Get Flexible: How much does your degree choice limit your job prospects?

We’re back again with a guest post from our besties at Inspiring Interns. This time out Susanna Quirke, Content Writer and Marketing Exec. offers an insightful piece on how your choice of degree may or may not determine your career options. Sitting comfortably?...

Got a maths degree? You must be a shoo-in for finance. Did English? Hello editorial! Nabbed yourself a 2:1 in PPE? Step right this way, Mr Management Consultant.

But what if your degree was, far from vocationally convenient, diametrically opposed to the career you wish to pursue? An engineering student doesn’t have a hope in marketing…right?

Maybe, maybe not. Here at Inspiring Interns, we frequently see graduates rule themselves out of roles because they deem their degrees unsuitable. We also see the opposite – that is, grads applying to jobs for which their education just hasn’t prepared them. Here’s what some of our grad recruitment professionals have to say on the matter.

Are employers open to accepting people into roles from a range of degree backgrounds?

For more roles than you think, employers are willing to consider students from most academic backgrounds. According to government reports, the UK graduate labour market is notable for its widespread recruitment from every subject discipline. Surveys from the Association of Graduate Recruiters imply that only 30% of employers look for specific degree subjects when recruiting – which means the rest are keeping their options open.

Here at Inspiring Interns, account manager Krissy Georgiou says: “Account management, sales, customer service and business development roles tend to be open to every degree as communication and confidence are ultimately the most important thing for these.”

Most employers in the above roles are looking for candidates who demonstrate strong soft skills, attention to detail and academic ability – something that students of all backgrounds can demonstrate. If you’re looking to maximise your opportunities, these should be on the list of choices regardless of your studies.

In what instances are employers specific about particular qualifications?

Companies are almost always looking for applicants with particular skills. We frequently get briefed by employers with very specific requirements, ranging from excellent copy writing to people skills to mastery with Excel. And of course, there are some who demand not only proficiency but an official qualification – usually when the role is highly numerical or writing-based.

“Clients looking to fill more analytical roles tend to be a lot more fussy about sticking to STEM subjects – Maths A-Level, Engineering degrees and so on,” says Georgiou. “It’s true that some employers filling financial roles ask only for Maths grads. We also get a lot of clients looking to fill their marketing roles with candidates who have studied Marketing or English.”

So while your Politics degree isn’t going to rule you out of business or customer development any time soon, you might be better off steering away from editorial or analytics positions. The fact is, unless you fit the bill exactly, there are always grads out there with a more appropriate qualification than you. If that finance job ad says ‘Maths A-Level only’, there’s no point applying without one.

What are the benefits of grads looking at roles not obviously related to their degree?

There’s a common perception that it’s harder to find employment with a humanities degree. But in a job market where employers are increasingly demanding soft skills over hard, coming from an arts background into business or sales can be an advantage.

Even if you’re moving into something financial like banking, you shouldn’t necessarily feel held back by your arts degree. When Lloyds Banking Group called for applicants to its grad scheme this year, it specifically invited grads of all disciplines to apply, so long as they scored a 2:1 or higher.

Similarly, STEM subjects have applications beyond finance and science. As well as good numeracy, STEM qualifications tend to suggest good organisation, a strong work ethic and practical attitude. If your organisation skills are top notch there’s nothing to prevent you going into HR or customer service, and no law conversion is going to turn down a grad because her first degree was in Computer Science. In fact, you may bring a refreshing new perspective to the job!

University can seem, to many graduates, the be-all and end-all. In reality, of course, it’s just the beginning. Sure, you should make use of your degree; you paid enough for it, after all. What you mustn’t do it let it define you – and that applies doubly to your career!

Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.

career planningemployabilitygraduaterecruitmentsoft skillstransferable skills

Paul Rothwell • 08/03/2017

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