Invisible graduates

Babatunde Valentine Onabajo 

An emerging scandal is frothily brewing in the British labour market, and it has nothing to do with unpaid internships, a “living wage” or even the stubbornly high rate of unemployment which has adversely hit Cardiff. It is to do with a growing number of “invisible graduates”. More and more graduates are finding themselves sending off CV after CV, either for a paid internship or a job, and to no avail. No response. No advice. If you’re lucky, you’ll merely get a computer-generated acknowledgment that the CV has been received. One is tempted to believe that after graduating from a Russell Group university such as Cardiff University, the very least you deserve is feedback on where you may have went wrong in your unsuccessful job application so you can improve next time. But alas, such is not the case. One might as well be invisible.

The scandal is slowly but surely hitting national headlines. When reports emerged that more than 1,700 applications were vying for just eight jobs offered by Costa in Nottingham, the common concern among the online community wasn’t so much about the scarcity of available jobs but rather how demotivating it must be for someone to put in so much effort into a CV only for it to fall on deaf ears. One person remarked that he sent off 3 to 4 applications per day, and it was frustrating that one never seems to get a response from recruiters: “Surely in this electronic age of communication you would think these people could spare 20 seconds in the common courtesy of a reply”.

Research further bolsters such sentiments. According to a survey conducted by the Prince’s Trust and the Royal Bank of Scotland, six in ten respondents found it demoralizing that they never received feedback. It’s astonishing that whilst firms continually harp on to young graduates about the need to spend some tender, loving care with their CV before sending it off to them for a job vacancy, they never seem to reciprocate in like manner in the event you fail. They conjure up a barrage of excuses – from “it takes too long to reply” or “it’s too expensive” – all in the meantime hiding behind the apathetic veneer of “if you do not hear from us in two weeks, please assume your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion”.

The rank hypocrisy of it all leaves a strong stench in our national labour market, that is more and more graduates either finding themselves in receipt of the Jobseekers’ Allowance or having to drastically lower their expectations by taking up jobs that is well beneath their potential. There are some who proclaim that we should “count our blessings” for being able to get a job at McDonalds. Adopting such an attitude will not change anything. We will simply have “more of the same” – with more of our graduates feeling disenfranchised, demotivated and disappointed. Not only do they have to race to the bottom for the most menial jobs, but they have salt rubbed and pressed into their wounds by not hearing anything from recruiters.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It can be changed, and Wales could lead the way. By firms coalescing together, perhaps under a “Visible Graduate” campaign, and making a pledge to inform each and every applicant about where it is their application went wrong and how it could be improved, this rapidly brewing scandal could be extinguished quickly. It would be a fantastic way of meeting corporate social responsibility and enhancing brand image.

There was once upon a time when a Prime Minister could look at us in the face and say to us “You’ve never had it so good”. How things have changed! It’s high time for us to reclaim our economy to give our graduates a brighter hope and a brighter future.

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