Challenges Faced by Graduates in the UK: Adopting an Entrepreneurial Approach to Job Seeking

It is estimated that the UK economy will have shrunk by 5.5% in 2009 according to the Bank of England, whilst E&Y forecast it to be 4.5%. Not only is the economic squeeze having an negative impact on people across the spectrum, it is also hampering the graduates in seeking effective graduate positions

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters in the UK, 335,000 of graduates, (also known as Gen Y), are graduating in the summer of 2009 in the UK. Many will be graduating knowing very well that the job marketplace will be a very challenging one because of the continuing and challenging economic recession.

Furthermore, employment agency, conducted a survey of 1400 graduates and their survey found that not only was the current market place quite challenging in securing employment, but almost half of the respondents were unable to find gainful employment.

The Challenges Faced by Today’s UK Graduates

So what does this mean for anyone graduating and anyone else this year? Economically, things are still very challenging and likely to remain challenging for a while longer, but this should not deter graduates to wait until the upturn and then resume the job hunting process. By doing so, graduates run the risk of not being prepared with an effective skills, competency and experience portfolio to present to potential employers.

Challenging and turbulent times requires graduates to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and be very innovative in securing employment. The more inventive a graduate is, the greater the likelihood of success in gaining invaluable skills which will be appealing to potential employers.


Needless to say, the employment landscape is a challenging one, but more so for people entering into the workplace for the first time. Some of these challenges are highlighted below:

  • The competition is stiff for graduates entry level positions
  • Skills gap and some graduates have no real commercial experience
  • Resume/CV does not accurately reflect skills and competencies which are likely to appeal to a potential employer
  • Many candidates don’t know how to articulate their skills in a way which is employer friendly
  • Not knowing who to turn to seek expert advice on career related issues so therefore risking missing out on potential opportunities and experiences

What Can Graduates Do to Enhance Their Employment Chances?

Conventional methods of finding employment through graduate placements and agencies may not be producing the desired results for many graduates. This can be a frustrating and disheartening experience, especially when great effort and energy has gone into filling in endless application forms and submitting CVs. However, the savviest of the graduates will be the ones who are more successful than their peers because they will have demonstrated initiative and enterprise, which incidentally are professionally appealing traits.

Graduates who display an entrepreneurial flair when job seeking stand a better chance of gaining invaluable skills and experience. For those who are not lucky enough to secure immediate employment, the following checklist may prove to be useful:

  • Network with people and professionals in the field of interest.
  • Shadow someone in the field to gain great insights as well as experience.
  • Volunteer or write thought pieces for management to gain credibility in a certain industry/niche area
  • Make a list of people who are able to assist in the job hunting process including family and friends.
  • Graduates need to learn how to sell themselves better in terms of CVs, skills and interviews.
  • Gaining some work experience and more information can be found at the National Council for Work Experience website.
  • Think positive. The upturn will eventually come but now is the time to capitalise on building the CV and skills set.
  • Create a peer mastermind group to seek peer support in job hunting. Peer support can play an important role in maintaining motivation, enthusiasm and optimism.

It’s not all Doom and Gloom

Traditionally, and in more bullish times, graduates just needed to complete a good education, and then try for a graduate career on one of the many graduate training programs. However the stark reality for many graduates in the recession of 2009 is different. Not only are graduates expected to complete with great degrees, graduates are also expected to demonstrate many employer friendly skills and competencies.

It is not all doom and gloom, and where there are challenges, there are many opportunities too. The Association of Graduate Recruiters has found that graduate recruitment in 2009 has slowed down just by 5%. The graduates, who are relying solely on recruitment agencies and milk rounds, stand to lose the most because challenging time requires innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. However, a concerted effort is now required by graduates and no doubt, this may yield very successful results

Readers may also like to read articles on managing Gen Y in the workplace and Gen Y and Boomers are not so dissimilar, as well as innovative thinking.