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September 12, 2011 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Graduated: Tick. Now what?

For many of you, it means the countdown to a summer of waking up late and hanging with friends. For others, it means a summer of holiday work. For every student completing their degree, it means the countdown to entering the job market.

For the 2011 graduates, it’s time to either commit to postgraduate study or finding a job. Every year almost 30,000 people living in New Zealand complete an undergraduate degree, and over 3000 of those are from Victoria University. That’s a lot of students heading into the job market. It’s easy to feel like a small fish in a tiny pond with thousands of other small fish, fighting for space.

Jessica Lee, a third-year Media Studies student, feels like one of those small fish. She is “scared” of going job hunting, because people have told her it is hard to find a job in the media, so Jessica has chosen to do a postgraduate qualification in journalism. “I feel that it will get me into journalism and give me contacts,” she explains. “I need that experience to get a job.”

A few years ago, an undergraduate degree was all people needed to differentiate themselves in the job market but now, with more people completing tertiary study, students like Jessica are feeling that it takes a postgraduate degree to secure a job.

Walking around Victoria, it’s not hard to find students feeling nervous about the job market, but there are also those who are feeling confident about their chances. Andrew Macdonald, a third-year student of computer science, is “pretty confident” that he will get a job in computer software. “There are a lot of jobs in this industry,” he comments. “It’s an increasing and expanding industry and a lot of the world revolves around computers.”

However, the computer science industry is not the only thing that has given Andrew his confidence. He has also worked for his father’s computer company for the past six years and has gained a lot of valuable experience.

As students, we hear horror stories of people who end up working at McDonald’s after graduating, but in reality, the success stories far outnumber the bad. Helena Cook works as a lawyer for the Health & Disability Commissioner, after graduating from Victoria University in May. It took her four and a half months to get the job. Upon leaving university, Helena’s views of the job market quickly changed: “I thought I would walk straight into a job because I knew people, but it took longer than I thought.”

Despite it not being how she expected, Helena kept looking. “I was job hunting for four months and applying for anything law-related at all. It was really disheartening putting out your CV and not knowing if people were going to read it and find you lame or really cool.” Helena ended up finding her current position on, but was surprised by how long the process took.

One of the biggest shocks for students entering the job market is the time the whole application process takes. Another student who experienced this is Dan Green, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Commerce. “I was naïve about finding a job,” he says. “I thought it would be easier than it was. I was under the impression graduates had advantages over other candidates but realised experience is the currency companies work with.” Dan now works in a support role for a communications company.

While it did take both Cook and Green a few months, they are both happy in their roles. Both believe that their extracurricular experience bettered their chances in the job market.
Helena volunteered at a law firm while studying: “I just rung up and said I was free and would work for free. That made me feel a lot better about the job market because I was getting good experience.” She also established a community justice project that partners senior law students with community legal organizations, and volunteered at Women’s Refuge for four years. Helena believes this helped her in getting the job: “At my job interview they asked me how do they know I’m really passionate, and I said, Well look at the stuff I’ve done. It showed I was not all talk.”

Dan Green also volunteered at organizations to gain experience and to help him get a job. As students, there are a few tools available for you that can offer you advice and help you increase your chances of finding a job. Two of these tools are Student Job Search ( and Vic Careers (
Vic Careers is a service that offers help with many aspects of your future career. They offer the Career Hub (an area for Victoria University students to find jobs), career seminars, CV help, advice and career expos to name a few things. So far this year over 2000 students have visited the careers office and a further 3000 have been advised by email. Vic Careers manager Liz Medford comments on the job market: “[It’s] has improved since last year, but it is difficult to say how long this will continue. By the end of July, this year 3,627 jobs were advertised on CareerHub, an increase of 55.6 per cent.”

Advice for future graduates
“Final year students should make an effort to attend career expos and employer presentations to get good understanding of the job market and what employers look for; they should ensure their CV is the best it can be by attending a workshop and getting it checked by our careers teams. Careers staff can also help them with their job search strategies and interview techniques”—Liz Medford, Manager, Vic Careers

“Get involved any way you can in what your passionate about… attend as many functions as you can and work your networks. Get as many business cards as you can… never lie at an interview or exaggerate, your integrity and reputation is paramount”—Helena Cook

“It’s not what you know, but who you know. Over 70 per cent of jobs do not get advertised. Start networking early and get a job; the more experience you have the better you look. It’s not personal and remember that you are an investment to them so pitch yourself that way”—Dan Green

“Check out internship opportunities, work experience and volunteer work as well as work on identifying skills, interest areas and preferred work environments”—Liz Medford, Manager, Vic Careers

The big V word—yes, sometimes volunteering at a company is the best thing you can do to gain experience and get a job. Try volunteering over the summer somewhere that is of interest to you. Also, make sure you don’t have unrealistic expectations of the job market. Realise that it will take time to find a job, and don’t get freaked out by your first rejection. Both Helena and Dan found it took them longer than they expected to find a job. Don’t wait till your summer’s over and the bills are stacking up—start now.
And, if you are still afraid of the graduate job market here are some statistics that should make you feel a bit better. According to Statistics New Zealand, the unemployment rate for people without a degree is double that of those with a degree. Technically, your degree has already halved your chances of being unemployed and minimized it to below 2 per cent.


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  1. Mickey says:

    Just what the dctoor ordered, thankity you!

  2. Hines says:

    Hey, that’s the graetset! So with ll this brain power AWHFY?

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