TARGETjobs black logo
A selection of newspaper headlines

Can I get a graduate job in 2020/2021? Looking beyond the headlines

The coronavirus pandemic has already had a significant effect on the economy and the job market, one that will likely continue into the foreseeable future. You’ve likely seen many dramatic headlines, (whether they’re about retracted offers, falling job vacancies numbers or economic uncertainty for years to come) and heard opinions about how this will affect graduates' chances of getting a job.

Seeing stories like these, it can be easy to be disheartened about your own job hunt. However, it’s important to remember that many of these headlines and job hunt myths may not be relevant to your own personal circumstances. There is no doubt that the jobs market will be tough over the next few years, but in this article we look to reassure you that, even if things look bad, there’s reason to be hopeful about your chances.

Headline: 27% of employers are cutting graduate jobs this year

Source: The Institute of Student Employers

Why there might be fewer jobs right now:

  • Due to lockdown and social distancing restrictions, there are likely to be fewer opportunities for ‘stopgap’ jobs (ie a job to earn money while applying for things that better match your long-term interests).
  • There may be fewer graduate jobs advertised during the summer due to annual recruitment cycles – most graduate employers open and set deadlines for their graduate opportunities between autumn and winter and would only reopen them in the summer if they have not filled them or their job offers had been reneged upon. Find out more about when to apply for graduate jobs here.

Why you should still apply for graduate jobs this year:

  • The above statistic is based on a survey of Institute of Student Employers (ISE) members, and as such only takes into account the largest graduate employers that are its members. While it gives a good picture of how large organisations are responding, it is by no means the full picture. Different employers and industries will be affected in different ways and ‘reducing recruitment’ does not mean stopping hiring graduates entirely. Each organisation will have its own strategy to recover from the economic implications of the coronavirus; it is likely that they will increase hiring in areas that support potential future growth and cut back on areas that are less important to it. This may be in line with general sector trends, but you should keep in mind that how these changes will affect your job hunt will differ depending on your specific career goals, preferred location and so on. Instead, check with individual employers to find out how their recruitment plans have been affected – as a starting point, they have been updating their plans on NextStepSupport.
  • The flipside of the above statistic is also true. Over 70% of ISE employers are, reportedly, still recruiting as usual – while these roles may be more competitive, it’s only if you don’t apply that you will be certain to miss out on these opportunities. Be sure to make the strongest application possible: look for ways to boost your skills from home or gain experience during the pandemic.
  • Even if ‘graduate schemes’ are unavailable at your employer of choice, don’t overlook other ways into the employer. There may be entry-level roles that will still be suitable for graduates. In time, you may hear of other opportunities within the business or be in prime position to interview for their graduate programmes when they do become available. It’s not uncommon for people to begin graduate schemes a couple of years after graduation (though employers may put an upper limit on the amount of time you can wait).

Myth: doing a masters is always the best alternative to finding a job in 2020

There are positives to undertaking a masters:

  • A masters degree is often the first step if you want a career in academia rather than industry. Alternatively, If you take a conversion course, it could help you meet the requirements of a particular profession or employer that you don’t currently meet: for example, non-law students going into law or an English literature student undertaking a business masters in readiness to apply for jobs requiring a business degree.
  • Arguably, a masters allows you more time on campus to boost your employability by taking part in employer networking activities and gain more work experience – but it is worth bearing in mind that you can still gain work experience as a graduate and use your careers service, and many universities also run specific events for their alumni.

Why a masters degree isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution:

  • A masters degree will not necessarily mean that you’re automatically more employable than other applicants. Typically, an employer will be more impressed by a bachelors graduate who has lots of real-world experience and extracurricular activities to their name than a masters graduate who has spent all of their time studying.
  • Postgraduate study will likely involve taking a postgraduate loan and graduating with a greater amount of debt. You should carefully consider the available financing options and your personal financial circumstances before settling on postgraduate study.
  • While university courses will be running this autumn, the way that they will be run will be affected by the coronavirus. Taught courses will be partially or entirely delivered over video and campuses and campus resources may not be open as usual. While this doesn’t mean you should change your mind about doing a postgraduate degree, you should be prepared for it to be a different experience to previous years at university.
  • Think carefully through your postgraduate study choices. Take a look at our postgrad section for more advice.

Headline: job offers are being cancelled and graduate schemes postponed

Source: ‘Almost a third of graduate jobs have been cancelled or deferred due to coronavirus, poll finds’, The Telegraph

This is every job hunter’s nightmare, but it shouldn’t necessarily stop you from applying for positions or affect your chances of securing a graduate job.

  • From what we understand, many employers, so far, are honouring their current job offers.
  • In cases where start dates have been pushed back, this has usually been done when training and work could not be done remotely.
  • Employers that are recruiting this autumn will have planned their graduate schemes around the need for remote working and social distancing, while aiming to replicate the training and work opportunities that graduates would get any other year. While we can’t say for certain that graduate vacancies this autumn will not be cancelled or deferred, we think it’s likely that, as lockdown eases, the majority of jobs will go ahead – albeit with a number of adjustments.

Myth: entry requirements this year will be stricter (eg jobs won’t accept 2.2s)

It is too early to say whether this will happen, or whether it will be common, for this year’s graduate jobs:

  • While your career plans may be disrupted, there will still be opportunities available for graduates with 2.2s (there were during the credit crunch and the austerity years) – and employers will understand that university assessments and grades may have been affected by the pandemic.
  • Employers will always value soft skills as well as academic achievement. If you are concerned about tightening entry requirements, you can bolster future applications by developing key skills that will be necessary in every job sector. Find out more about these essential skills and competencies here.

Did you know that members with full profiles are more likely to get direct messages from employers?

Don't miss this great opportunity. Register now
Top