant work experience’ (Koc, 2010; ―Occupational Outlook Handbook,‖ 2010, p. 22) is a necessity expressed by employers for years, although the lacking of real world experience still serious in the fresh graduates. On the other hand, non-technical skills are emphasised by recruiters as well such as effective interpersonal skills (Garber, 2003). Besides that, Hart (2006, p:1) indicates that recruiters gradually place high value on graduates ability to transmission knowledge into today’s ‘global economy’.  Considering these, NACE lists top five desired skills expected by employers in the 2010 Job Outlook (in order of importance) which are communication skills, analytical skills, teamwork skills, technical skills (as related to major), and a strong work ethic (Koc & Koncz, 2009)

  • The selection methods

The Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB) describes 10 methods used by recruiters to select employee which are application forms and CVs, online screening and shortlisting, interviews, psychometric testing, ability and aptitude tests, personality profiling, presentations, group exercises, assessment centres, and references. Anderson and Cunningham did the research to analyze the reliability of each method to the future job performance in 2000. Regarding to their result, assessment centres promotion is considered to be the most effective method with 0.68 (perfect prediction is 1.0), followed by work samples (0.54) and ability test (0.54) (Anderson. And Cunningham, 2000).However, one selection method alone is not enough to assess a person. GRB states that when choosing the selection process, it is necessary to analyze the job/role description and personal specification.  A selection process is combined with several methods to achieve the highest prediction.

  • Future trends in graduate recruitment

According to the Graduate Market in 2012 from the National Graduate Recruitment Conference 2011(Top 100 graduate employers, many of the UK’s best known and most sought-after organizations), although experiencing a dramatic drop off in 2008 and 2009, since 2010, the graduate vacancies recovers rapidly by 12.4% in 2010 and 5.1% in 2011, expecting 4.6% increasing in 2012.

 

Regarding to industries, there are differences between general vacancies and graduate vacancies in 2012. In the general job market, consulting and armed forces are expected to reduce vacancies by 14% and 22.6% individually, with stable vacancies of law and charity or voluntary. Other 11 industries are expected to add positions, from which consumer goods and media are listed as the top two with 32.7% and 32.5%. To the contrary, the graduate vacancies in all the 15 industries are considered to grow in 2012 which mainly focus on the accounting & professional service (26.0%) and investment banking (15.7%).

 

In terms of marketing position, study from professional recruitment organizations such as prospects, Monster (Julie Waddell, 2011) suggest that in the next few years, there will be a vast expansion on digital marketing and new media. As a result, graduates need to improve their skills in multimedia and digital media/marketing. Numerical analysis skill is gradually emphasised by employers (John Rossheim, 2011), in order to deal with data information, collecting and analysing market information for marketing planning and budgeting.  Besides that, John also indicates that there is growing needs of marketers in mobile, healthcare and events enterprises.

Graduate position in Hotwire (PR SME)

  • More opportunities

Comparing to graduate scheme in the famous blue-chip companies, the SMEs have the potential to offer more graduate jobs. According to the Small Business Statistics from Federation of Small Business (FSB)( Small Business Statistics), in 2010 there are 4.5 million small businesses in UK, accounting for 99% of all enterprises in the UK and 58.8% of private sector employment which is around 13.8 million employees. At the same time, there are 876,000 businesses in construction which will create more career opportunities. A report by the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey in 2011(Totaljobs, 2011) states that the SMEs in UK is expected to create 8% more positions in the third quarter of 2011. To the contrary, less than a quarter of graduates can secure a graduate scheme position in the blue-chip companies. GRB indicates that SMEs in communications and media have a high tendency to recruit graduates (Graduate Recruitment Bureau).

  • Ambitious career

As stated in the Notwire graduate scheme description, the position will ‘with real responsibility from day one in a challenging but supportive environment’ (Hotwire career website). The idea is supported by Realworld indicating that SMEs is more suitable for enterprising graduates. SMEs are less focusing on the grade, but preferring graduates with similar work experience (‘have relevant work experience or academic background’). Besides, the working environment in a SME generally is more leisure and less hierarchical than big company (‘join a fun, intelligent and inspiring tram’). The survey did by Give A Grad A Go finds out that 82% UK graduates believe they would get a better work ethic in a SME (Raj Khela, 2011).

At the same time, besides the ‘five desired skills’, other competences such as motivation, confidence, dealing multi-tasks, and passionate are highly valued by SMEs.

  • Simplified selection process

In terms of Hotwire graduate scheme, there are three steps to get the position: application form, phone interviews and graduate assessment day, lasting for one month from end January to beginning of March (Hotwire). On the contrary, the selection process in a brand-named company includes four or more steps in general. For example, there are 5 steps in the Nestle 2012 marketing graduate scheme: application form, online testing, YouTube Clip Submission, telephone interview and assessment centre (Nestle career website).

Career action plan

  • Personal analysis
  1. Marketing experience

As a student in Marketing, I have developed the knowledge and enthuse in marketing. Originally, sales person for a beauty product is my first part time job during my first degree which was the first time accessing to marketing and sales. Without any sales skill, I taught myself through reading and practice, directly selling the products door to door, building up customer relationship and widen my own customers.  Besides that, as PR executive in the university CSSA, it provides me the opportunity to get knowledge of public relations and communicating with local government and business person. What is more, I am an active member in the marketing society, attending activities and holding events to put theories into practice.

  1. Communication skill:

I am a bi-lingual student in English and Chinese, with education background both in England and China. At the same time, I had internship and working experience as journalist in China, making news report, featured interview, video programme, and liaising with government. This experience improved my both my verbal and written communication skills as well as listening to others to understand their needs.

Creativity is the essential for my life. I would love to use my camera to record my life and discover every happiness and new thing in my daily life. I also created a new way of teaching Chinese character with cartoon which is easy to remember and recognize.

Organizational and cooperation skill was developed through my experience as vice president, liaising with people from all the backgrounds and organizing activities and events for student union.

  • Areas for improvement

My main weaknesses are lack of analysis and research skill, neither profit and cost awareness.  Digital marketing is the new trend in the future job market. Employers place high value on the analysis and research skills to collecting data, creating model, analysing the similarity and differences to come up with marketing plan and strategy. Meanwhile, Profit and cost awareness is essential to make marketing budget.

  • Actions

Short term:

Attending activities in the marketing society: with frequent activities held in the marketing society, I have the opportunity to put theories into practice. Members in the society are students in our university, it is also helpful to enhance my communication skills and ability to team work.

Internship: for a marketing role, relevant experience is essential for future career. Internship during summer holiday will provide an over view of the real work environment, opportunity for me to understand my weaknesses which I need to improve in my final year.

Modules: as digital and social marketing are the prevail trend for the future marketing career market, for the final year, I would love to learn more about social marketing and digital marketing, especially marketing software in depth.

Career presentation: attending more career presentation from the blue-chip companies to understand the latest updated requirements from employers.

Long term (five year plan):

Two years later, I will graduate from university with high grade. Depending on the latest economic and job market reality, I would love to join in a SME PR company to start my career with ambitious, gradually growing as a PR manager in the company within three years.

Conclusion

Although facing a tough time, the graduate career market is expected to grow in 2012. Apart from famous blue-chip companies, the SMEs are providing more career opportunities and development platform for graduates. Five desired skills are the foundation, required by most of the employers. However, SMEs are asking for more competences such as multi-task, and motivation. As a university student, I had developed my organizational and cooperation skill, communication skill, creativity, and customer service through my previous experience. In order to secure a position in the job market, I will attend more activities in the marketing society, internship during summer holiday and learning more about social and digital marketing in future to achieve my career goal.

Masterclass reflection

Masterclass 1: This class provides an overview of the graduate job market, especially under today’s society. It is interesting to find out the myths and truths in the graduate job market which I took some of them in grant, for example, the relevant of degree and future job. Employers look for transferred skills rather than specific professional knowledge. Besides, the reality requires us to look for and search job as early as possible in order to understand more about what employer want, improving during the next few years of studying.  Besides, it enhances my confidence on getting job after plenty of news about job loss and unemployment.

Masterclass 2: It was great to know and understand what employ want at this stage. It is interesting and great to know more about graduate scheme requirements and the selection process. Most of all, I really appreciate the skill of transferring my existed experience to what the employers looking for and finding the evidence of the key skills through daily activities, how to prepare in future. It also reminds me that there are lots of activities and things I need to be in the future such as being active in the group work, attending social societies, volunteering and first of all, trying to get a higher grade as possible.

Masterclass 3: This class describes the importance of critical thinking and using four terminologies: evaluation, analysis, synthesis and judgement of opinion.  Critical thinking is an important method for decision making not only in the aspect of employability but involving through all our life. At the same time, critical thinking is also the essential requirement which we are keen to achieve through studying. This class introduces several helpful and useful methods to get writing critically which I will apply into the future studying and problem solving.

Masterclass 4: This class is about the research and resources of finding job opportunities especially expressing the secondary research process which is useful in lots of research areas. The employability sources provide a useful way to access to the job opportunities, as well as the services I can use in order to improve my employability advantages. However, this is regarding as the final step in my learning which is too early to state at this stage.

Masterclass 5: This class is the introduction to personal skills profile, an overview and summary of the module. It highlights 9 key skills in 3 fundamental factors for us to develop during studying which are considered to be essential in the employability. In depth, I understand more about the module and how it works. At the end, my personal skills profile will be evaluated by self assessment, group work, tutor and activities attended in class. In that case, I will classify my goal at the end of studying and how to get it, developing as a competitive candidate in the job market.

Personal reflection

Modifying conception of career seeking:

According to Globalization and Economic Policy Centre (May 2010), SMEs businesses create most jobs in UK. As a result, as a graduate, it is not enough to over look the SMEs, just focusing on the big companies. Secondly, since 92% recruiters used or planned to use social networks as a way of hiring graduates, it is the time to break the traditional way of online application, but also heavily rely on the building up and establishing relationship on the social network. What is more, it is important to know the average number of application of each graduate position during 2010-2011 is 83.2 (association of graduate recruiters) and understand job seeking is a difficult and time consuming task.

Nowadays, a perfect graduate includes the competences of both knowledge, skill ,experience, and attitude, personality, confidence & career motivation. This module provides several methods for students to develop the competences they need for career and transfer them into employers’ requirements. Making the awareness of these competences at the early stage is better to prepare in advance.

The detailed information of selection process is helpful, but, should be taken into account in the final year for more practice. However, CV is a time consuming task, needing to overlook and review frequently.

In terms of group work, at the beginning we made a planning and schedule for the project in order to submit on time. Every member freely expressed their ideas to contribute to the project and did research before tutorial. However, during brainstorm, it is difficult to unite all the ideas together and lead the discussion.

 

Reference

Anderson, N. & Cunningham-Snell, N, (2000), ‘Personnel Selection’ in Work and Organisational Psychology, London: Blackwell Publishers Ltd

Charlie Ball, 2011, Graduate Jobs Statistics: What You Need to Know, The Guardian

Economy Tracker, BBC News, 14th Dec, 2011, last updated at 13:11 GMT

Garber, J. (2003). Getting a job. New York: Barnes and Nobles Books Hannerman, L., & Gardner, P. (2010). Under the economic turmoil a skills gap simmers. Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University

Hart, P. D. (2006). How should colleges prepare students to succeed in today’s global economy? Based on surveys among employers and recent college graduates. (Association of American Colleges and Universities report)

Hotwire career website

Koc, E. & Koncz, A. (2009). Job Outlook 2010. Bethlehem, PA: National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Koc, E. (2010, April 15). Hiring up 5.3 percent for class of 2010. National Association of Colleges and Employers

Lee Harvey, Moon, Geall, (1997), Graduates Work: Organisational Change and Students attributes, Birmingham: Centre for Research into Quality

Julie Waddell (July 2011), Advertising, Marketing and PR Future Trends

John Rossheim (2011), 2012 Marketing Jobs Outlook

Nestle Career Website

Small Business Statistics, Federation of Small Business

Small businesses to create more graduate jobs (2011), Totaljobs

SMEs and Graduates, Graduate Recruitment Bureau

Raj Khela (2011), Graduates Finding SME’s Have a Better Work Ethic Than Corporations

The Graduate Market in 2012, (2011)

 

 

 

Appendices 

Appendix 1

Summary sheet of main competencies and main areas for improvement
My major competencies/skills are:

Organization and cooperation skill; customer service; creativity; interpersonal skill

 

 

The competencies/skills I most enjoy applying are:

Organization and cooperation skill; customer service; interpersonal skill; decision making; creativity

 

My major areas for development are:

Analysis and research; profit and cost awareness;

and I may be able to improve these areas by:

Practise through project, research essay, and learning from class; making cost plan and budget; make note of daily cost and review it gradually; attending social activities; more reading and writing; asking and answering questions in class; frequently communication with group member and active in the group activities; attending the debate team

Appendix 2

CV

 

employment

 

 

Covering Letter

Name

Company

Address

Address

Address

 

Date

Dear Sir/Madame,

I am studying in university of ***, major in business management. I would like to apply the position of Marketing Specialist Intern (609413) in your company and attach my C.V. with this letter.

I believe I would be able to make a positive contribution to your company because of my previous experience and my personalities. Firstly, the studying in UK improved my marketing knowledge and international culture awareness. At the same time, I am an active member in the Marketing Society to attend weekly training and projects which increased my practical experience in marketing. Secondly, I had several experience of working as a team both in the university group work, or student union. The most exciting thing is to make the team like a family and everyone makes their best efforts to get the aim. Together with excellent team members, I had conducted successful events such as film forums, Chinese culture section in the international culture festival, Chinese New Year festival. Thirdly, as an open minded person, I would love to communicate with people and keep a good sustainable relationship with them. I have been intern as journalist to take the interview with people from different background which increased my skill of communication.

I sincerely would love to devote all my knowledge and skills to make contribution on company’s fast market expansion. Thank you for your time on my application and I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

 

Appendix 3

Evidence on competencies sheet

COMMUNICATION

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Expressing

Intern as journalist, interviewing people from different background

Writing

Intern as journalist, experience to write feature report and news report

Listening

Understanding the interviewees

 

SUPPORTING OTHERS

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Teaching

Teaching Chinese for a Spanish girl

Team working

Basketball team member, group work

Helping

Volunteer in the University festival

 

MANAGEMENT (PROJECTS AND/OR PEOPLE)

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Leading

Vice president in student union

Team building

Build up team for the dance competition

Influencing

Persuading friends to attend Christmas carol

 

ANALYSIS / PROBLEM SOLVING

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Survey

Research and project in class

Evaluating

Evaluate previous score and problems to improve

Calculating

Math score

 

CREATIVITY / GENERATING NEW IDEAS

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Discovering

Using camera to discover the happiness in my life

Creating

A new way to teach Chinese using cartoon

Designing

Decorating my own room

 

ORGANISATIONAL COMPETENCY

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Scheduling

Arrange multitasks before exams

Planning

Well organize my trip to European

Sorting

Sort my books and documents every week

 

ROLE SPECIFIC – YOU COULD IDENTIFY AND LINK TO A COMPETENCY (NOT IDENTIFIED ABOVE)

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Marketing

Attending marketing society and active member;

Marketing background

Selling

Direct sales people for beauty product

Driving

Driving licence

 

OTHERS  – YOU COULD IDENTIFY AND LINK TO A COMPETENCY (NOT IDENTIFIED ABOVE)

Verb / skill

EVIDENCE

Meeting

Set goals at the beginning and try my best to meet the aim at the end

Learning

Get the knowledge in a short time in order to make an interview with the expert

Employing

Attending employment presentations in order to understand what the employer what

 

 

Appendix 4

Screenshot of LinkedIn profile – should include Personal Statement / Experience

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