Surviving as a student in a world where your job future is uncertain.

graduate jobs

It’s no secret that the future of work is uncertain. As a student it’s easy to think that the odds are stacked against you. I recently surveyed to a group Millennial students, all from a diverse range of educational backgrounds and was surprised to hear their feedback. Honestly speaking, I fit into that group, a Millennial university student studying a double degree, but I thought it was just me.

All of us said the same thing, we are worried about finding employment.

We were worried would our education be enough or even relevant for the future of work.

Research suggests that 85% of employees believe that they will need to reskill in order for them to stay relevant and employed. Millennials now face a dauntingly difficult challenge when it comes to finding full time employment with one in four university graduates with bachelor’s degrees forced to work in casual positions and only 71% are employed full time, which is down 14 percent from ten years ago.

So where does this leave the students who are partway through or have just started studying their degrees? What can we as students do to increase our chances of finding full time work and remain relevant to the future of work?

Voluntary/unpaid work

Participating in unpaid work or internships relevant to your field can be an excellent way to place yourself ahead of your peers and also gives you a foothold into the industry itself. Students are often opposed to doing unpaid work either because they may believe their time is more valuable or they don’t make time between study and other work. Although work like internships are often unpaid, they can be treated as work experience on a resume for a future position which is favourable to an employer.

In my experience as a casual photographer and journalist, almost 100% of the work I did for blogs and publications was voluntary. I remember often second guessinf why I was doing it. Of course it helps when you are in a field you are passionate about, but ultimately three years down the track I am in a fortunate position where I’m being paid and preferred over other photographers simply because I did the volunteering where others wouldn’t.

Similarly, I’ve heard from a number of people who have taken up unpaid internship type work as a way to decide what they want to do with their career after they study. One student studying Business Management, lets call him Tom, wasn’t really sure if working a 9-5 office job was for him so in his second year at university Tom took up an unpaid 6-month internship at one of the big four banks. About half way through, Tom realised that working 9-5 behind a desk in a bank wasn’t what he wanted his career to be but the connections he made at the internship helped him land a job at a small start-up more aligned to his interests.

Using this as a way to get a ‘leg up’ is becoming more and more prominent among university aged students with research suggesting that almost 60 percent of young people 18-29 participate in some form of unpaid work to gain work experience.

Diversify your degree

The harsh but exciting reality about the future of work is that nobody really has a definitive answer as to what it will look like or what jobs will exist. An often-quoted statistic is that teachers and training providers are having to prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet and that almost 2 thirds of current students will work in a position that hasn’t been invented.

In order to help ensure you come out of your studies flexible and ‘future proof’, diversifying what you study at university can be helpful. This could mean taking advantage of ‘double major’ degrees or simply picking up electives that teach you something your degree doesn’t. Picking ‘minors’ to correspond with your degree help increase your flexibility when it comes to the role you work in and helps increase familiarity of different facets of an area of work.

Many universities like The University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia are increasing the flexibility of their curriculums to include fewer core units and more elective style units so students can pair their ‘major’ with other, broader units.

The future of work is here. What we know today, will be different from what tomorrow brings. Our advice to students… don’t just depend on your degree, it’s simply not enough. It is the key to your future career.

Mason is an Intern with Accelus, a talent consultancy and career coaching academy shaping the future of work. We are launching our first Academy program, Accelerating your Job Search, where we bring our expertise to help you proactively look for work. Register now and receive an early bird special.