Bosses bank on brain power

As new technology has made many jobs more complex, greater intellectual skills are being needed in the workplace - and that's good news for graduates entering the job market. By Philip Schofield

Job opportunities for graduates have never been so numerous or so varied. Until quite recently graduates were recruited into a restricted range of posts - mostly in university teaching, research institutions, the higher levels of the civil service, medicine and veterinary science. Today it is hard to think of a sector of employment which does not need graduates for many of its posts.

There has been a huge growth in jobs for specialists because many manual jobs have been replaced by technology, and most routine clerical work is now done by computers. Many existing jobs have become more complex and need greater intellectual skills. As a result many careers which until recently were almost exclusively school-leaver entry - such as chartered accountancy, librarianship, banking, journalism and personnel work - are now largely graduate entry.

Most graduate jobs used to be in big organisations, whether in large companies or the public sector. Today, increasing numbers of graduates find excellent management and technical opportunities in small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs). These smaller employers are often overlooked by finalists looking for their first career post. This is a pity because the experience you can get in a smaller organisation is often broader than you get in a large one.

If you are set upon joining a big company management training scheme, you need to plan well ahead. There are far fewer openings on these schemes because employers have shed many layers of middle management and so need fewer managers. Competition is fierce and entry standards are tough. You will need a 2.1 degree plus good interpersonal, teamworking and communication skills. Often you should also have gained some useful work experience during your degree course.

Graduate jobs can be classed into two broad groups - those where the employer has a planned requirement and is recruiting well ahead and those in which the employer is recruiting to fill an immediate need.

The recruitment of graduates for planned vacancies, including those for big company management training schemes, usually starts in the autumn and is usually completed before one's finals. These vacancies are likely to be advertised in one or both of the two major career directories - GET and Prospects - which are available free at your university careers service.

If you wait until you have completed your finals before starting your job search, you will miss many of the opportunities available, including virtually all management traineeships.

Employers recruiting to fill immediate vacancies tend to be SMEs, large organisations which under-estimated their needs, or those who have failed to fill all their vacancies. They may advertise in the fortnightly Prospects Today (available free from your university careers service), a national broadsheet newspaper, or if the employer is recruiting locally, in a regional newspaper. Obviously there is no point in applying for these until after your finals because you will be needed almost at once.

Many undergraduates do not opt for a particular career until they are close to graduation, and sometimes even afterwards. To some extent this is understandable. You will develop new interests and learn a lot about yourself during your course, and your initial career ambitions may well change.

Because you change a lot during your course you can lose your initial enthusiasm for your degree subject. Many undergraduates worry that they will be trapped by their degree subject into work which no longer appeals to them. There is no need to worry. Around half of all graduate vacancies are open to any discipline. So you do not have to follow a career related to your degree subject. Apart from specific vocational subjects, such as medicine and engineering, employers are less interested in the knowledge you have acquired than in the intellectual skills your degree has taught you. It is your trained mind that will be in demand.

With the massive increase in the numbers graduating each year, and little growth in "traditional" graduate jobs, it is sometimes suggested that there is a real risk of becoming under-employed in a job which could be done equally well by a school leaver. However, school leavers are used to working under close supervision, graduates are expected to be self- starters. This means they can develop the jobs in ways that school leavers cannot, and put their own stamp on them.

Some of the newer graduate employers, such as some SMEs, have little experience in using and developing graduates. This means they can sometimes give their graduates too little or too much initial responsibility. Be prepared to discuss what will be expected of you at interview. Many existing managers are non-graduates and may not know what you are capable of.

There are of course some dead-end jobs. When job seeking you will need to be selective. If you find yourself in the wrong job, do everything as well as you can and use it as a learning opportunity before moving on after a year or two.

Finally, when you start work, what can you expect to earn as a newly qualified graduate? The Association of Graduate Recruiters forecasts that those starting jobs this year will get a median salary of pounds 17,400, although one in 10 employers would pay pounds 21,000 or more and one in ten pounds 14,500 or less.

When you do eventually get your degree, graduate starting salaries should have increased by about the same rate as average earnings.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Sport
Moeen Ali wearing the 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' wristbands on his left arm
sport
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Extras
indybest
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Fund Administrator - Edinburgh - £22 p/hr

£20 - £22 per hour + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Fund Administrator, Top Four ...

Entry Level Fund Accountant (Edinburgh)

£17 - £20 per hour: Cameron Kennedy Recruitment: My client, one of the worlds ...

SQL DBA/Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer
 SQL, C#, VBA, SQL Server, ...

Risk Analyst - VBA/EXCEL

£300 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Risk Analyst Access, EXCEL, VBA, RISK, ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on