Graduates who take ‘stop-gap’ jobs after finishing university because they can’t find a graduate role are being urged to move on quickly. New research shows that one in four who takes a non-graduate job – such as in retail, construction or catering – will find themselves employed in the same position in three and a half years’ time.

The figures from the New Employment Foundation, commissioned by the NUS and published yesterday, raise fresh concerns about the large number of graduates who are being forced to lower their aspirations and take any work they can get. The lesson is clear: if you do take one of these jobs, don’t get stuck. Keep looking for graduate roles and move on as soon as you can. The report said:

“Study leavers face a perfect storm. Underlying fractures in the labour market, such as pay polarisation, have surfaced.

“Even those with good graduate degrees are facing months of unemployment or free interning in order to gain access to paid work. Those with no or few qualifications are being left out in the cold.

“Study leavers face a rude awakening. Some will see low returns, at least in the short to medium term, to the personal and financial investment they have made in their education.

“Intense competition in the labour market has created a bumping-down effect where graduates are working in lower-skilled jobs and those who would have formerly taken these positions are further squeezed out of the labour market.

“While the situation seems easier for those graduating from Russell Group universities, the conditions are not ideal for anyone.”

Graduates are being badly affected by the problem of “under-employment”(where people want to work longer hours or in higher skilled jobs than they are) and an increase in “zero hour” contracts (where employees are asked to be available for work but with no guarantee that any will be available).

While prospects for entering low-paid or top-ranking jobs are improving, median paid jobs remain scarce. This would seem to fit with heated discussions on Graduate Fog about the split – and vast salary gap – between the high-paid and low-paid jobs that graduates end up doing.

But there was some good news – the reverse is true too. Researchers claimed “a strong positive relationship” between those employed in graduate jobs six months after leaving university and three years later.

What is the job – and how long have you been doing it for? Are you still looking for a graduate job to move on to – or have you stopped hunting? Do you feel ‘under-employed’ – do you wish you were doing more skilled work, or longer hours? Or did you take the job as a short-term fix – and find you were happier than you expected to be in the role?

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