How to grow your presence in universities: a grad's eye view


By Jacob Butler

As a recent graduate reflecting on career opportunities at university, I wish I’d done more. The whole experience flies by, and during freshers’ week the thought of getting a job seems distant. But, before you know it, you’re entering the closing months and life after university looms large.

Organised students – with clear objectives and career paths – are a rare find. For many, planning life after uni sits towards the bottom of the pile. In fact, 44% of students don’t have a clear idea of what they want to do. For this lot, addressing the uncertainty is daunting, and those unsure of a career are more likely to delay the process of sorting one.

For employers, enticing this group of students is the major challenge. As a graduate who fell into this category, here are three things I believe could be done.

Be unconventionally attractive

Be bold and different. Grab the attention of people who’d usually choose the pub, over a lecture about jobs. Students I’ve spoken to described career fairs as largely unhelpful. The conveyor-belt system means conversations are often brief and lack character. Guest speakers talking about their industry experience never quite seem to have the desired effect. These lectures were often seen as ‘boring’ and ‘irrelevant’ to what people wanted to do. A history graduate doesn’t necessarily want to work in a museum.

Experiential activities made a stronger impression – especially ones that offered a break from academic environments. These usually got people talking, as students appreciate the unconventional – especially if it means a break from the library.

Be ready for small talk

People prefer to be spoken to, rather than at. Businesses hosting informal sessions in unis is a good way of casual networking (free coffee and cake also seemed to make a lasting impression). Instead of flicking through their CV, students appreciate employers getting to know them on a personal level. As a recent graduate, the conversational tone is a far more comfortable and popular way of bridging the gap between education and industry.

Give students more and sooner

Make job prospects and opportunities more important. Unsurprisingly, getting a degree is top of the to-do list. But it doesn’t guarantee a job. Employment should be higher on the agenda earlier on. Many students see this process as a final year priority, but next steps should be discussed from the moment they arrive. Whether putting on more events or sending more emails, employers should be more recognisable amongst all students, even new ones. A university experience should be a networking event through earlier and more interaction.

While some students have it all planned out, many don’t. So whilst it’s easy to say that employers should make the topic of careers more visible, attractive, and relaxed throughout a student’s experience, it’s getting this lot to notice you that’s tricky.

A big thanks needs to go to Jacob for giving an invaluable glimpse into the mind of a recent graduate. At SMRS, we couldn’t agree with him more. And, we’ve worked with all sorts of clients to address the challenges he touches on. As always, we’re more than happy to talk to you about how to be bold and brilliant when it comes to youth marketing.