It’s the time of year when degree results are announced and, amid all the celebrations, there are some of you for whom things may not have gone according to plan. There seems to be a lot of pressure on students to achieve a 2:1 these days, but this is really only significant if you are aiming to secure a position on a graduate scheme, as recruiters often use degree classifications to screen the vast numbers of applications they receive.
According to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the percentages for those in full-time employment six months after graduation are actually the same for those with Firsts, 2:1s and 2:2s, so things do have a tendency to equalise over time. Please do bear in mind that only a minority of graduates end up on these large grad schemes each year, so it’s important to take a deep breath and consider your options – of which there are many. We also recommend taking a look at our previous post What If I Don’t Want a Graduate Scheme? to help you work out what your next step might be.
Some graduate schemes do accept 2:2s
You may be surprised to know that not all graduate schemes require a 2:1 for you to be able to apply. Some engineering and accounting firms (not the Big Four) will accept a 2:2, and some well-known schemes run by HMRC, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the NHS are all still open to you. Many firms will also consider applicants with a 2:2 if you contact them to explain any genuinely mitigating circumstances in advance of submitting your application; this will also avoid your being screened out by computer before you have had a chance to explain your situation.
Work your way up & gain experience
You can also prove you have the skills to do the job by taking on a graduate internship or placement. This offers hands-on experience which will look great on your CV, as well as offering an opportunity to impress while actually doing the work; many internships can work as extended interviews. Search company websites to see what’s on offer (internships are advertised throughout the year) and try our UoB Internship Scheme, which is open to graduates. You can find opportunities advertised on the Careers Service website or find your own and talk to us about funding.
Work for a small business
Working for a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) or a start-up could be the perfect way to get your career moving. Small businesses place the emphasis on skills and work experience when recruiting as they need you to be able to make a contribution straight away and hit the ground running. Some SMEs advertise with the Careers Service but you should also do your own research, make a shortlist and start calling them directly about what could be available. These working environments may not offer structured training but you’ll have much earlier responsibility than in a grad scheme, if you can prove the quality of your work, and you will feel as if you are making a difference from the outset.
Think carefully about opting for a Masters
Many graduates immediately start applying for a Masters in the hope that attaining a higher degree will negate having a 2:2. However, most recruiters will still use your undergraduate degree result for screening if you apply for a graduate scheme, even if you have bagged yourself a Masters. If you’re thinking about taking the postgraduate study route, talk to the employers you’re interested in working for to find out which specific courses they might view as an enhancement to your profile. A Masters degree does not necessarily make you more employable in the way that relevant work experience can, so do your homework before making an expensive mistake and taking another year out of the labour market.
What do you really want to do?
Sometimes, not getting what you want offers an important opportunity to take a step back and reflect on other possibilities. There is a whole world of work out there that doesn’t require a 2:1 and a training scheme. Come in and talk to a Careers Adviser about what you can do with your skills, what you enjoy and what your next steps could be; there are more job roles out there than you can possibly imagine. You may decide to work for yourself, take a year out, travel or gain valuable experience before you throw yourself back into the graduate labour market and try again. Just remember that there are many ways in which you can add value to your CV and impress a potential employer without the magic 2:1 on your transcript.
Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser