career decisions / Job market

Location, location, location: how to improve your chances of finding a graduate job

Graduation hat and diploma with book on tableA little known-fact about UK graduates: once they leave University they are geographically immobile. In 2015/16 once students left Uni, 58% remained in the area they studied in with 69% returning to the region they were living previously. Only 18% of graduates went to work somewhere they weren’t already connected to. (*)

The reasons for this are understandable:

  • Graduates not yet sorted with a job or further study option may migrate to live back home, at least to start with
  • Some will have forged ties in the local area and friends may remain, making house and flat shares possible
  • Some graduates may be local and may already have been living at home while they studied
  • The financial situation of many will mean heading homewards is the inevitable first step after graduation
  • In the University of Warwick’s case, many graduates come from London and the South East and this is where many graduate jobs can be found

However, here are some factors to bear in mind if you find yourself still seeking a graduate job, if you’ve recently graduated or if you are a finalist contemplating your next steps when you graduate next summer.

1)  Not all graduate jobs are in London. From a national perspective, whilst the most popular places are in London and the South East with the majority choosing to work there, in 2015 UK graduates also found work in Birmingham (4,155), Manchester (3,740), Leeds (3,430), Glasgow (3,105), Lancashire 2680), Edinburgh (2,475), Oxfordshire (2,200), Liverpool (2,170), Belfast 2,110), Bristol (2,080) and Cardiff (2,075).

2) It’s likely that competition for posts outside London and the South East may therefore have less competition for places.  Larger graduate recruiters who have regional offices often complain that they find it harder to fill graduate jobs outside London – organisations will still offer the same support and development opportunities. A number of regional and local Law firms will offer training contract opportunities, for example.

Electronic gauge displaying a Small Business Concept3) Not all graduates work for big business or on large training schemes. In 2015 35% of graduates went to work for companies with fewer than 250 employees, with 1 in 5 of these with fewer than 50 employees. So if working for a large corporate is not your thing then extend your job search to explore a wider range of opportunities in small to medium firms (SMEs).

4) The cost of living outside the capital are significantly less. While London salaries may appear to pay more (London weighting) it’s worth comparing rental costs in different places to see the stark differences to how far your salary is likely to go. If you don’t have ties to a specific area, why not explore the opportunities available in other regions that you’d be willing to consider. Many areas in the UK have good transport links and so you can travel to see family and friends from most places. What other attractions might different areas offer? Scenic beauty, proximity to outdoor activities and sports facilities, good shopping opportunities and culture all exist outside the capital.

United Kingdom map with regions5) There are clusters of different kinds of employment in different areas and regions. If you want to work for large corporate organisations then you’re likely to find these within large city conurbations. There won’t be much call for Management Consultants in the Outer Hebrides, for example. Manchester (Salford) and Leeds are pretty up and coming areas for independent TV and Film currently. Cardiff has always been a creative hub for the BBC (‘Doctor Who’ and associated programmes). Scotland has its own strong media industry too. There are over 40 games companies in Leamington Spa, or ‘Silicon Spa’ as it’s otherwise known. It’s the 3rd biggest gaming ‘cluster’ in the UK  Over 70% of games companies are based outside London (source: UK Interactive Entertainment annual report 2017).

In summary:

  • When making decisions about your future, keep an open mind about where you might start your graduate career
  • Geography may, of necessity be your starting point. If you need to live in a specific location, whatever the reason, explore the kinds of job available to you as this may in reality determine what you can/can’t do
  • ‘Do the math’. Compare earnings in the capital alongside the cost of renting and travel with comparable roles and living and travel costs elsewhere in the UK
  • Consider your needs as a human being, not just as a graduate seeking work. What else do you need in order to feel fulfilled and content in life? What degree of work-life balance do you want? What kind of environment would you flourish in – both in and out of work?

(*) Charlie Ball (Head of H.E. Intelligence Graduate Prospects, May 2018)

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