If the future for graduate job hunters after Brexit was an essay question, there’d be no one right answer. With Brexit constantly in the news and the stream of updates set to continue for months and years to come, it’s perilous to generalise about the likely impact on graduate careers, let alone to offer any definitive advice. However, here at TARGETjobs we’ve been listening to both students and graduate employers, and have compiled a list of students’ top six frequently asked questions about what Brexit will mean for them as they decide what to do after university, and start applying for jobs.
Two key concerns about Brexit and graduate jobs
Students’ questions about Brexit boil down to two key concerns: prospects and professional etiquette. You may well want to know what Brexit will mean for your career in the long term, but you are also likely to be focused on the immediate next step: applications, interviews and assessment centres. Could a Brexit faux pas mean falling at the first hurdle?
We’ve put together some information and tips to help you forge ahead with your job hunt with confidence, and if there’s one key point to remember from all of this, it’s not to let economic and political uncertainty put you off taking control of your career planning and making decisions about your future.
1. Will Brexit affect the graduate jobs market?
Despite uncertainty over Brexit and the UK's future relationship with the EU, in autumn 2019 the graduate jobs market was buoyant. You certainly shouldn’t put off applying for graduate jobs based on a mistaken belief that there aren’t any. There are – and, as ever, graduate recruiters are keen to hire the talent they need to succeed in the future.
A survey of members of the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) published in September 2019 explored employers’ predictions about the factors that would lead them to recruit fewer students than they otherwise would have done over the next five years. The prospect of an economic recession topped the list and was mentioned by 36% of employers, while 34% thought Brexit would lead them to reduce recruitment. However, the report from ISE – which includes many big graduate recruiters among its members – also found that student recruitment was strong overall. Overall, the number of graduates recruited by ISE members who took part in the survey was up by around 10% since 2018, with particularly strong growth in recruitment in education, policing and the built environment.
2. Will Brexit affect my long-term career prospects?
There are many factors in the mix when it comes to your career, both in the short and the long term; Brexit is just one of them. Your choice of profession and specialism, and how well suited you are to what you want to do, will have a huge impact on your future. Take charge where you can: the more time you put into exploring your options, deciding what to do and making yourself the best possible candidate, the better placed you will be to succeed.
Data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that overall, graduates are more likely to be employed than people who left education with lower qualifications or no qualifications, as well as earning more. According to the 2018/2019 What do graduates do? report published by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU), ‘long-term trends strongly suggest that even if there are shocks in store for the UK economy, graduates are well-placed to weather them and the graduate labour market is not likely to suffer lasting damage.’
3. How will Brexit affect the industry I want to get into?
There are no short cuts here; the only answer is to do your research. We’ve heard a range of views from employers in different industries on the likely impact of Brexit, and there can also be marked variation across specialisms. For example, here’s our take on what Brexit will mean for would-be solicitors and barristers:
- How to talk about Brexit in a law firm interview (partners from law firms discuss the likely impact for 19 different specialisms)
- How to talk about Brexit in a pupillage interview (barristers explain which areas of law are most and least likely to be affected: includes a basic guide to the EU)
If you do your employer research thoroughly, you should be able to find out if any representatives of organisations you want to work for have expressed views on how Brexit is likely to affect particular specialisms, or the business or industry as a whole.
- What’s the outlook for graduate job hunters after the EU referendum? (a snapshot of student and employer views after the vote)
4. Can I raise the subject of Brexit at careers fairs?
Careers fairs are your chance to meet employers and ask them what you want to know, but bear in mind that the time you have to talk to graduate recruiters will be limited. It's best to focus on gathering information that helps you understand and improve your job prospects – depending on the nature of the role you're interested in and the work of the employer, Brexit may be more or less relevant. Think about what you really want to find out and work out your questions and how to phrase them in advance. Employer research will help here too – if you’re well informed, you’re more likely to ask a good question that will elicit a useful answer.
5. When I’m at an assessment centre, is it OK to talk about Brexit?
If you are given a case study exercise that involves Brexit, or are asked an interview question about it, you’ll have to address the subject, drawing on your employer and industry research and understanding of current affairs. If Brexit is likely to have a direct effect on the industry you want to join, understanding the relevant issues will help you show your commercial awareness.
What about making small talk with recruiters at social times such as meal breaks? If you’re thinking about raising Brexit in a social context, be aware that you might end up involved in a disagreement. If Brexit comes up on the day, be careful not to make any assumptions about other people’s views on the subject.
You may find it useful to think about topics of conversation in advance, and your employer research will help you identify a range of possible talking points. For example, you could bring up a project the company has been involved in that particularly interests you.
- Graduate assessment centre etiquette: handling the social side
- How to be your best self at assessment centres
6. If I’m asked a commercial awareness question, can I use Brexit in my answer?
Is Brexit directly relevant to the commercial performance of the area you want to work in? If it is, this could be a good opportunity to show you’ve done your research into your preferred specialism, the employer and the industry. Again, this is where it will help you to be aware of any statements that representatives of the employer have made on the subject. Could key projects or industry regulations be affected in specific ways, or is the impact still uncertain? Again, make sure you’ve done your research. If the impact is as yet unclear or the likely impact is changing and evolving rapidly, you could acknowledge this and go on to discuss a range of possible outcomes. You’re more likely to impress an employer with a factual approach than with apparently baseless opinions.