Jobs, Time, and Shifting Expectations

How many job applications will you have to send off before you land a job as a graduate?

While sixth form students expect to fill out 17 job applications after they graduate from university, those already studying in higher education expect to apply for 26 jobs before finding success.

These findings come from a YouGov report on first jobs.

I wonder if students much closer to graduating are more acutely aware of what is to come. For a sixth former, there is still a lot of time stretching before them. A graduate job seems far removed from their current position. They aren’t even at university. Expectations can be more casual, even when taken seriously.

clock (photo by fiddle oak)

Photo by fiddle oak via Compfight (cc)

Would a fresher expect to fill out a slightly higher number of applications and a final year student consider the number higher still? As the clock ticks ever closer to your time, the reality (and worry) is bound to kick in.

Look at the question of potential salary. Again, sixth form students believe, on average, that earnings will be around £23,000. Compare that with those at university and the figure drops to £20,250.

Then you have work experience. Not quite two thirds (64%) of sixth formers surveyed were concerned about a lack of work experience. On the other hand, more than three quarters (76%) of university students thought that no experience would get in the way of working in their preferred field.

The results read as if expectations drop the closer students get to graduation. Students are considering their future from a different viewpoint. That future is no longer so distant. There is less time to be casual.

As perspective changes, so can expectation.

Here are some ideas of what might cause university students to be less positive in their expectations:

  • More understanding of expected salaries based on increasing research as graduation approaches;
  • Fear of being let down;
  • Fear of letting themselves down with a lower salary;
  • Realism trumping hope.

That’s not to say the majority of soon-to-be graduates aren’t hopeful and willing to engage. But it does highlight how many people alter their position as things are imminent. For better or for worse, concepts of time–and time left remaining–can shift our thoughts.

What do you expect of the future? Do you prefer to convey a realistic, possibly even understated, projection? Or do you continue to confidently anticipate quick job success and good earnings to boot?


  1. I feel that the job board is in a bit of a crisis when it comes to helping students find jobs. Hundreds of students graduate every year and I find that maybe only half of them find a job that they truly like or is related to their field. When considering how many job applications I’ll have to do before I land my first job, I feel it would be about 100. Now a days, it’s very difficult to tell what employers are looking and if you are good enough. It has been mentioned through my classmates before that only 20% of jobs are shown on the job board and 80% is through who you know. So as you can see, it’s difficult to find a job after you graduate when you don’t have the right resources. Time is definitely ticking away.

    1. Best of luck, Maira. It’s tough, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.

      Many of the skills that employers ask for are broad in scope, so you won’t always know how you should best demonstrate your ability to cover their needs. But if you have a particular career in mind, research what’s involved so you have a good idea of the deeper meaning behind the broad skills asked of you.

      Also, reach out and get involved with people already in your field of interest. Many influential people are just a tweet or an email away and if you can add to a discussion or offer insight, it could be invaluable. As you say, with time ticking away, why wait until you graduate? Be in the know and build up contacts as you go.

      If you’re looking for some tips on that, take a look at my recent post, “9 Tips to Prepare for Jobs and Careers Long Before You Graduate“.

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