GradAustralia’s most recent annual student survey has revealed the extent to which students lack confidence in their graduate job prospects. Only 15% expect to have a job offer upon graduation, and 2/3 think they will still be looking for work for more than 3 months after graduation.
These expectations vary by cohort. Male students on average expect to land a job faster and be paid more. The best performing students (with an expected distinction or high distinction average on graduation) also expect to find work faster and have higher starting salaries.
When split by discipline, the differences are stark. For law students, 22% expect a job offer upon graduation vs. 5% of humanities students. However, law students expect to make 21 job applications – the highest number by degree. The median response was 17 applications.
In practice, the long road to graduate employment plays out differently for every graduate. Rose Howard, now a TV production graduate, struggled to find employment before landing a job in an ad agency.
“After uni, I worked two jobs in a retail chainstore and as a waitress for months. I was lucky to still be living at home, but I was always thinking about my uni debt and the indexation, so it was hard to relax. I was applying for about 20 graduate jobs a week, and I’d be happy to just get an automated rejection email. Applying for that many jobs day after day is an exhausting and discouraging process,” says Rose. “Thanks to a friend, I finally got a job at an advertising agency….My advice to other recent graduates is to keep in mind that your degree doesn’t guarantee a job straight out of uni.”
Monique Clark studied a Bachelor of Creative Technology (Audio Engineering) and started two businesses after being unable to find work in her chosen field.
“Towards the end of my degree, I was able to secure an internship at a local recording studio. When I finished my degree I inquired about working at the studio full time - the owner said it's possible but I'd need to do 1 year of full-time training/interning and that it would be unpaid. The standard working day in a studio is 12 hours but can be longer. I obviously turned this down as I wouldn't be able to afford rent or food! So I did some small jobs at other studios - all unpaid. Every time there was an offer for work it was long hours, unpaid and no promise of additional paid work. I still did it gladly because I loved recording bands but soon enough I realised I couldn't keep riding this train and not getting any sort of payment for my time,” says Monique.
Monique decided to re-focus her career on design and marketing.
“I did not do a degree in either of those fields, but I wanted autonomy over my career, my working hours and the types of jobs I did so about a year later I quit my corporate job and started freelancing and was designing and selling jewellery. It's been 14 months since I left full-time employment, and now I have a small agency with 4 employees. We all work remotely so can work from home or while travelling - I spent the entire last 12 months travelling Indonesia, India and the Philippines and running both of my businesses.”
“I don't regret doing my degree because I met great people, learned a lot about the industry and music and have good memories but I just wish universities were more realistic about the outcomes at the end of the degree.”