Gordon Chesterman: Everyone needs a Plan B now

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The Independent Online

Things have changed recently, with students reassessing the morality and ethics of their career choices. Applications to the public sector have soared and there has been a corresponding decline in interest in a few other sectors. Attendance of our careers event covering finance was down by 18 per cent, while the event for the property sector was down by 45 per cent. Enquiries about teaching and law have gone up 40 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. And our most popular event this year covered the not-for-profit sector, which is a first. So certainly there's been some adjustment.

As a careers service we've been busier than ever, with 2,100 coming through the doors in one week alone in October, up from the usual 1,700 for that period. We've been affected, not just by students worried about where to apply, but also students who had been given offers but are now seeing them withdrawn. That's happening mainly in law and the banking sector.

Many of the students here feel the recession gives them a good excuse to stumble back to mum and dad and say "Can I have another £10,000 please?". But it's nothing new – that a Cambridge degree doesn't guarantee you a job.

Our advice to the students is: don't panic, you're here to get a degree and the economy will improve; be creative and look at plan B; think about other ways of getting into your chosen career. And once you get in, hold on to your job tight.

Gordon Chesterman is director of the University of Cambridge's careers service