Graduates who worked hard on their studies but spent their summers doing bar work or a shop job will miss out on the best graduate jobs in 2013, analysts have said.

In an astonishing illustration of employers’ ever-increasing demands on young applicants, half of the UK’s top graduate recruiters said those without relevant experience have “little or no chance” of being offered a job at their firm this year, even if they have a first-class degree from a top university. Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, said:

“This latest research confirms that taking part in work placements or internships whilst at university is now just as important as getting a 2.1 or a first-class degree. Graduate recruiters warn that in a highly competitive job market, new graduates who’ve not had any work experience at all during their studies are increasingly unlikely to be offered a good graduate job after university.”

While on one hand it seems fair that employers should favour candidates with experience over those without, Graduate Fog is concerned that this now seems to be an issue of the quality and relevance of that experience. What they seem to be saying is that a candidate who has spent their summers working as a waitress is not as impressive as one who has spent their summers working for a big PR firm or at an investment bank. If that is the case, is it really fair? Are all the best opportunities really open to all?

PR internships are often unpaid – and investment banking internships are always in big cities, usually London. If you are an undergraduate whose parents live in a rural area or you can’t afford to work for low wages, can you hope to compete with those based in cities who have greater financial support from their families? The report also showed that a third of this year’s entry-level positions will be filled by graduates who have already worked in their organisation, so it’s clear that getting ‘in’ with the right people as an undergraduate is a major boost to your job hunt once you graduate – an enormous advantage. But what if you’re a young person who is not in a position to be able to gain that advantage?

The good news is that the total number of vacancies among the big graduate recruiters is expected to rise by 2.7% in 2013, echoing the findings of the recent Association of Graduate Recruiters report which also predicted a jump this year. However, recruitment is still well below pre-recession levels – this year’s intake is 11% less than it was in 2007. And, with many of the Class of 2012 still struggling to find their way into proper, paid, full-time jobs, this looks set to be another year of tough competition for the best graduate positions.


Are good quality work experience opportunities really open to all? Is it fair that an unpaid internship may be seen as more valuable than a shop job, when so many young people are struggling with their finances? Are graduate recruiters demanding more and more from their young applicants? And are you confident you will be able to offer what they’re looking for? Could you afford to do the best internships during your summer holidays – or did you have to focus on finding a job near you that paid a decent wage?


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