Graduated With A 2.2 Or Below? Here’s What To Do
By Suzanne Bearne
From networking to maximising your day job, experts give their advice on finding a job when your degree didn’t meet your expectations
Ripping open up the envelope to see you’ve received a 2.2 or below may not be how you envisaged starting life as a graduate, but don’t be disheartened: a lower degree classification doesn’t mean you’ve hindered your chances of securing your dream career, whatever that might be.
But for those unsure of what next step to take, it’s worth dedicating time to exploring what kind of career you’d like. Think about what interests you and what your passions are. “If you need help, find out if your university careers service can still support you,” says Laura Hooke, a careers consultant working at Loughborough University London. “They may be able to talk to you by phone, Skype or email if you are no longer in the area. See if you can access any useful resources on their website to help you consider the type of work that you want to do.” Visiting the career planner on the Prospects website might also prove fruitful, she says.
Maggie Stilwell, managing partner for talent at Ernst & Young, echoes Hooke’s point about thinking seriously about what kind of the graduate role you’d like. “It’s so important that you think about what you are interested in and what you think you want to do,” she says. “It can be too easy to get a role without valuing yourself and what is going to make you happy and satisfied longer term. When you know that, you can then work out how you get your foot on the ladder – it may not necessarily be something overtly badged as a graduate job or a graduate scheme.”
For those in jobs to pay the bills while they pursue their graduate career, remember to maximise your current role – whether waitressing or working in a shop. “Don’t dismiss the work that you are already doing as you can be building up great work experience,” says Helen Alkin, a recruitment manager at Marks & Spencer. For example, working as a sales advisor is no easy role, and you will already have built up useful skills, says Alkin. Ask to see if it is possible to find some work experience within your current employer – at their head office for example, she says. “We would definitely always look to support internal requests.”
It’s also worth trying to develop skills that are valued by all employers. “Reflect on what you are doing on a daily basis and the skills that you are applying,” says Hooke. “Team work? Customer service? Problem solving? Make a note of some of the significant things that you have handled well, for example a particularly difficult customer query or complaint. These may become useful examples to talk about in future job applications.”
Of course, you can start applying for graduate schemes as many major graduate recruiters now accept people who have a 2.2. But remember, says psychologist Denise Taylor, there can be many routes into your future career, “and it doesn’t have to be a graduate scheme”. It’s worth applying for jobs at medium and small-sized businesses and progressing there before joining a major company, if that’s preferable.
Alkin advises graduates to identify five or six organisations that they really want to work for and focus their efforts on understanding what they are looking for and tailoring applications. “You can also practice any of the ability-type tests used so you are familiar with how questions are phrased and asked,” she says.
Another great way to get an in somewhere is through someone you know. Taylor suggests building contacts, perhaps trying family friends – and trying to wangle a 20-minute meet with someone. If that’s not a viable option, “perhaps volunteer at an event or find people on LinkedIn”, she says.
When applying for jobs, Taylor says CVs should be be focused on the job you want and the needs of the organisation, and what they can offer a company. She advises graduates to showcase “key personal qualities alongside any relevant experience”.
Above all, don’t feel disillusioned. Thousands and thousands of people with a 2.2 or below and have gone on to achieve great careers. As Ball says: “You are likely to have a long working life ahead of you, so don’t feel pressured to get that ‘perfect’ job right away. Take one that you can live with and you may be able to grow it into something that is ideal for you.”