A familiar conversation with an IT graduate

I spoke to a young man a couple of months ago who was looking for graduate jobs in IT and had applied for a job I was advertising. He didn’t have the experience the client required but as a local graduate keen to get into a programming role, I wanted to find out if he would consider another (junior) position that was coming up.

We didn’t have a very productive conversation as the fellow in question was not interested in junior positions, rather he was specifically looking for a salary of ‘£30,000 and above’, and said this was what he had been informed his skills were worth.

I didn’t agree. He had a reasonable degree (a 2:2 in Software Engineering) from a reasonably good university.  He hadn’t done a placement year. His CV didn’t mention any hobbyist programming or voluntary work, and although he had graduated several months earlier, he had not secured a job, IT or otherwise. To be honest, I would have found him hard to sell to any of my clients, even for their most junior roles.

Graduation ceremony for IT graduates looking for work

IT Graduates take note!

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation with a graduate (I seem to recall writing an almost identical blog a couple of years ago) but every time, I just wish that they would listen to what I am trying to tell them, and see the bigger picture. Which is as follows. And I speak from 11 years of experience as a recruiter in the IT industry.

  • There may be £30k jobs out there for IT graduates, but they are few and far between, and reserved for the absolute crème de la crème of emerging talent. Which may be you, if you’re offering something over and above all the other graduates with exactly the same degree as you. But it probably isn’t you, if you sound anything like the fellow I’ve described above.
  • You should get a job, rather than do nothing until you’ve landed your £30k role. Work in a shop or restaurant. Volunteer. Temp. Help out in the family business. As a recruiter, I would much rather speak to someone that is out in the working world, dealing with people and learning useful life skills. The same goes for my clients.
  • Be willing to prove yourself first. Why should anyone pay you £30,000 with no experience? They can get a decent developer for that amount, that they won’t have to spend months training. Be flexible. If you’re as good as you think you are, it won’t be long until you achieve the salary you were hoping for.
  • Be aware of the competition. There are tremendous apprenticeship schemes available to school leavers now, which means that bright young people the same age as you often have two or three years of experience under their belt, which many of our clients increasingly prefer to a degree. Don’t expect your qualification to carry you – on its own, it won’t. This means you need to demonstrate that you have a solid work ethic, a commitment to professional development, and absolutely loads of passion and enthusiasm for your chosen career.

If you do all of these things, you will likely land a very good job very quickly.

This isn’t intended to be negative towards graduates – I speak to lots of brilliant graduates as well. But it makes me sad to see the same CVs popping up time and time again, of candidates that I have had this conversation with – still looking for a job and still believing they are somehow worth more, all the while deskilling and falling further behind their contemporaries.

Having a degree has the potential to open a lot of doors for you. But they won’t stay open forever.