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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Do you want the edge?

The media, the Government and everyone in between keeps saying things like, “well in the current economic climate …” and “we are in a recession you know” and unfortunately this is only the beginning! According to a UK Government paper GDP figures show that we officially went into a recession in the fourth quarter of 2008. If the last recession is anything to go by we’ve got at least another year of this, if not more. So what does that mean to Britain’s youth? Those of you who had a part-time job in Woolworths have already felt the harsh short-term affects of people spending less money and many other retailers are cutting back on staff. Plus, restaurants and pubs are not getting as much business and so are cutting back on staff too.

The immediate adverse consequences of the recession as I see them are; it will be more difficult to find a part-time job doing what you are used to. You will almost definitely get rejected for the credit-card you applied for, but then maybe that’s not such a bad thing! Interest rates for your savings accounts have plummeted.

The immediate positive consequences are; student loan interest rates have dropped, for the first time ever (!!) which will help out quite a lot when you start having to pay it off. Gas and electricity prices are going down. In addition to everywhere doing lots of special offers there are quite a few student discounts floating around, make the most of them. Due to the fact that firms are cutting down on the number of full-time staff you may be able to find part-time or fixed contract work which will give you much better experience than stocking the pick’n’mix at Woolies ever did.

A really good website I found solves the problem of work now and employability later is
www.studentgems.com. They focus on helping students find paid work experience to improve their CVs and help fund your studies. When you register you have to select the skills you have from a drop down list. This really makes you think about skills you have which employers are interested in. For example, if your only job so far has been waitressing then it can be hard to get a work experience placement with your CV. By listing your skills you can include report writing, presentations and computer literacy as you will have experience in all these things from College and University. You can then apply to jobs posted on the site, or potential employers can search through the students registered and contact you to offer you a job. I got a job through the website and recommend it 100%.

I’m afraid that here comes the bad news, the long term negative consequences of the recession on students. As those students graduating in 2009 will have already found out companies are closing or significantly reducing the size of their graduate schemes, making finding a job extremely difficult. Between 2007 and 2008 the number of graduate jobs available fell by 6.7%. This has fallen by a further 0.3% in 2009 and is expected to keep falling. I’m afraid that this will continue to be the case over the next few years as businesses slowly rebuild their customer base, so competition for jobs is greatly increasing.

I am not a Government official, a University administrator or someone who thinks they know everything because they lived through the last recession, but for what it is worth my advice is simple:

  • Find a savings account with a good fixed interest rate (web-savers are usually good if you want to be able to move money around a lot) and clear out your ISA because the interest rate has dropped hugely.
  • Don’t worry about your student loan or try to pay it off quickly, at the moment the interest rates are so low you would be much better off clearing your student overdraft and getting a high interest savings account.
  • Make the most of being a student, get an NUS Extra card and join websites such as www.studentbeans.com where you can get student discount vouchers and information.
  • Give yourself an edge. When you are applying for jobs you don’t want to have to skip through the ’Work Experience’ section of the application form. Apply now for summer placements, if they only offer voluntary ones in your industry then do it for a week. IT WILL HELP. Try to get industry relevant work experience; if you want to be a building surveyor work as a brick layer for a few weeks, if you want to be an accountant get a temp job doing data-entry or something, in an accountancy firm, it will help.

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