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The majority of UK university graduates are working in jobs that do not require a degree, with over-qualification at “saturation point”. Overall, 58.8% of graduates are in jobs deemed to be non-graduate roles, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

“The assumption that we will transition to a more productive, higher-value, higher-skilled economy just by increasing the conveyor belt of graduates is proven to be flawed,” said Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for human resources managers.

The report found the issue was leading to “negative consequences” including employers requesting degrees for traditionally non-graduate roles despite no change to the skills needed for the role. As a result, it found graduates were now replacing non-graduates in roles and taking jobs where the demand for graduate skills was either non-existent or falling.

This is a recent headline that has now come to a head, however it is something that has been happening over the last 5 – 10 years. My own experience of each time of advertising a basic grade clerical post, a high number of applicants have been graduates aiming to get on the career ladder.
This is the key; aiming to get on the career ladder. Using these lower paid jobs not requiring graduate skills to develop work skills and experience that will add to a CV. After all if you answered the recruiter’s question, “What have you been doing over the last 6 months since graduating?” with “I’ve been applying for jobs”, this will get a very different response than if you were to say “I decided to get a short term post, working in retail, where I have been able to develop skills in…..”

The essential point here is to notice the skills that are developed in these jobs and how they can be applied to an application for a graduate level job. With the high competition for graduate jobs, some of these work skills are becoming as essential as a degree.

I was in a conversation with an Arts post graduate who was focussed on a career in curating. Each application they made, presented them with the requirement to show experience in administration work. They resolved this by looking to get a part time administration post whilst maintaining their profile in the art world and making applications.

It is increasingly apparent that getting a graduate job will often be a circuitous journey. You may wish to ask parents/guardians and their peers about how they got to the position they are in today. My own journey went from Park and Garden Surveyor, to Urban Ecological Surveyor to AV Technician, to Assistant Training Officer, to Training and Development Officer, to Training and Development Manager to Head of Staff Development to Development Consultant and Coach.

Good degrees don’t assure you a good job. However applying what skills you have, developing work related skills, taking opportunities, having a “can do” attitude, seeking responsibility, and staying focussed will all help you through your journey to the level at which you want to work.

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