As a graduate, the prospect of job hunting after university is often a daunting task, made even more so when you find yourself asking the question, “Is Brexit going to affect me finding a job after I leave university?”
You are by no means alone in this concern, with the future of the UK labour market at the heart of what Brexit means to so many people. Whatever your political persuasions, whether you voted leave or remain, or whether you’re just tired of hearing the word “Brexit”, you should probably be thinking about how Britain’s jobs and careers are going to be affected as a result of the UK’s current economic and political climate.
Despite the political disruption Brexit has brought upon the UK since the government triggered Article 50 in March 2017, the UK graduate labour market is yet to experience any long-lasting or damaging impact. However, British employees expressed concern for the labour market as early as December 2016, just a couple of months after it was announced that the government intended to invoke Article 50. A Glassdoor survey conducted at this time revealed low employee confidence in the British government, with 24% of UK respondents expressing concern that Brexit would affect their companies and over a quarter of Londoners reporting that they would consider leaving the UK to work in another European country post-Brexit.
Research carried out more recently in the early months of 2019 show similar results, particularly with regards to graduate employment. A survey conducted by The Independent found that more than three-quarters of this year’s university graduates believe Brexit will have a long-term negative impact on their careers, with 52% believing it will be more difficult to secure a graduate role.
If we look back at graduate employment around the time of the 2008 financial crisis, we see a similar pattern in the thoughts and concerns of students. Around half of those who left university in 2008 say that the economic crisis had a negative impact on their career with stunted and delayed salary increases, and Milkround found that 36% of 2019 graduates are expecting a similar trajectory.
Should Students Be Concerned?
The annual report conducted by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU), What do graduates do?, suggested in October 2017 that any setbacks Brexit may bring for the British economy would be less severe for graduates and any damage to the UK graduate labour market was likely to be temporary. Fast-forward a year to the most recent of these reports and this appears to be correct. The latest edition reveals a relatively healthy graduate labour market with 74.3% of graduate respondents in employment within six months of graduating - considering the current political and economic climate, that’s pretty good!
Data on current recruitment activities also suggests that Brexit should not have an overwhelmingly negative impact on graduate employment this year. In fact, the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that almost three-quarters of employers are planning to continue hiring in a similar fashion this year regardless of Brexit, as well as anticipating an 18% increase in the number of planned graduate hires and a 47% increase in planned apprentice hires for 2019.
So, perhaps the graduate job market isn’t as bad as you might think? However, it is still important to consider steps to make sure you are in the best position possible to succeed in your job search. The graduate labour market remains competitive, so here are some tips from industry experts at Pro to help you along the way!
Make the most of the resources available to you
There are countless resources dedicated to graduate employment at universities - make the most of them! Attend career fairs, get advice from your union’s student services and go along to networking events - you never know who you might meet or what advice you might get that will help make sure you are in the best possible position. Don't forget to register yourselves with recruitment agencies, there are many who focus on providing opportunities for graduates, as well as those looking to hire for themselves!
Do your research
Make sure to do your research and put time into getting to know your preferred industry inside-out! Learn what employers are looking for and identify skills gaps that you can fill - this way, when you complete online assessments or attend interviews, you are presenting yourself as a knowledgeable candidate.
Expand your skill set
Do what you can to make yourself more attractive to potential employers by showcasing your skills. ISE research found that employers are most concerned about finding specialist candidates for entry-level roles - something like completing online courses to gain practical skills for your preferred industry could set you apart from the crowd! Aside from this, understand the value of the transferable skills you gained at university, and learn how to showcase these in a way to demonstrate why you are the right candidate.
In the graduate job market, you need to be ready and willing to be adaptable - there is nothing wrong with perhaps adjusting your long-term sights to get a foot on the ladder. Start looking for entry-level roles before you finish university, but also consider temp work or summer internships. Getting some relevant work experience on your CV will prove valuable when you get round to interviewing for roles against other graduates.
The graduate job market is always competitive but with the added pressures Brexit will potentially bring, build resilience and remain focused on improving your personal and professional skills, including your CV and interview skills, to get a positive result at the next opportunity!