The Careers Adviser: 'Is a history graduate with a 2:2 unemployable?


Past and present

My son has a 2:2 in history and graduated two years ago. He is working in a bureau de change but the pay is awful and the responsibility high. I feel he is ashamed of his degree. He thinks there are thousands like him with a 2:2 and he is unemployable in the graduate market.

History graduates are popular because of the skills they've developed, such as research and analysis, intellectual rigour and clarity of expression. They can marshal arguments well and create impressive CVs. Your son can use these skills now to identify a wider range of opportunities. Former history students are found in many walks of life – journalism, politics, the civil service, law, business and finance, the voluntary sector or management consultancy. Most do something unrelated to their degree. The problem may lie in finding where to begin. Your son has no need to worry so much about what everyone else is doing. It may help him to think about what he enjoys and take time off gaining experience in areas that interest him. A lot of graduates do have a 2:2, but as time goes on other factors come into play – awareness of opportunities, confidence and experience. Employers recruit real people, and they like extra curricular activities and work experience. Time out working is valuable, especially if properly described in applications. Some employers with formal graduate schemes don't exclude 2:2 candidates, as they like to recruit from a wider pool. It's also worth remembering that only up to 20 per cent of a graduating cohort is likely to go on to a formal scheme. Most graduates start in a job and then move on to what they'd like to do. If the bigger schemes aren't right it doesn't mean he can't get a job in his chosen field – there are plenty of smaller niche organisations with one-off graduate opportunities. He can try new approaches – www.careers.lon.ac.uk/sortit might help him find out what makes him tick, and www.linkedin.com allows him to contact those in work and find related job opportunities.

International rescue

I'm an international student doing a Masters degree at Salford, and last year attended a careers fair at which I was given a book containing a list of employers who help with work permits for international students. Is there a more detailed list?

Every employer is entitled to support an application for a work permit. And careers advice staff working locally may try to identify employers who are willing to consider international applicants. But unfortunately there's no national list of such organizations. Your careers department says the advice it gives to international students is that applying for a permit is a difficult process, so it's sometimes easier to try a larger multinational company. These are likely to have been through the process many times, so have tried and tested methods. A smaller family-run business may be more unfamiliar with what's entailed. The United Kingdom Council for International Students has information on working during and after studies and advice for employers on filling out forms on www.ukcosa.org.uk. Their site links through to The British Council Education UK site, which also has advice on studying and living in the UK, and can be found separately on www.educationuk.org. Keep up with recent government changes on www.direct.gov.uk.

Careers adviser: Anne Marie Martin, director, the Careers Group, University of London. Please send your queries to Caroline Haydon at The Independent, Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email to chaydon @blueyonder.co.uk

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