Help is at hand for graduates looking to “Future proof” their degrees

Debbie Hulme

Debbie Hulme

With 2009 proving to be the toughest year yet for graduates seeking employment, it has never been more important to shine above the rest after leaving university.  With research showing that the number of graduate jobs on offer has fallen by 28%* – what can students and graduates be doing to increase their chances of employment? 

Extra-curricular activities, courses and creative programs are often a good place to start.  Every year, students can be part of various programs to make an impression on companies they would like to work for and give them the chance to get noticed by reputable employers.  

The Young Creatives Network Awards (YCN) is specifically for art and design students and involves a number of major blue chip brands, including Bacardi and Google.  These companies set real live briefs for students to submit creative work for a chance of winning a coveted award.  The awards run in conjunction with many Universities, Colleges and Art & Design Schools across the UK and in 2008, another brand, The Feel Good Drinks Company set a challenge to find a new creative concept, that would spread ‘feelgoodness’. 

 The Feel Good brief was won by De Montfort University student Debbie Hulme.  The company also worked with five other applicants after the winner was announced giving them all additional work experience with an established brand. 

Debbie went on to develop a short-stop animation featuring a family of Gnomes making a Feel Good juice drink which was then recreated and used for a National TV ad and a regional poster campaign.   The experience gave Debbie the chance to work with a top class graphics company and award-winning animator, as she stepped into a ‘creative consultant’ role on the project.  This not only added considerable weight to her CV but most importantly, enabled her to land a job instantly with a local graphic design agency upon leaving uni. 

Debbie added: “I was amongst so many other graduates trying to find a job when I left university; I knew it would be tough.  However after winning the competition for The Feel Good Drinks Company, I was able to leave university not only with a First Class Honours degree, but a great CV and I’m delighted to say I was lucky enough to secure my dream job in a design agency in my local town!”

2009 marks the 8th YCN Student Award scheme and the hunt is on again to find emerging students and creative stars.  The Feel Good Drinks Company believe the scheme worked so well last year that the company has now set a new brief for 2010 centred around brand awareness and focusing on its key brand message. 

Some Hints and Tips to Help Futureproof your degree include:

1.       Think about other qualifications or courses you can take to increase your employability – For design students, programs such as Photoshop – this saves a company’s training time

2.      Become a member of a professional body for your chosen trade – e.g. CIPR for Public Relations – it shows you are serious about your career and industry

3.      Get as much work experience in your industry as possible, even non-paid for if you can afford it.  This again shows how determined you are about your career and working for either that particular company or another in the same sector

4.     Approach companies directly, don’t wait for jobs to come to you.  Research your top ten companies you would like to work for and tailor a cover letter and CV, offering yourself for intern / work experience opportunities as well as full-time employment

5.      Keep an eye out for opportunities to get involved with key companies you may be interested in working for, be it through competitions for their marketing/advertising campaigns, Facebook fan pages, Twitter or other places they may ask for input on any ideas.

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