By Ashley Hever
What do I have in common with Prince Charles, JK Rowling, Jo Whiley and Bear Grylls? No, it’s not castles (didn’t know you lived in a castle? Ed.). What we have in common is that we all graduated from university with the same grade: a 2:2.
I was the first in my family to go to university and I had absolutely no idea how to improve my employability while studying so as to give myself a fighting chance to get a job at the end of my studies. I am trying to remember if I even went to a careers fair or visited the careers service while at university. It was also an issue that I had no idea what the ‘Milkround’ was, so when I started looking for jobs after graduation, rather than during my last year, I missed out on all those graduate roles that had been advertised and closed before I even started looking.
Looking back I can see how there are a lot of unwritten rules when you go to university. If I could go back in time I would have tried to find out all these rules. Which is the main reason why I’ve helped put together these blog pages. Here you can find help on all sorts of employability-related topics: how to organise your job search, advice on why you should consider doing an internship or placement, why you should seek help from your university’s careers service, interview and assessment centre tips, how to keep yourself motivated, and many more.
So is leaving university with a 2:2 really the end of the road? Well, when I graduated it was definitely a road block. Twenty years ago most businesses were not focusing on diversity, and in particular social mobility, like they are now. In fact, I would have probably been rejected at application form stage by most of the big graduate recruiters.
But here’s the thing: while at University I played football and joined the ski team. I was also elected the social secretary for my hall in my first year. If only I had visited my careers service they probably would have explained to me that this demonstrated leadership, communication, and organizational skills and would have told me to use the softs skills I gained as an example in my job interviews.
I didn’t work during term time but what I did do is work in an incredibly busy pub during all of the holidays to fund my time at university. This gave me and unrivalled opportunity to learn customer service, sales and teamwork skills, not to mention improve my work ethic and resilience. All soft skills that most graduate recruiters are looking for.
After 18 months of trying to get a graduate job and probably over 60 rejections (from those that did actually respond) I was beginning to think that getting a 2:2 was in fact the end of the road for me in terms of a great career. I eventually found a job working in a bank and although I enjoyed it I wasn’t fulfilled. After unsuccessful applications to Ceefax (yes, this is how long ago it was) and Hollyoaks to be a script writer, I saw an advert in the local paper for graduate management trainees in the local area. I had no idea who it was for, but it was for a graduate role and they were ok that I had a 2:2.
The rest, as they say, is history. 16 years on and I have recently been promoted to Director, the first openly LGBT Director at Enterprise. What I will say is that the recruiter who interviewed me at the time gave me every opportunity to sell myself as well as my university and personal experience. Remember all the skills that I mentioned above? She said something that I will never forget: treat this interview as “your sales pitch to me”.
Today, I’m thankful that graduate recruiters look at so much more than just your degree result. Companies such as Enterprise want a diverse pool of talent applying to them, so they will visit more universities than ever before and will accept applications from any degree discipline, in order to attract the best possible talent. Not just from those that fit a particular stereotype.
So if you are on track for a 2:2 when you graduate you do need a good plan, but it certainly isn’t the end of the road. According the Higher Education Statistics Agency (2013-14), the percentages for those in full-time employment six months after graduation is almost exactly the same for those with firsts, 2:1s and 2:2s. So what should you do?
Finally – regardless of the university you attended, the subject you studied and the degree you attained, Enterprise will always look at how you perform against our competencies and judge you on that alone.
For me, my 2:2 degree was just the beginning. I focused on my skills, which then enabled me to start a career with a great company who doesn’t just talk about diversity but lives it day in day out. So if you’re currently looking for a graduate job, make sure you browse all the vacancies we have available across the UK.
Voted Graduate Employer of the Year at the 2016 TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards by UK students and a panel of experts.