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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 15:03 GMT
Stuck in neutral at career crossroads
In this week's reader's article, unemployed arts graduate Katy Smythe, from Stirling, tells of the challenges facing arts graduates looking for a job.

IS THIS THE BEST THAT IT GETS?

As a recent arts graduate of a respected Scottish university I've found myself at a bit of a crossroads.

Graduation
Many students leave university with large debts

I'm intelligent, dedicated, eager to learn and willing to take on any task thrown at me. I've always strived to do the best job possible.

I'm approachable, confident, punctual, a good communicator, a good motivator and diligent.

But I'm unemployable. In fact, I'm not even worth an interview.

Despite the fact that I am all of the above, received an upper second and have no ties so am willing to travel for the right employment opportunity, I have no practical experience.

It's getting hard not to take the sheer volume of rejections personally.

The fact is that there is no such thing as an easy employment route for a student of the arts.

I'm unemployable. In fact, I'm not even worth an interview

Graduate recruitment schemes are catered for those with degrees relating to business or finance, not Shakespeare and Bronte.

Indeed, even when such arts-based schemes do operate, they are vastly more competitive than their business counterparts.

Not only do they offer fewer placements but they simply expect more; voluntary work, extra-curricular activities - you name it, they want it.

However, for the majority of university students (myself included) the need to work in order to support ourselves outweighed our desire to gain this "valuable life experience".

Regardless of the fact that I juggled full-time employment with my studies, by neglecting the options that would have made me stand out from the other 300 applicants I've inadvertently closed a number of doors and made joining the real world all the more difficult for myself.

William Shakespeare
Recruitment schemes favour business rather than Shakespeare students

I keep being reminded of the old cliché that it's never too late to turn things around.

There's always experience out there for people who seek it but the sad fact is that I, like many other graduates, are caught in a vicious circle.

I am all too aware of the debt that I've incurred over the last four years and am especially conscious of the looming graduate endowment payment of £2,000 that is expected in April.

I simply can't afford to give up time where I could be earning in favour of getting that valuable experience that employers in the arts seek.

Apparently this is the time in my life when everything shifts into fifth gear; new jobs, new homes, new relationships and new experiences all shaping the person I am destined to become...

If this is really the case, why do I feel like I'm stuck in neutral?

You sent us your views on Katy Smythe's article. The following represents the balance of opinions we received.

I graduated from Stirling with a degree in politics 10 years ago. Now I work as a part-time cleaner in Glasgow University. I stopped going for graduate jobs when I was 27, because of continual rejection and rebelled against every temp job, bar job or labouring job I took to pay the bills because I had a degree. Now I'm locked in this downward spiral, where I'll only get work on or below the level of my previous job skills. To get the cleaning job I had to omit the fact that I had a degree and filled those four years with a fictitious job in a supermarket. I was scared that they wouldn't employ me and I was desperate for work. So forget that you even have a degree or it will drive you crazy. Just work. Anywhere. Get into the habit of working and something will turn up. The degree will still be there when the time comes to use it. I'm 32 and unemployable with a CV like a 'phonebook 'cos I spent too many years being bitter because my school teachers lied to me. Don't waste any more time. Just get on with it. Good Luck.
Steve, Glasgow

I can sympathise with Katy's predicament and hope that she manages to sort something out soon. However, all of the responses left by graduates so far seem to have neglected a rather crucial point: why has no-one yet suggested contacting a careers adviser? As a graduate of Stirling Katy can access the Careers Service there, or at any other university in the UK, for helpful advice and guidance on what to do next. As it happens, Katy should probably have accessed and seen her Careers Adviser when she was in 2nd year, not leave it until after graduation to discover that she's left things a bit late. Studies have shown that it takes, on average, 2 years to get into graduate level employment from the start of the planning process (Elias & Purcell), so the message is simple: start early!
Careers Adviser, Scotland

I too graduated from a top university in Scotland. I obtained a first class degree in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology. I am now a qualified Chartered Accountant, having trained on a graduate scheme with one of the big 4 accountancy firms. So it just goes to prove that us art students can compete in the big bad world and you don't need a finance/business degree to make you mark.
Mary-Anne, Edinburgh

Reminds me of the four graduates who each have a question that they ask in their jobs. The engineering graduate asks "How does it work?". The science graduate asks "Why does it work?". The economics graduate asks "How much does it cost?". The arts graduate asks "Do you want fries with that?".
AD, Carlisle

Do you actually want the jobs that are easier to get with a business based degree? I studied economics - in part because of the employment prospects - and had no problem finding a management training scheme. I have a job with prospects that many of my fellow graduates would kill for; trouble is I absolutely loathe it. You made a choice to pursue a subject that interested you and I'm sure if you keep trying, there will be a job out there for you. I found it easy to get a job, but at what cost? I have neglected my musical studies and as a result am not the musician I once was. I have not had the opportunity to study arts subjects to the depth I would like. It's a simple trade-off. I'm not sure I made the right choice. You may well discover in time that you made exactly the right choice. The corporate environment can be particularly challenging for someone whose natural bent is towards the arts: something I'm rapidly discovering for myself.
Stephanie, Edinburgh

Everyone in the world's got a degree of some sort these days, leading to a perception that many degrees are worthless. My dog could probably earn a degree from one of the many 'Mickey-Mouse' universities that have appeared over the last fifteen-or-so years. I graduated from Glasgow University over twenty years ago, but I keep the fact quiet in order to avoid being bracketed with the hordes of sub-literate 'graduates' who swamp the landscape today. This is the essence of Katy's problem. No-one can weigh up her potential by the fact that she has a degree, because no-one knows whether a degree is an achievement or a social security benefit, dished out to make the recipient feel 'smart'.
Jim, Glasgow

Swap the arts degree for computer science and that exactly my story until six months ago. A 2:1 from one of Scotland's top unis and well over a year spent getting knocked from job after job - why? Because everyone wants you to have this mystical two years experience before they'll even consider your actual talents. How do you get this two years experience without a job? Beats me. It's a vicious circle and more employers need to remember where they came from and not shut the door behind them.
David, Midlothian

I too graduated with a 2:1, in a Design and Applied Arts degree and then continued my studies to complete a masters degree in a more specialist area. I thought this would give me an edge over other graduates in my field - how wrong I was, it makes me even harder to employ. I don't regret doing the degree - it was enjoyable and I did well, but now find myself having to completely re-think my career choices. Good luck Katy. If all else fails there is always the teaching option.
Carina, Edinburgh

Katy, I feel your pain. I graduated with a BA from the top university in Canada and trawled through careers fairs being told I was valued for my communications skills. Arthur Andersen, PWC, KPMG, they all seemed to put out the line that they valued arts students as much as business students, which was clearly not the case. It became apparent to me though that this is symptomatic of a larger problem. It's not just arts - it's academic degrees in general. My friends in biology, maths, physics, etc, were all struggling and many went to graduate school to become professors because this was the only viable route (and one I have taken). University now is expected to be a vocational experience where you should be employable after your course. A couple of generations ago classics or greats was the course to do... now things have changed. All the best.
Greg Fisher, Oxford

Leave the poor girl alone! When I came to choosing my first degree I didn't want to be stuck in one sector or profession, so I chose something I was really interested in but wasn't necessarily going to lead to a career (politics). This gave me time to consider my options and take other elective modules and see what else took my fancy. Now I am studying for a law conversion after deciding that is what I really want to do. For so many people, 18 is a hard time to decide your future! University makes you a more rounded individual whatever you study. Congratulations on choosing what must have been a stimulating degree and good luck with your hunt for work!
Helen, London

I studies an Arts and Social Sciences degree at university and it is sad to see so many people suggesting that a business or IT degree is somehow better. I graduated in 2004 and struggled to get a job, but I am now working in a job I love with great prospects and have been told by everyone I have worked with that I should get promotion fast, even with a 2:2. At the same time, many of my friends with 'better, more practical' degrees are struggling to cope in a working environment and many of them are now back in Tescos when they feel at home. An arts degree requires research, presentation and networking skills. Many of these skills are not learnt by people sitting in front of a PC all day. I can sympathise with the circle Katy feels caught in, not enough experience but nobody willing to give her any. My only advice is to aim lower on the job market, but be proud of your degree and education and you will shoot up the employment ladder much faster that someone who starts higher up but lacks your motivation and experience. I may not be as high up as I expected to be a few years ago, but my future is looking brighter than I ever imagined.
KT, Inverness, Scotland

I studied engineering at college, which led to going to Uni to do a BEng course. I left after second year to seek out experience in the industry. Here I am 10 years down the line still working offshore and still haven't completed my degree! It's a sad fact that many people who leave Uni after completing their degree are rejected employment due to lack of experience. I think many courses should contain work experience placements during term breaks. Employers should be encouraged to provide more sponsorships.
David, Letham, Scotland

I graduated with a 2:1 in French. Having no wish to become a teacher, I looked around for jobs, and all I could find was trainee sales/recruitment. After months of looking, I gave up all hope, I eventually took a job on a helpdesk for an IT company. I was on £14,000 - not an ideal salary for someone straddling a debt of £16,000 - but it was the only job I could find with prospects. I now have several Cisco qualifications, and am a qualified Mitel IP telephony engineer. I never foresaw myself going into IT, but here I am... It seems to be where the money is, and you don't need a degree. I spent about nine months on the helpdesk before I was given the opportunity to train as an engineer. In total, I took four years (same period of time as my degree) gaining my current qualifications. At the end of this period, I can now command a salary of £30K+. After four years at uni, I was worth £18K. It doesn't take a mathematics degree to work this one out; just as well, as that would be another £12K for the loans company.
Steve, London

Of course education in itself is a good thing but Katy must have known that relevant work experience or extra curricular activities are needed to stand out from the crowd. It seems that she expects to be employed rather than have a hunger or vision of what she wants to do. Plenty of students work part time and gain relevant experience for the world of work. Maybe a review of her CV from a few friends would help.
Robbie, Glasgow

It's funny because I have always been in Engineering/Sciences but finding a job I like has been an aurdous task. I seem to be drawn to the Arts, in fact I believe I am better at that; writing and directing plays on my spare time, entering poetry competitions. It's sad that we have to tailor our profession on what's marketable and useful to the society and not on what we are good at or what we enjoy. Few people can strike this balance. Often, we have to chose between job satisfaction and a fat pay check. As I move to the next phase of my life, being a wife and a mother, the former has become more important to me. You may not have to go back to college but you could take useful courses in management, entrepreneurship and business. That's what I've done. Now, I can work more effectively at doing what I'm good at AND qualified for at some level. Give it time. The truth is, the sky is your limit.
Yekemi, Aberdeen

Welcome to the world of graduate employment Katy! I graduated three years ago with an honours degree in law (and chose not to do the diploma in legal practice). Since then I have worked in a series of low-skilled admin positions that I could have been doing at 20 if I had never taken time out to go to university. I wouldn't say university was a waste of time but it certainly didn't boost my job prospects as much as I might have hoped.
LM, Glasgow

Oh dear, you seem to have come to the realisation that working life is a disappointment. I don't know anyone that likes their job! Maybe you could consider yourself lucky to have had a privileged enough life to have gone to a university and that might cheer you up.
Colin , Edinburgh

It sounds as though Miss Smythe should have thought about the jobs available to her at the end of her course and reviewed her decision a little better. The way the article is written has a hint of a CV to it, maybe she hopes to use the BBC website to entice offers of employment by highlighting her "desperate" situation. If money is a worry for her she should do as most degree holders do, work in a call centre! I have no sympathy for students, I chose to work instead of going into higher education after weighing up the pros and cons. It seems she did not. What job types is she applying for where business graduates are favoured? Obviously not the type of job where a arts degree is essential.
Adrian, Glasgow

Look at the market sectors that have a current skills shortage and target one - IT, social work or teaching for example. Maybe your course choice was not made wisely. Did your degree test your problem solving ability? Did you get to work in a team or perform under pressure? Did you get the chance to put into practice what you learned? University degree or not, there are plenty of approachable, confident, punctual, good communicators, good motivators, diligent and above all intelligent people out there. They are your competitors and it seems, at the moment, they are winning.
Martin, Dunfermline

My only advice to Katy and others would be, although there is no price you can put on sanity and enjoyment of life, practicalities of living and eating do come into play. So learning a trade or further studying a subject which leads to a job will enable you to have a more balanced life where you are free to indulge in your passions whilst still being able to eat and have a roof over your head, that is until you become recognised for your passions and you can give up the sensible side. Good luck.
Sarah, Aberdeen

Katy Smythe's article is not new to graduates and non-grads. I have a MSc. in IT from a top Scottish university, I have 10 years' experience after my masters and I am in the same position of being unemployable as I am "Too qualified and too experienced". When you consider the MSP initiatives of trying to attract graduates from other countries to fill the "skills gap", I ask why, when we have some of the best calibre students and non-students desperate to work and contribute something to our society but we are denied the opportunity, It makes me wonder why I spent all that time and effort to better myself. I think the governments and companies should look closer to home before rushing into initiatives to attract cheap migrant workers and outsourcing to developing nations. After all without jobs who will buy the services and goods that make their huge profits?
James Mackay, Glenrothes

I couldn't afford to go straight to University after I left college with an HND. It was impossible to get a decent job; I was too old for office junior positions, and with no office experience I couldn't get a higher level job. After working for a lot of bad employers in the retail trade I ended up unemployed. Ironically, being unemployed for almost a year turned my life around. I started volunteering at a local Citizens Advice Bureau, and that experience got me into a graduate level job and I'm now doing a degree at night school. Graduates shouldn't have to jump through so many hoops; if employers want particular skills and experience they should enable their employees to build these up while working - its the company who would benefit in the long term.
Carol , Glasgow, UK

I too did an arts degree at Stirling and ran into the same problems at first. I don't regret at all doing an English and history degree because they were subjects I loved and I enjoyed learning more about them. Okay, a business degree may have given me more options on leaving but I would have been so bored at university. When I left with my 2:1 I took an admin job starting at 14K in Edinburgh. It wasn't what I wanted to do but after four years I am now working in a management position in the NHS and my degree plus the admin job experience got me there. I do agree that arts degrees do not get the recognition they deserve but you should not regret doing it. Take a "lowly" job to start with and work hard and it will all come together.
Kathleen, Edinburgh

The inevitable result of increasing the number of graduates four-fold over the past 15 years is that the graduate job market is very much an employers' market. There are far more graduates now than graduate placements, so most have to start at the bottom just as non-graduates do.
Ian, Edinburgh

I graduated with a good degree in the more vocational subject of engineering from one of the top Scottish universities, yet it still took me nearly two years to find a job even remotely related to my studies, even with nearly two years of industrial experience. I sympathise with the number of rejections and trying not to take it personally but when faced with letter after letter saying thanks but no thanks and worse when an application doesn't even merit a response (I know it's hard not to!). All I can say is hang in there, and good luck in finding that job.
Nicola, Glasgow

I graduated with an upper second class honours degree in English Literature in 1999 and spent a whole year applying for graduate jobs while working part time in retail. This led absolutely nowhere so in 2000 I went on to do a postgraduate course in business and IT. After this I started getting invited to interviews at last, and although I still had to start off in relatively low paid temping jobs, I am now earning over 20k a year in a decent job which seems about the expected average for someone in my position. The people on my post grad course who got the best jobs were those who were willing to relocate down south. In short, so many people are doing degrees now that they aren't worth the paper they're written on. Post grad courses are the only way to get a foot on the career ladder. They only take a year and many will be funded for you, depending on subject. Schools should advise pupils that university won't guarantee a good job at the end of it - there's a long way to go after that. Good luck Katy.
Jackie G, Glasgow

Possibly an unpopular viewpoint coming up, but is it just me or do a lot (not all) of students these days seem to expect to walk into their dream job the minute they've graduated? This is not a dig at Katy, but I'm at university for the second time around studying law, previously having done a degree in business in the mid-90s. I worked at the bottom and progressed from there by constantly applying. The more experience you get at any level is what is important. If you send enough cvs and applications throughout, you'd be surprised that eventually someone does give you a chance.
Allan Moore, Paisley

It took me a year to find a job after I graduated. Don't take the rejections personally it happens to everyone. If you're serious about getting a job you must send out at least 15 job applications a week and in the end you will find something, maybe not ideal but it will get your foot in the door and get you those vital six months commercial experience you require, from there the world is your oyster.
R.A, Edinburgh

As an arts graduate, I can see why employers are looking for extra-curricular activities, voluntary work etc - they are looking for someone who has done more than just enough to get themselves a job, and it is because arts graduates are so common these days. Like Egor from Dundee said, if you want to head straight into a graduate job after an arts degree, a postgraduate degree (or at the very least a first in your undergraduate degree) seems necessary to stand out from the crowd. Personally, I started different temping jobs as soon as I graduated (July 2005) and this has now led to the offer of a graduate job. These are options you might wish to keep in mind. Also, I'm sure you are aware that the graduate endowment does not need to be paid up front in April as you imply. Good luck.
K.J, Glasgow

Of course businesses are going to favour business/science students over arts students. What use is knowing the history of paintings? Or history? I know it's hard, but that's the way the world works
James Mathews, Edinburgh

Perhaps you should think about a more specialist postgraduate course? Journalism/teaching/housing/librarianship spring to mind? Myself and most of my friends took courses like this after our MA course over a decade ago - the situation you find yourself in is nothing new.
K.C, Glasgow

I graduated in 2003 with an arts degree and I too have struggled, however, although we have degrees I must stress the importance of working up the ladder and to be honest I now wonder why I wasted four years of my life on a but of paper that in hindsight I didn't really want or need. The government need to realise that too many people with degrees lessen the value of the higher education system
Lisa, Glasgow

While I'm sorry for anyone who cannot find a job, I'm still unsure as to what the point of the article is? Is Katy suggesting someone is to blame for this situation (herself or others), is it a warning to potential arts students, or does she have a suggestion of how this could be changed? I'm not sure what the purpose is otherwise. At the end of the day, the people who find work are the ones who are prepared to put in the effort. I worked a full-time equivalent (in two jobs) whilst I was at university, doing a social sciences degree. I also got heavily involved in voluntary and student life. This clearly took a great deal of my personal time (and I appreciate for people who go back to university with a child might not be practical) but it was worth it in the end. Since graduating I have had a few jobs (moving by personal choice) and feel I gained a great deal from making the extra effort when at university. If other people didn't do that, or won't do it now, I fail to see why the expect things to be any different.
John, Glasgow

I did a mixed computing and business degree at university. The course was very much a vocational one, aimed at equipping the students with all the skills they would need for life in the modern workplace. I was lucky enough to be headhunted straight out of university, and have never had a day out of work since. However, the story is not half as rosy (financially) for my arts graduate friends. The vast majority of them have low-paid low-status jobs working in the arts - but they're happy, because they're doing something they love. One particular friend of mine has an arts-based doctorate, and works as a secretary for a charitable organisation. She finds the work so rewarding that she has turned down offers of other jobs with double the salary.
Richard, Edinburgh

Many people end up in careers quite different from what they studied - my first two degrees are in botany, and I am currently a computing teacher! I advise students to study what interests them rather than concentrate solely on employability. How is it that the full-time job you juggled with your studies doesn't count as valuable 'experience' when looking for something else?
Megan, Cheshire

An arts degree has given you the opportunity to spend an extra four years growing up, making friends and discovering a bit about who you are. You've managed to get an upper second while juggling a job. These are all excellent achievements. Well done! Perhaps you are expecting too much from your first graduate job. I'd suggest: a) employing yourself - set up your own business, there are loads of grants available for young people to do this; b) an MBA which will improve your employability and, as a bonus, return you to a uni environment; c) Keep on applying for jobs, soul-destroying though being turned down may be. Meanwhile take all sorts of work, temporarily, to keep body and soul together.
Jennie Macfie, Inverness

Like yourself, I also worked very hard for the useless piece of paper that is an arts degree. Ten years down the line I'm utterly miserable in a hellish office job, not remotely linked to what I originally wanted to do. My advice? Don't be too fussy about the jobs available to you at the moment - they all give you some sort of experience and they all help you towards paying off your debts. Do, however, keep a hand in the field that you really want to work in, no matter how small, and always keep your focus on where you ultimately want your career to go. Good luck!
E.S, Glasgow

I fully sympathise with Katy. I finished my arts degree and then completed a masters degree in the field I wanted to work in, which is heritage. I am fully aware that I will never earn huge sums of money in this profession but I am prepared to work for the love of the job. I am currently employed doing the sort of work I want to do, albeit at the bottom of the career ladder. I did find it difficult to get this first job though as many employers want you to have the masters degree and several years of experience working in the heritage field. How I was expected to pull these years of experience out of thin air I do not know. Volunteering my time has never been an option as there is no such thing as the money tree and we all need to earn a living. Consequently I am doing a job I am over qualified for. This is the point I think Katy is trying to make. But don't be disheartened, I may be currently working for an inadequate sum but I am making the most of the opportunity this job is giving me.
Rebecca Williams, Guildford, Surrey

Volunteering could be an option to gain relevant experience for your perfect job - spending a couple of days assisting a charity with the organisation of a fundraising event, for example, can give you experience of event management ...perhaps even open a few doors, or at the very least, give your CV that something 'extra' which might get you into an interview.
E.L, Stirling

Your comments are all true, but graduates in other areas are in the same boat. I had to work in retail for nearly two years before making a break into the field I graduated in, I have a BSC. It's a sorry time when people who chose to go on to further education suffer whilst those who leave school at 15 are earning double the income we will receive by the time we gain the employment we are looking for.
Angela, Stirling

Get into sales or recruitment. They are always looking for good people. It may not be your original choice but it pays well and gives you excellent life experience
Tony, Glasgow

Sorry, Katy; that's just tough. It was your choice to study a subject that was merely interesting as opposed to one that's useful. I studied engineering and had, on average, five or six classes per day. If memory serves, arts students had about five or six classes per week (allowing you to have a full-time job, I see). It's also been common knowledge for years that employers look for more 'rounded candidates' with extra-curricular activities on their CV. Many other students manage to fit these in with their studies and inadvertently neglecting such activities is down to your lack of foresight, nobody else's.
Kevin Duffy, Glasgow

It saddens me that higher education is now seen as simply a job factory and people are effectively penalised for studying "non-commercial" subjects. Notwithstanding this I agree with ND's comments regarding taking lower paid work. It's also easier to find another job when one has one's first job. Good luck Katy.
Niall G, London

I did a music degree and worked full time throughout my degree too, so can sympathise with Katy's position. However, there comes a point where you have to be realistic - I knew my degree wasn't vocational: I didn't want to be a music teacher, I didn't want to be a professional musician, but I wanted to work in theatre and arts management. It sounds clichéd, but I started at the bottom as an usher and working in a box office. I had £12,000 of student debt too, so I had to work and yes - it wasn't very glam. But I did it for four years, gaining knowledge and a clear insight into how things work and then I realised that the arts were very difficult to get work in, so I bit the bullet and tried different jobs - even training as a financial advisor at one point (not for me either!). However, maybe I was lucky. I got a break. I answered an advert for the civil service who were looking for graduates - regardless of what their degree was. And here I am. I don't mean to sound harsh, but you've picked a tough, and pretty select area to get into - and you're not the only one. If you want to make it, keep trying and you will, even if you have to take on a job you don't want and keep up with the arts stuff as a hobby. But don't be too precious to step out of the arts arena to do something else. Doing temp jobs isn't fun, but it pays the bills and gets you that experience that employers want. A degree isn't a guarantee and doesn't prove that you're better for the job than anyone else. Sorry - I don't mean to be harsh and I wish you the very best of luck and hope that you get the job you want. You sound like a lovely girl!
Rachel, Northern Ireland

As an engineering student at another top Scottish university I can see your plight through different eyes. I have many friends that are doing Arts courses and who regularly tell me they have no idea what to do when they leave university. These are highly intelligent people who will all get either distinctions or merits. Many have changed courses from vocations degrees such as medicine or law to English degrees. I ask them why quite often and they tell me they just didn't like the course. This is all fine and well but they will not get a job when they leave university that will be worth the tens of thousands of pounds the tax payer has had to pay for them to learn the finer points of medieval Scottish history or the closer details of the human mind. I do Electrical Engineering, this year in my university which is one of the best EEE dept in UK has only got 50 people in first year. My year is only 30ish who will graduate this year. The same is true of many other engineering and science courses. Engineering and Sciences are now over looked in many cases for the more trendy and fashionable arts courses. We need arts students but we need scientists and engineers more. The government has created a situation where it doesn't matter what course you do so long as you do one. This cannot be sustained as is shown by the authors experience. Tony Blair should look and see the number of students who go to university and then do not get a good job afterwards. University is not meant for everyone and people should think about what to do after university before they apply, this advice is very rarely given when being advised on courses.
Martin, Glasgow

Katy, I think you will find that this not only happens to those with an Arts degree. Like you I left University with a respectable degree in business and joined the throes of people recently graduated in the never ending vicious circle of sending CV's and not hearing anything back. It seems in today's world that it is no longer enough to have 'just a degree'. After temping for a year (as like you I had debts to repay) I eventually managed to get a full time position that wasn't really related to my degree and have managed to get to a position, that, had I listened to my Guidance Teacher at school should have been open to me when I left university. So four years on I have the job and salary I want, so was it a waste of time going to university? Possibly, but then I made life long friends and had a great time for four years! Good luck with the job hunting. Just remember take any opportunity given to you - you never know where it will lead you.
Jen, Edinburgh

While I sympathise with Katy's plight, I'd have to point out that if she had wanted the kind of job that people with business or finance degrees are applying for - presumably working in an investment bank, or similar - perhaps she should have done a degree in either business or finance. Why would an employer take someone with a history degree when they can get some much better qualified business or finance graduates?
Steve Maughan, Edinburgh

It took me until I was 29 to find a job I really like. My student loan will be paid off in March. Still working on the home/relationship things :) Things do get better, honestly. It sometimes takes time, that's all.
Matthew Norrie, Aberdeen

It's not just arts students that suffer. We science students have problems too. I applied for 140 jobs in the last year of study and another 60 in the year that followed (which was spent working full time in the Students Union to make ends meet). These garnered a total of three interviews. I too tick all the boxes. It seems that if you do not have a form of management / business included in your degree, you are "undesirable" to employers. My solution? Took in more debt, went and did the PhD I liked the look of, and got a job straight away. That's what it took me to stand out from the crowd.
Egor, Dundee

Nearly three years ago I found myself in a similar position. I subsequently spent two years working in retail whilst still applying for positions that might be related to what I had done at university. Then my current employer decided after an initial interview that they were going to give me a chance. I know I have to work from the "bottom up" and that I am not earning a lot of money but I realised that I was setting my sights too high in the first instance. Graduates need to be more realistic about what kind of position they are going to get after uni. Just remember to apply for every job no matter how lowly, because they are the ones who will give you that valuable experience. Good luck.
Caroline, Edinburgh

While I sympathise with Katy, isn't it a sad fact that an arts degree is simply too frivolous a qualification in the eyes of most employers? I'm sure Katy worked hard to gain her degree and she has my admiration for managing to juggle her studies with full time employment. However, if she was studying to further her career, wouldn't it have been wiser to study a more practical subject? Something like IT would give her more scope when it comes to looking for work.
Brian, Paisley

Remember how the repayment of student loans works. You only start to repay once you are earning more than £15,000 per annum. Additionally, the interest on the loan is only equivalent to inflation, so your debt is not growing in real terms. So, whilst it will feel like this debt is hanging over you, you should try to not feel like it impedes your ability to take unpaid or low paid work to gain experience as (from a theoretical point of view) you will not be any worse off. Good luck.
ND, Edinburgh




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