Graduate recruitment is big business. In a recent survey of around 125 graduate employers, the total amount spent on graduate recruitment was in excess of £10m a year. At first glance this would suggest that recruiters spend heaps attracting applicants. However, as some of those questioned recruited well over 400 graduates, in reality the median spend is around £50,000 and it averaged out at around £2,000 per graduate recruited. This figure covered only the actual spend on graduate recruitment brochures, attendance at fairs etc and did not include any of the basic recruitment staff costs and overheads.

Graduate recruitment is big business. In a recent survey of around 125 graduate employers, the total amount spent on graduate recruitment was in excess of £10m a year. At first glance this would suggest that recruiters spend heaps attracting applicants. However, as some of those questioned recruited well over 400 graduates, in reality the median spend is around £50,000 and it averaged out at around £2,000 per graduate recruited. This figure covered only the actual spend on graduate recruitment brochures, attendance at fairs etc and did not include any of the basic recruitment staff costs and overheads.

It is small wonder, then, that graduate recruiters are getting more and more choosy about how they raise their profile among today's student force and, more importantly, what they expect from their investment. If you had spent a third of your total recruitment budget on attendance at a fair, you would expect a high return. At the very least you would want the visitors to have made an effort with regard to their appearance and to have done some research on your organisation and what it is offering. You would want to be treated as the buyer not the seller. Students who remember this in all their dealings with employers are likely to get much further in their job search than those that adopt the more relaxed approach, turning up late, looking like they've slept in their clothes and using the opening gambit of, "Whadder you do then?"

I overheard a student in our careers library bewailing the fact that there just weren't any interesting jobs for graduates any more. "What tosh!", I thought. Today's graduates can do anything they want. Time was when graduate careers were limited to a few professions with, interestingly, accountancy and banking only just creeping into this definition. Now the market has exploded into whole new areas of work never before thought of as graduate occupations - the charity sector, new media, events management, tourism and the leisure industry. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination and abilities, both what you have to offer and your ability to sell this to prospective employers.

Some jobs are marketed very heavily and very expensively. Some are not advertised at all, hidden from general view, but nonetheless there if you are prepared to research the market effectively and use your network of contacts to muscle in to a position from which you can fly. The Graduate Fair London, organised by The Careers Group, University of London on behalf of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services and Graduate Prospects, offers a great place to start that networking process and to begin to analyse what's happening in the labour market at the moment.

It is a really good year to want to get into the financial sector. These recruiters have returned to the market in force and as the chartered accountants and investment banks voraciously hoover up graduates, it leaves the niche specialist areas such as retail banking, inland revenue and the other forms of accountancy eager to meet the financially minded. Despite reports of falling profits, retailing is still well represented in the market and the public sector is still recruiting heavily, despite serious freezes on promotional activities as a result of the drive to contain costs prior to the election. The telecommunications and oil industry that have been dormant for many years seem to be making a tentative reappearance. New areas are springing up. Digital TV and film companies who have never before recruited in sufficient numbers to warrant an appearance at a recruitment fair will be recruiting at the Fair on 1 and 2 December at The Business Design Centre, Islington. Travel and tourism has always been a sector of interest to graduates but there have been few genuine graduate opportunities. In the past most people have had to work up from the very bottom. The airline, Cathay Pacific, the hotel chain, Travel Inn and the gaming firm, Gala will be making their debut appearance at the Fair, keen to attract graduate trainees. Cancer Research UK tends to be the exception in the Charity world as they recruit and train graduates systematically. Many other charity organisations will be at the Fair this year, but they are still mostly offering work experience to help with your CV rather than fast track or even slow track graduate schemes.

The great joy of events organised by The Careers Group is the wealth of careers expertise that is offered alongside the chance to meet employers. There is always a terrific programme of seminars and services designed to help you achieve job satisfaction now and in the future. Whether you need help on choosing your next step or a detailed critique of your fledgling CV, or simply want to join in the quiz fun, then there will be experienced and impartial careers staff on hand to help.

Anne-Marie Martin is Director of the Careers Group, University of London

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