Why Are Placement Years So Valuable For Students?

With an increasingly competitive graduate job market, make sure you have the edge on the competition with work experience.

It doesn’t take a trained economist to point out that the jobs market has changed incredibly in the last decade. As the economy took a down turn so did the number of graduate jobs available but not the number of graduates. The average number of graduates, in fact, has increased from 15% of people in 1992 to a considerable 38% in 2013. In London the figure is closer to 60%.

It’s easy to see the predicament here with supply seemingly outstripping demand. It is most definitely a difficult time to be a graduate. According to the office of national statistics, just over half (53%) of graduates managed to find graduate jobs with the rest taking jobs ranging from sales assistants to care workers. On average, salaries amongst graduates are also 12% lower compared to the same jobs before the financial crash. Jobs in investment banks and fund managers receive approximately 135 applicants per role.

Despite this rather gloomy revelation, graduates should not be looking to burn their degrees any time soon, as there is still an economic advantage to be had, unemployment is lower and salaries higher amongst graduates.

The best course of action for graduates at this time is to seek out experience. Research conducted by High Fliers found that applicants who already had work experience such as seasonal holiday work or university course placements, for the company offering the role, fill more than a third of graduate jobs.

Obtaining a placement and getting the relevant experience before you graduate will put you a cut above the rest and will make your CV stand out.

It is also important to remember that work experience is not only useful for targeting a job at a particular company, it can also help bridge the gap between university and the workplace for graduates, helping them build the necessary skills for work to complement their education, skills such as organisation, communication, teamwork and using initiative. All of which play an invaluable role in any workplace.

Aside from this, it’s a good idea to get some actual office environment experience prior to entering the world of full time employment. Sitting in front of a computer in an open plan office for 8 hours a day can be a shock to the system so another benefit to getting work experience is getting used to this and determining whether or not it suits you.

You may discover that you would prefer a job that changes every day or that requires you to travel. You may even discover that this line of work isn’t for you, which is great to know in advance!

On a personal level, a work experience placement can also lead to developing maturity and independence by gaining new insights about yourself and taking the time to decide what to do in the future. I am certain that the marketing work experienceI undertook whilst studying was critical for me finding employment after university.

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Robert Dickson is a blogger who knows about the graduate employment market all too well.