A chance for "the lost generation" to find itself

For the graduation class of 2009, leaving university is even more bitter-sweet than previous years. We will experience the usual tearful goodbyes mixed with hope and excitement for the future as well as the relief that the emotional roller-coaster of exam term is finally over.

Yet it would seem for most of us the days of baked-bean diets, Tesco value vodka and reusing tea bags are far from over. Having been tempted at enrolment by the prospect of good wages, steady jobs and secure careers, many graduates are finding the job-security light at the end of the exam-term tunnel has turned into the dark likelihood of impending unemployment. Adding to a year’s media coverage of the doom and gloom awaiting prospective job hunters, the recent revelation that there are 50 graduates now applying for every job is certain to leave a cloud hanging over many graduation days this summer.

Not only are there fewer jobs on offer, but statistics show that of the 300,000 summer graduands, more than half are vying for places on graduate schemes and jobs starting in September. As the majority are expected to attain 2:1 and Firsts, companies have to look further than academia to differentiate between applicants.

However, it seems unless you can speak five languages, run a club for local children, have volunteered in a Mongolian orphanage and pet unloved horses on the weekend, you can’t even get an interview. Even the Stepford students who have managed to do some of these activities are finding that jobs are going to more skilled and experienced graduates from previous years, leaving us feeling rather like “the lost generation” that various sources have prophesied we will become.

Recent Warwick graduate Rebecca Pendleton feels the graduates of 2008 and previous years have the experience we lack: “I certainly don’t feel there’s much chance of a job now,” she says.

Job chances also depend on prospective career and degree disciplines. Many of my maths and engineering peers have secured placements and jobs, but the majority of arts students, with subjects unspecific to a definite career path, are feeling the crunch as administrative and creative roles are cut.

Competition is also steep in the legal sector. Emma James, a Manchester law graduate and prospective solicitor, will start her career in 2011 at the earliest, as applications for training contracts have soared by 150 per cent from last year.

Having been lured on enrolment by the prospect of up to 15 per cent higher earnings than those enjoyed by non-university peers, the class of ’09 are being turned down in droves for jobs, even for those that don’t require any qualifications.

However, maybe the black clouds of recession do have silver linings. In the past, numerous graduates have applied for positions of responsibility, having gone straight from school to university and then directly into the workplace without any kind of travelling or wider life experience. Having to rethink their careers has meant many are considering options previously eclipsed by the all-wondrous City job; the most common being fleeing the country.

Working ski seasons or summer holiday camps now seem to be popular options as is teaching abroad. English and German graduate Sarah Ann Brown is looking positively at the recession, since having felt pressure at university to find a well-respected job, she now “feels free to do something I really want to do”.

Other graduates are finding jobs in fields previously unknown to them or not even considered. Alexis Barber, who graduated in English and creative writing at Chichester University in 2008, applied to numerous jobs that required her skill set, and stumbled across something she loves. “I had no idea conference production even existed,” she says.

People who originally applied to big financial firms are now going for jobs with companies such as Shell, Lidl and Aldi, as all are still hiring graduates for retail, IT and financial jobs with competitive starting salaries.

Graduates are also considering yet further education, language courses or unpaid internships, despite averaging £15,000 in debt (and rising!). In such strong competition with last year’s graduates, it is necessary to become more competitive; deferring the job hunt for a year doesn’t seem such a bad idea, either. The current predicament may also prove good for the future job market, as perhaps the class of ’09 will be more driven, more employable and (hopefully) will grow up with a more acute sense of financial responsibility.

As for me, I am considering several options and trying to avoid focusing on the cloud of recession doom, and rather on the silver lining of long-term career prospects. I like to think that perhaps my generation won’t be the ones who were “lost”, but rather the ones who just had time to find themselves.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Recruitment Consultant (Trainee / Experienced)

£18000 - £27000 per annum + doe OTE £45K: SThree: SThree are always looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own