E(x) Development

Competition is increasing

In the modern era, where education is more accessible than ever, a growing number of individuals are pursuing higher education, with the hope that a degree will open doors to fulfilling and well-paying careers. However, the reality is far more complex and, for many, disheartening. More graduates have not necessarily brought more graduate jobs to fill, leading to a new generation of dissatisfied young professionals. Let’s delve into some of the key aspects that are shaping the current landscape:


The Overflowing Talent Pool

The UK has seen a significant increase in the number of graduates over the past few decades. According to David Goodhart at the think tank Policy Exchange, a third of those who have been to university are not in “graduate employment” five to 10 years later. This statistic paints a grim picture of the graduate job market, where the supply of qualified individuals far exceeds the demand for their skills.


The COVID-19 Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this issue. Graduates aged 25 to 64 accounted for 15% of the overall unemployment during the pandemic, with the average unemployment rate for recent graduates peaking at 16% during 2020 in the UK. The economic downturn led to a 27% cut in graduate jobs, leaving many recent graduates struggling to find suitable employment.


The Disparity Among Degrees

While all degrees aim to equip students with knowledge and skills, the market demand for these skills varies. Fields such as law, IT, medicine, and dentistry offer higher starting salaries and better employment prospects. Conversely, degrees in arts, languages, and classics might not directly translate to specific job roles, leading to a tougher job market for these graduates. This disparity means that certain degree holders are vying for a limited number of positions, intensifying competition.


The International Factor

Over the decades, international mobility has increased, and UK graduates are facing more competition from graduates of overseas universities. People have always been attracted to the UK, and their movement here is easier than it was. Moreover, the digital transformation and remote work trend have made physical presence less of an issue. If companies can hire without geographical constraints, they can access talent from regions where the cost of living, and consequently, wage expectations are lower. This presents a double-edged sword: while remote work offers flexibility and work-life balance, it also means UK graduates are competing in a global job market.


The University Reputation

The reputation of a university plays a pivotal role in a graduate’s early career. Prestigious institutions like Oxford and Cambridge have a long-standing history of academic excellence, extensive alumni networks, and connections with top employers. Graduates from these universities often have a competitive edge in the job market, not just because of the quality of education they receive, but also due to the brand association of their alma mater. This naturally intensifies competition for graduates from lesser-known institutions, who might find themselves overlooked in favor of their peers from more renowned universities.


The Narrowing Path

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the competition doesn’t end once a graduate secures a job. The corporate ladder’s rungs become fewer and farther between. Each year without advancement puts individuals in a tightening vice, competing with ambitious new recruits and peers who are continuously investing in their development. As one progresses in their career, several factors come into play that intensifies this competition:

  • Skill Diversification: As employees climb the corporate ladder, they often need to diversify their skill set. While technical expertise might land an entry-level job, leadership, management, and strategic thinking become increasingly important as one moves up. This requires continuous learning and adaptation.
  • Increased Expectations: With each promotion or new role, the expectations increase. Employees are not only expected to manage their responsibilities but also to bring innovative solutions, mentor junior team members, and contribute to the company’s growth.
  • Networking and Visibility: As the number of higher-level positions is limited, having a strong professional network and visibility within the organization becomes crucial. Those who can effectively network and advocate for their accomplishments often have a competitive edge.

The landscape of graduate employment is evolving rapidly, shaped by various factors from global mobility to the changing perceptions of degree value. As competition intensifies, it’s crucial for graduates to not only rely on their academic achievements but to continuously adapt, learn, and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Starting off on the right foot and making a strong initial impression is invaluable. It’s challenging enough navigating the professional world; adding the burden of having to change a bad initial impression makes it even tougher. 

While the challenges are undeniable, they also present opportunities for those willing to innovate and persevere. In this ever-changing environment, adaptability, resilience, and a commitment to lifelong learning will be the keys to success. Our Career Kickstart Programme is designed to equip you with the tools and insights they need to navigate these challenges and start you off on the right path for a successful and fulfilling career.