How to encourage a more optimistic outlook for career progression

“Students tell us that they are nervous about what will happen after they graduate”

For university students and young people generally, the usual worries and concerns about the future have skyrocketed, and inevitably many students are anxious for what the future holds in terms of career opportunities and progression. Isabelle Bristow, Managing Director of Studiosity, Europe, explains what can be done.

Studiosity’s latest research revealed that 73% of students think it will be harder to find a job after graduating. UK students are more likely to be pessimistic about both their long-term career prospects and their immediate career prospects after university, whilst international students are more likely to think it will be easier to secure a job.  

Furthermore, UK students were more likely than EU International students to have considered dropping out of their courses altogether last year.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Our research discovered that despite undergraduates thinking it will be harder to find a job after graduation, 48% are optimistic for long-term career prospects, inferring that there is still a drive from graduates to pursue finding employment after university, despite the inevitable road bumps the pandemic has provided. 

With students having a more positive outlook for life post-Covid, it is important to help to build student confidence and offer reassurance about their life after university. Professor Marilyn Holness, OBE, Director of Student Engagement, at the University of Roehampton, confirmed this outlook recently:

“Students tell us that they are nervous about what will happen after they graduate – they worry about the impact of the pandemic and the resulting uncertain job market. We are working with students to think like employers, not employees, honing their soft skills, commercial awareness and their negotiating and influencing skills.

“We want to encourage students to work towards becoming the next generation of entrepreneurs, developing skills to manage their own businesses, and monetise their ‘side hustles’ learning to become agile in responding to the flexible job market and learning to control what elements they can to help them successfully follow their chosen path’.

“In the short term, students are worried about their job prospects, so insight into what can be achieved with their degree, and presenting a broad selection of options, could help reassure students. Universities that are open to opportunities to increase contact time, and to have consistent, round-the-clock support will give the students a much-needed boost ahead of starting their working life.” 

At the University of Roehampton, reports have also shown that students have been keen to develop additional leadership skills through taking up cross university leadership roles (volunteering and paid) and are increasingly participating in engagement and career activities like the Chancellor’s Career Award, to upskill themselves so they develop ‘an edge’ over their competitors.

Meanwhile, in a recent blog for Hepi, Professor Emma McCoy, Interim Vice-Provost (Education and Student Experience) at Imperial College London, commented that by “building on the innovations and lessons of the pandemic, the ‘new normal’ is also an opportunity to reassess our educational offer and drive forward progress in a way that benefits learners of all stages and backgrounds”.

With a focus on upskill and reskill, now is an opportune time for universities to embrace hybrid learning (physically and virtually) to offer 24/7 support whilst adapting to the ‘new normal’. 

Despite the pandemic having had a negative impact on the university experience, this could be a turning point for the future – similar to how the flexibilities around working from home appear to be here to stay, there is an opportunity for flexible learning to be established in a university environment.

Studiosity UK Academic Advisory Board member and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Bedfordshire, Professor Rebecca Bunting commented recently that “students do not lead nine to five lives and are looking for online academic support that is available when they need it. Such support can and does transform the learning experience for students, as I have seen in my own university”.

For many, this extra support is invaluable and with 74% of students hoping that universities will offer more out of office support services in the future, universities can be confident that the student uptake will be there. It is definitely time for a university education overhaul and the expansion of the blended learning approach is a great start.

About the Author:  Isabelle Bristow is Managing Director of Studiosity, Europe.