Under pressure

Aren't students under enough pressure without thinking about grad jobs? (Source: Jenn Vargas via flickr.)

by Caragh Medlicott

Every student knows the dreaded question. We get it at family parties, social gatherings and sometimes even from complete strangers- “so, what do you want to do after your degree?” Ah, how your heart beats, the sweat collects on your forehead and you have to awkwardly admit, well, you don’t exactly know. The third year of university, is –and I’m just going to come out and say it- an absolute shit-show. As the end of term approaches you’ll become all too familiar with red bull (minus the Jäger), meal-deal dinners and even seeing the occasional person sobbing in the library at 3am. So, should students really have to worry about applying for grad jobs while also putting their blood, sweat and tears into a dissertation? UCAS’s chief-executive Mary Curnock Cook doesn’t think so. Cook has spoken out saying she thinks there is too much emphasis put on students getting graduate jobs straight out of university, and that this pressure can even lead to them making misinformed decisions.

When I first read Cook’s comments I wasn’t sure how to feel, on one hand I think she’s right that students shouldn’t have to worry about applying for jobs while at uni, but at the same time is it just an unfortunate reality that in today’s competitive job market, worry is inevitable?

I’m an MA student and I remember how just over a year ago my friends were thrown into the chaos and anxiety of job-hunting. Students seems to fall into two categories: 1) those who have applied for a gazillion jobs (with varying levels of success) and 2) those who don’t know what day it is, let alone what career path they want to embark on. However, a year on -and having seen what my varying friends have gone on to do- I’d say the only answer is, it is entirely subjective. Some people fold their underwear and write an itinerary for a trip to town, others are a little more ‘go with the flow’ and ultimately, both are fine. Maybe applying for jobs while at uni will make some students feel better, and if they’re productive and good with time management then why not get in early? Really, I agree with Cook; your degree should come first, and so long as it is a student’s first priority, then that’s all that matters.

I have friends who are in grad jobs that they got while still at uni, friends who got grad jobs six months on from finishing uni and friends who don’t have a grad job yet (myself included). There’s nothing wrong with working a “normal” job for a bit to save money or go travelling or just to figure out exactly what it is you want to do.

Everyone is different. Anyone pressuring students or making it seem like their dream job will be snatched from their hands if they don’t have it secured by twenty-one is irresponsible (and probably has some kind of direct investment in such scaremongering.) So, in the words of Louis Armstrong, we have all the time in the world…kind of, anyway.

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