Anne-Marie Martin: The heat is on in more ways than one for the class of 2004

I am writing this in the middle of a heat wave - a sure sign that final exams are taking place. Some graduates will already have a job lined up and be facing the prospect of their last summer holiday with delight and confidence. Many however will have no permanent job and no firm ideas of what they want to do next, often leading to high levels of anxiety.

I am writing this in the middle of a heat wave - a sure sign that final exams are taking place. Some graduates will already have a job lined up and be facing the prospect of their last summer holiday with delight and confidence. Many however will have no permanent job and no firm ideas of what they want to do next, often leading to high levels of anxiety.

Parents face an anxious time too. All parents want their children to be happy. To many parents happiness means security, which in turn means a good job. Parents may know best, but graduates know differently, and it is a sad truth that parents are often the last people that graduates will listen to. So the hapless parent has to stand idly by whilst their children make their own mistakes.

Transition is difficult and the transition from university to work is perhaps one of the hardest. My advice to parents: stay calm. Be supportive but not a push over, so allow the returning graduate some time to find their feet but expect them to pay their way. Generally speaking, all graduates are fixed up with a job that both they and you will find acceptable within two years of graduation. Of course, the earlier students start to engage with the process the sooner they will reach a satisfactory outcome.

To graduates, my advice is the same: don't panic. Analyse your skills and interests and then look at the job market and see where you might fit. If you already know what you want to do but find that you are short of the requisite skills, think about interim jobs you might do to make up the deficiency. And of course make sure you perfect your self-marketing skills. It's not enough to be able to do the job, you have to convince others that you can.

There will be a lot of pressure from peers and parents to find a "proper job" and it's made worse now by the Government's insistence that jobs are ranked. It was irritating enough when jobs were deemed to be "graduate" or "non-graduate" but now we have a new category, namely, "graduate-track" - these being non-graduate jobs that have the potential to lead into graduate jobs. This is a curious distinction. All jobs have the potential to help people move onwards and upwards. Most successful people have spent time in routine, mundane, very definitely non-graduate jobs. Those that have only worked in a shop will learn useful skills from working as an office junior and vice versa. Where better than your local supermarket to learn the art of customer care and to hone your persistence in the face of tedium and how better than as an office junior to learn the delicate art of office politics and the importance of effective communication? Neither job, however, will make it to the "graduate track" category.

If you are intent on entering directly into a graduate job, there is no better place to start your job search than the ULCS London Graduate Recruitment Fair on 23 and 24 June at the Business Design Centre, Islington. London's oldest summer recruitment fair still offers more employers and a wider range of additional services than any other recruitment event in the Capital. Employers flock to it because they know that more graduates go to this summer fair than to any other in the country and also because they want to support the work of the organisers, The University of London Careers Service, who use any surplus from the sale of exhibition stands to support the work of careers advisers in helping students and graduates develop their employability skills and their self-marketing techniques.

Students make a bee-line for the event not only because it is sponsored by the The Independent, the newspaper of the year, but because they can talk to more employers in one day under one roof than anywhere else in the country, and because of the huge range of ancillary services they can access - advisers to check CVs, premium careers advice, seminars on occupations and job hunting, interactive masterclasses on interviews and assessment centres as well as quizzes and prizes.

So where are the jobs this year? After quite a number of years of relatively low recruitment, the financial sector is back with a bang. Eighteen per cent of the exhibitors at the fair are offering jobs in this area and there are even two management consultancy firms recruiting - a sector that has been virtually invisible recently. The public sector remains buoyant. Retailing is still recruiting into its management schemes, although there is a sense of a slight falling off in this sector. A number of old favourites are making a cautious return including IT and manufacturing. Volunteering and further study and training remain popular with graduates eager to postpone entry into a permanent job and these areas are well represented.

My tip for the most popular stand is either Bacardi-Martini or Clarion Events. Bacardi-Martini is new to the Fair this year and has a brand that just reeks of glamour. Clarion Events is offering a career in events management, definitely one of the hot favourites among the class of 2004.

Anne-Marie Martin is Director of the University of London Careers Service (ULCS). Anne-marie.martin@careers.lon.ac.uk

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