Graduate view: The ups and downs of the graduate job market

For almost every graduate, high flyer fantasies are often put on hold to attempt to regain a little financial stability and social normality after our studies have finished. We promise ourselves that this stop-gap is a temporary post-university pit stop; however despite the solemn promise to get back on our feet and chase our dreams, life can often get in the way. Whether it is student loan repayments or even rent, at times like this us graduates sometimes have to choose to survive on a wage provided by a menial role rather than to risk it all for their career goals.

When faced with the almost impossible reality of bills that outweigh your wage and minimal job opportunities, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the temping tunnel. However, when I was thrust head first into the blinding light of what’s to come it was not by an exciting career change, but by redundancy. With such little notice I’m forced to find another role that will allow me to merely survive and yet again my aspirations take a back seat.

Just as I declared a state of personal employment emergency, I was invited to take part in a Guardian Careers podcast discussing the latest results from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) survey – could this perhaps be the golden skylight of opportunity opening after the grand oak door of employment slammed in my face?

Upon entering the Guardian building the first thing that hits me is the not-so-subtle ache of longing – I know this is an environment where I should belong. I’m more intoxicated by the place with each step and each person I meet; is this how it feels to be in a job that you love? After taking several deep breaths and gently reminding myself not to squeal like a child on a ferris wheel, myself and the group open up the discussion on the newly released AGR results.

This year’s survey showed that the average number of applications per job has almost doubled in two years, now standing at a grand 83 applications per job in 2011 compared to the meagre 49 per position in 2009. Although these statistics would be enough to bring any graduate out in a cold sweat, AGR reports that confidence amongst graduates is up and the overall quality of applications has also improved. I wonder where these graduates are gaining such confidence when I have first-hand experience of job search heartbreak, but then the realisation dawns that this survey is conducted before students graduate.

If I was asked before I graduated where I saw myself in six months time, I would have described myself as on my way to the top of the world. Little did I know that the reality would in fact see me as the roadkill of the employment industry, still stuck in a job hunt rut one year on. Now as the latest batch of bright eyed and bushy tailed graduates emerge blinking into the daylight as they leave university I’m faced with even more competition – a tough truth to face when I’m a metaphorical badger squashed on the A5.

During the podcast I’m asked if the increase in graduate numbers and applications per role is intimidating, I of course have to say yes – now with more competition to beat, I’m really going to have to step up my game. With regards to a rise in confidence within graduates, I can’t disagree completely. Yes, now that I’m faced with redundancy and the depressing prospect of another year wasted my confidence in the job market may not be high, but my confidence in myself is strong.

I agree job hunting can be a debilitating task, however if like me during university you’ve lived on nothing but baked beans and value muesli for several months, shouldn’t a job search be a walk in the park? There might be an occasional pigeon that soils your sandwich but what else can we do but pick ourselves back up and continue to have confidence in ourselves – after all, we’re graduates aren’t we?

I’m starting this week with a renewed sense of positivity; job hunting is hard work, but now that the Guardian has given me a sample of what one day may be, I can’t stop trying to achieve something I want so badly.

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