The Catch 22 Of Being A Graduate

Tuesday, 2 February 2016


I've studied for three years, achieved a First Class Honours degree in Journalism and have industry experience under my belt. That might sound similar to your story, and that must definitely mean we're going to walk into jobs, right? Oh. So. Wrong. I've spent tens of thousands of pounds on further education, I've invested time, blood, sweat and tears into working my ass off and I'm still looking for degree-related employment. Granted, I may have only been searching for something industry related for six weeks, but I'm uncertain as to how long those six weeks are going to turn into. Getting the interviews isn't the problem - I'm being noticed, but I'm not standing out in and amongst the graduates who can actually afford to work for free for more than two weeks.

Entry level roles have seemingly been replaced by internships, clouded by the sudden realisation that some of the most perfect positions are unpaid. I fully understand and comprehend a week or two of unpaid work experience but some companies are offering three to six month unpaid internships. UM HELLO, I HAVE A DEGREE. What the holy hell is going on? Don't get me wrong, I know experience is invaluable, but who can realistically afford to work unpaid for that amount of time? More often than not, full travel expenses aren't even covered which only adds more fuel to the fire. Yes I'm living at home but I have rent to pay, outgoings and I still need to live so for me, and many others, it's unfeasible to accept an unpaid position.

A lot of the time the internships don't guarantee a full-time paid position at the end of it, meaning you'll be dropped back into the pool of unemployed graduates. I went to University so I could fulfill a career in my chosen industry that I'm so ridiculously passionate about. This means that I'm not prepared to give up and settle, but with unpaid internships inundating job vacancy feeds, the fight is even harder than usual. Unless you've got money behind you or have access to funds that can cover you during an unpaid internship, these positions are demonstrating that key industries are sometimes being shaped by privilege. And since when was it okay to condone an elitist approach? Because it definitely doesn't sit well with me.

Another problem is experience. You need experience to get a job but you need a job to get experience. And if you can't financially afford to complete an unpaid internship, the stakes are even higher than usual. Getting a job is cut-throat enough as it is, never mind when you're competing with thousands of other fully qualified graduates fighting for those gold dust positions, especially when some of them are working for free. And if you even attempt to question it, there'll be a queue of people behind you willing to do it for free. Thing is, I'm not unwilling, it's just exceptionally unrealistic and unfeasible. Why should an internship be based on who can afford it over the best candidate for the job in some cases?

I've got a plethora of unpaid pieces of writing published I've completed in my own time, alongside having juggled my degree, blog and industry work experience but I'm struggling with where to go from here. Maybe it's a game of persistence, but I can't seem to shift the feeling of not being good enough for the majority of internships or positions I've applied for. I don't have enough experience, so I've been told over and over again, and it's hard to showcase my strong work ethic, drive and commitment to the industry without being given a chance to show what I'm capable of. Of course I didn't think a degree would land me a job straight away if I clicked my fingers, but I certainly thought that my positive attitude combined with a little experience and proven commitment, opportunities would be a little more forgiving.

As an intern your helpful nature and hard-working attitude helps a team. Your work or ideas are often published or used, and more importantly, although your time is appreciated, it should also be paid for. Interning five days a week doesn't leave any scope for any source of income which feels a little bit like exploitation. Not being paid for contributing to a business and an industry, especially when you're educated to degree level, feels like you're being undervalued and underestimated. It might be a catch 22 we've unwillingly been immersed in as graduates fighting to enter an industry, but we're not quitters. It may take us longer, but at least when we do succeed, we'll have worked bloody hard to get there. Here's to perseverance, kicking ass and being fabulous.

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