In episode 61 of the Graduate Job Podcast I take you through my top 10 tips to help you get a graduate job if you have a 2.2 or 3rd class degree. Now you might be worrying that you won’t be able to get a graduate job, if you got a 2.2 or a third, but I’ll explain why you shouldn’t worry. I’ll take you through all my top tips and explain why you need to focus down on what you really want, why the job market isn’t as bleak as you might and why starting your career at a start-up or smaller company could be just what you need. I also delve into whether further study could be the answer, and how volunteering could set you apart from candidates who have a 2.1. I also cover the power of networking and why you shouldn’t discount starting your own business instead of getting a graduate job. No matter what degree classification you got, 2.2, 3rd, or 2.1 or a first, this is an episode that you aren’t going to want to miss. As always, all links to everything we discuss today with links and a full transcript are available right this very moment in the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/22. Before we start a quick request from me, your feedback helps me to create the episodes you want to hear, so I’ve set up a super simple and very quick survey, as I want the show to best serve your needs. It’s got 5 questions and will take you a minute, so please check it out at http://www.graduatejobpodcast.com/survey. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. But in the meantime, let’s crack on with the show.
MORE SPECIFICALLY IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- My top 10 tips to getting a graduate job with a 2.2 or 3rd class degree
- Why companies are crying out for candidates with a 2.2
- How companies have been relaxing their degree requirements for getting a graduate job
- Why your degree might not matter as much you think
- The importance of work experience in getting a graduate job with a 2.2 or 3rd
- Why smaller companies and start-ups could hold the key to beginning your career
- The power of networking in helping you to get your first job after university
- How charity work could set you apart as you look for work
- Why you might not need a graduate job at all if you start your own business
Transcript – How to Get a Graduate Job with a 2.2 or 3rd Class Degree
Announcer: Welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, your home for weekly information and inspiration to help you get the graduate job of your dreams.
James: Welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, with your host James Curran. The Graduate Job Podcast is your weekly home for all things related to helping you on your journey to finding that amazing job. Each week I bring together the best minds in the industry, speaking to leading authors, entrepreneurs, coaches and bloggers who bring decades of experience into a byte size weekly 30 minute show. Put simply, this is the show I wish I had a decade ago when I graduated.
A big hello and very warm welcome to the 61st episode of the Graduate Job Podcast, we have a very special guest, all the way from North London…..it’s me, yes I will be guiding you through a topic which many listeners hope they won’t face….how to get a graduate job with a 2.2 or third class degree. Should you find yourself in this position, I’ll take you through 10 tips to help you find a graduate job. I’ll take you through why this might not be as much of a handicap to getting a graduate job as you might think, how companies are still desperate for your talent, why start-ups and smaller companies could be a valuable avenue to explore, and how to get valuable work experience along the way, plus much much more. Whether you’re on for a first of a fail, this is an episode you won’t want to miss. As always all links to everything I discuss can be found in the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/22 that’s the number 22 Before we start though let’s have a little message from today’s sponsor who are Career Gym.com. Career Gym is the number one place for you to undertake all of your psychometric tests which you will face when you apply for a graduate job. You can practice verbal, numerical, and abstract reasoning tests all produced by experts, and exactly the same as the ones you will see in the real tests. You can just practice them or you can do them in exam mode, under time pressure, and they come all with detailed explanations and solutions, and you can track your progress and see how you compare against your peers.
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Now, many of the people listening in might be oversees, and as such wondering, what is this man chatting about? What is a 2.2, or a third? So first let’s have a brief explanation of the degree classifications over herein the UK so some of this makes sense. So at the end of your degree you are awarded what is known as an honours degree classification for all of your hard work. If you score over 70% you get awarded first class honours, known as a first, and last year a record 24% of all students got a First.
A grade of 60- 69% is upper second class honours, known as a 2.1, and last year 49% of people got a 2.1, which was another record. A grade of 50-59% is lower second class honours, a 2.2 degree, known colloquially as a Desmond, after Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tutu, get it? And then 40-49% is a third class honours, and under 40% is a fail. For listeners in the USA, a rough rule of thumb comparison with your Grade Point Average GPA would be 3.7-4.0 would be a 1st, 3.3-3.69 probably be a 2:1, 2.7-3.29 would be a 2:2 and below a 2.7 GPA is probably a Third. There is no direct comparison but it would be around there. Now why does this matter, because in recent years many graduate schemes have set a 2.1 degree as the barrier to entry to being able to apply. If you get 2.2 or below you then consequently find yourself barred from applying and consequently the concern is how am I going to get a decent job? Well relax my dear listeners, today we are going explore 10 top tips to getting a graduate job with a 2.2 or 3rd.
So number one on the list of my top 10 tips.
1 – Don’t worry.
After studying hard and many hours in the library, and a lot of expense to get your degree, this might not be what you want to hear, so I’ll say it quietly, but…. Don’t worry. ….your degree classification in the grand scheme of things doesn’t really matter. Yes it matters initially when looking for a job, but a couple of years down the line no one cares about what degree you got, its’ all about what you can do. You might be thinking that a 2.2 or third has you destined you to a life of unemployment, low paid work and flipping burgers…..but don’t worry. Studies show that a high level there is no difference… The Higher Education Statistics Agency says that after 6 months the % of people in full employment is exactly the same for people with either a firsts, 2:1s and 2:2s. Now that might mask the level and type of job, but in terms of full time employment there is no difference. And from my personal experience at work, no one cares what uni you went to, degree you did or what your grades were. It’s all about if you can do the job.
2 – Remember – You are not your degree.
So we started off with good news there, but I’m not going to lie to you, to get where you want to go career wise, you are going to have to work harder than someone with a 2.1. You’re going to have to prove yourself, put the effort in and impress, because all things being equal, if you are up against a candidate with a 2.1, they would pick them over someone with a 2.2. But that is where the importance of mind-set comes in, now it’s so important I have a whole set of YouTube videos on the topic. Head to graduatejobpodcast.com/22 that’s the numbers 22 where I’ve linked to these videos and you can find a full transcript of the episode today. Now why is mind-set important? Let’s go to a quote from Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of the advertising giant the Ogilvy group. ‘I have asked around, and nobody has any evidence to suggest that, for any given university, recruits with first-class degrees turn into better employees than those with thirds (if anything the correlation operates in reverse)’ There you go, for degree qualifications there is no correlation to actual job performance.
Let’s break this down, if you think about what you need to be good at to get a degree it’s essay writing, memorising and regurgitating information in a timed exam in May and June each year. Great skills, but ones which don’t necessarily reflect what companies are looking for. So just because you didn’t get a 2.1, doesn’t mean that you don’t have the skills which companies are crying out for. What you can’t do if you get a 2.2 or 3rd is to start to mope, doubt yourself, or think that you aren’t good enough. Don’t let an arbitrary degree classification define you or what you want to do with your life. Remember you are not your degree. Don’t let your grades keep you down, be positive and confident. This takes us onto point 3. What you do need to do is
3 Focus your efforts.
You need to be realistic, and despite how much you think it is unfair, many companies want a 2.1 degree. Lots don’t, and we will come to that next. But sadly many do. I’ve spoken to many heads of graduate recruiting about their graduate schemes, check out my interviews with EY, Teach First, Allen and Overy etc., links again in the show notes. And the reason they do this is simply due to numbers. They get so many applications as it is that they need to draw the line somewhere and demanding a 2.1 is a simple way to do it. Do they miss out on good candidates as a result? Yes, but for cost and time reasons they acknowledge that that is a price worth paying. As such companies will put their degree requirements front and centre, and this is a key point, you need to keep this in mind with the companies you apply to. If Goldman Sachs say they want a 2.1, don’t even bother applying, because they will filter you straight out without even reading it. It will go straight in the bin. So you need to focus and pick your battles. If you have your heart set on Goldman Sachs then you needed think laterally, and think about what steps are there between you and the job you want. That might be by starting at a competitor getting experience and moving across, or starting at a lower level position with them, showing what you can do and impressing them and working up. Do that thinking early, but save yourself the disappointment of applying for jobs where you will be ruled out straight away. Now the exception to this is if you have some real mitigating circumstances for why you got a 2.1, be it illness, family circumstances etc. Where this is the case don’t just fire off an application with a little note, because, they probably won’t ever read it and you will just get rejected. Get in touch with the recruitment team and make sure that you speak to them first. Be honest with them about what happened, and have a better excuse than the weather was nice and made it hard to study, or that you got sucked into Breaking Bad.
So to re-iterate, the key point here is focus. Focus on the companies that are looking for graduates with a 2.2, which leads us nicely onto point 4 which is
4 – Lots of companies want candidates who have a 2.2.
Yes – you heard that right, despite what you might have heard, loads of companies accept applications from people with 2.2s. Not all, but a lot do, and an interesting trend over recent years is that many companies recently have been relaxing their degree requirements. Take EY, their managing partner for talent Maggie Stilwell who said “‘Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment. It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.’ As I said earlier, what you do at uni doesn’t correlate with how you do in work. So who are these companies, well I won’t list them all here but I’ve linked to them in the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/22, but they include Grant Thornton, Deloitte, Google, Apple, Civil Service Fast Stream, Mi5, GCHQ, Jaguar Land Rover, Unilever, P&G, plenty to keep you going no matter what field you are interested in. So good news there. But…….following on from this with point 5 is
5 – Don’t forget smaller companies or start-ups.
Many people have a definite set off ideas about where they want to work after uni. I was quite company agnostic, but I knew I wanted a big company with a well-defined graduate scheme of a couple of years where I could rotate between different departments and get taste for different areas and see which parts I could enjoy, as at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do. As a result I had closed myself off to the full range of opportunities available with start-ups or smaller companies. Graduates often get lured into the attraction of applying to the big milkround companies, mainly because they are the ones who turn at university and sell themselves to you, and also have the big advertising budgets. However, an interesting stat for you courtesy of episode 26 with Simon Reichwald. The top 500 graduate employers take only 10% of the total graduate market every year. Just 10%, so 90% are going to work for smaller companies or start-ups. That is a huge figure and huge market out there to be applying to. Taking for example start-ups, working for a start-up is going to be very different than working for a huge graduate employer, the career and progression path might not be as defined, but you could find yourself with a lot more responsibility than you would at a big employer. Your role will likely have more variety as they could expect you to get involved in lots of different things, you could be working directly for the founders and CEOs. Your ideas could be listened to a lot more and you could have more scope for picking things up and running with them. Now some people will listen to this and thing, yep that sounds great! Others could be thinking urrrgh, not what I want. And that is fine; the key thing is to think specifically about what is going to work for you and go from there, but to make sure you don’t overlook this huge market of possible and exciting jobs. Working for some hot tech start up in Shoreditch might be more exciting than doing the photocopying on a big grad scheme. Have a think. Check out my interviews with Alistair Paterson CEO of hot UK tech start up Digital Shadows in episode 9 for information on what they look for from candidates, and also episode 43 with Rob Blythe from Instant Impact who are a recruitment company who specialise in placing grads in smaller companies and start-ups. Checkout the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/22 for all the links.
6 -Further Study
Alternatively, instead of working straight away, another possibility is going on to do further study, which can be an attractive option, especially if you don’t know what else to do or don’t want to get a graduate job yet. Where I would recommend this is where post graduate course have a strong vocational aspect so are going to set you up nicely for a graduate job at the end of it, or if it is a required element of your chosen career path. In those situations fill your boots. However if not, I would personally think long and hard about it. For me, it has several drawbacks, one is the cost. They aint cheap, what are you looking at 12-15k plus living expenses. It’s a lot of money. And when I was sitting on the other side of the recruiting fence, you know what I preferred more than further study? Experience. Someone who had worked for a year was more attractive than someone who had spent another year studying a random topic. But….getting experience can be difficult. So there is another way. Imagine if you took that same 15k you were going spend on a masters and used it to invest in yourself. That buys a lot of experience, and more importantly you have the power to decide where you want to go and get the experience. For example, say you want to get into accounting and what would be great is to get some experience. So why not broaden your horizons from getting experience at the local firm, go and volunteer your time working with a charity of your choice somewhere round the world where you could help bring your expertise to helping them do their books and their accounts. You get to help a good cause, get international experience and give your CV a huge boost, and have the fun of living in a new country. Pick a country with lower cost of living than the UK and your can do this for much less than you think. You can follow your passion into whatever area you want, helping homeless kids in Calcutta, or a charity helping sea turtles in the Maldives. Imagine how many great competency questions you could answer based on 3-6 months doing that. Might it be daunting and take some effort to organise? Yes, but that’s why people don’t do it. So slight movement off topic but there you go. Think hard about further study. You don’t want to spend 15 grand and a year of your life to find yourself in the same position when it comes to getting a job.
7 – Volunteer
And Point 7 builds on the previous point and is about the power of Volunteering. Work Experience is crucial, employers want a safe bet, they want to know that hiring you will be a sure thing and you will get on and earn them money. By showing that you have done the work, or something similar before you can tick that box, which is why work experience is so important. Now where to go for work experience? Charities are a great place to start, namely because they are always looking for people, charities tend to be everywhere no matter where you are listening to this, and often they are also more flexible with how you can volunteer your time than a company might be, and it always looks good on a CV….’you know, I do a lot of work of charity’. Whatever the field you want to get into you can find a way to help with those skills, say you want to get into graphic design, offer to design their posters, websites, leaflets or general communication. You want to get into social work, go and help with the local refugee societies, or homeless shelters. E-commerce? Go and see if you can help a local charity put their high end goods online. The possibilities are endless, it just takes some thought. Crucial though is to ask in the right way, and this matters whether you are approaching a charity, or a company asking for work experience. Well worth a listen in this respect is my episode with Rob Bence in episode 36. Rob’s advice is when you approach people about work experience remember that whoever you are going to is probably going to be very busy, and just the offer of, “Can I come and work in your office for free?” is not actually that attractive to them, because they then think urrrgh, that is going to be effort. I’ve got to find work for you to do. What are you going to do day? How am I going to train you? Etc. etc. The better approach is to sell the benefits of what you are going to do for them. “I want to come in, and this is what I want to do, and this is how it will benefit you, and this is the difference that it is going to make. Before you send it, think about what objections that they are going to have to you coming in, and then try and mitigate them in your approach. Talk about the benefits, but also how you are a self-starter, work under your initiative, you wont need looking after or managing etc. Make it easy for them to say yes. And the beauty of work experience is that you never know where it is going to lead
Which takes us on to point 8. Networking. Now people can find this a scary term, but it doesn’t have to be in practice. Again we’ve covered this on the show so I recommend you check out episodes 3 with Richard Maun and also 23 with Stefan Thomas, head to the show notes at, come on you should know this by now. www.graduatejobpodcast.com/22. Networking is important as, and it’s a cliché, most jobs are never advertised. Ok, that’s not true with big graduate schemes, but is for the other 90%of positions we talked about. So by doing work experience and volunteering you are networking, whether you think you are or not. You can keep it reactive and keep it to just the people you happen to meet, or you can get out there and make new contacts proactively. How do you do this…..well the crucial first step is what we mentioned back in point 3. Focus….Focus on the industries and companies you are interested in, and then get on Twitter for a start, get a nice professional profile and start following and interacting with these companies and the people in this industry. Start retweeting their stuff, replying, sending them stuff you think might be interesting. This is all networking, and when you meet them in real life you will have something you can discuss with them. See what exhibitions, job fairs, talks, expos etc. they will be appearing at and then go and introduce yourself. I think I’ll do a separate episode on this in more detail, but it’s simply about getting yourself out there and doing what you can to get yourself in front of people who might be able to help you find a job. It’s not about asking for a job directly, but as I said listen to episode 3, Richard Maun has a great question you should always keep in mind. ‘Who do you know who?’ ‘Who do you know who might be looking for an intern, or help with their marketing etc. etc.’ Keep asking that phrase and you will be a networking legend before you know it. Check out those episodes and get networking!
9 – Start Your Own Business
So moving on to the penultimate point. You know you don’t have to get a job, why not take a leap and start your own business. Instead of putting a load of effort into getting a job, why not put that same effort into starting your own business. It has never been easier or cheaper. For £50 you can yourself a domain, website and some business cards and you’re off. With a website you can be appealing for business around the world. Age is nothing but a number; don’t let that hold you back, if you have a good idea go for it. Now this won’t be for everyone, but for some of you you have that entrepreneurial fire burning inside of you then don’t get a graduate job and spend the next ten years in regret and feeling trapped, start your own business now. Thing is though, after uni is the best time to start a business, you probably are unencumbered by things that will bog you down later in life, mortgages, kids, wives etc., you’re also used to scrimping as a student so bootstrapping it shouldn’t come as too much of a hardship, and you also have a great network of people around you from university who can help. And from a job point of view, if you do spend a year working on a business and it doesn’t work out, then you can just get a job. Imagine how many amazing examples you will have for all those long competency questions, you will learn so much and push yourself so much you will be super employable! So it is worth giving it a go! For more tips on making the push to self-employment check out my episode with Brad Burton, and my upcoming interview with author MJ Demarco, as usual all links in the show notes.
So there you go, 9 tips so far to help you get a graduate job with a 2.2. As a recap
1 – Don’t worry. 2- Remember, you are not your degree. 3 – Focus. 4 –Companies are crying out for people with a 2.2. 5 – Don’t Forget the Smaller Companies or Start Ups. 6 – Further Study. 7 – Volunteer. 8 – Network. 9 – Start Your own business.
And the final one is……
10- Be patient
If you have a dream of where you want to be, be prepared to play the long game. It’s not where you start that matters, it’s where you finish. 2 years down the line nobody is going to care what degree you did or got. It’s all about what you can do. It might take you slightly longer to reach you destination, but never give up. It’s never over if you never give up. Keep focussed on where you want to get to and keep going one step at a time.
So there you go, my top 10 tips to help you get a graduate job with a 2.2 or 3rd class degree.
Drop me a note and let me know if you enjoyed the episode of me chatting on today. If you have enjoyed it you can thank me by taking my super quick survey over at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/survey. It helps me to create the shows you want to hear, and this episode was actually a request from Deepak who filled in the survey. So thanks to Deepak, this one is for you. I hope you enjoyed the episode today, but more importantly, I hope you use it, and apply it! See you next week.