It’s easy to find a job… at least to find them advertised, thanks to the internet. A new batch of students hits the job market each year, whilst the ‘retirement’ age extends and people need to stay in work/keep looking for work until they’re older. So the competition for jobs is now therefore greater than ever.
This week – just as the UK was being blanketed in snow – I had the pleasure of running a couple of careers workshops for 1st year degree students at Warwickshire College – Moreton Morrell. Whilst some of the group have aspirations to become self-employed veterinary physiotherapists and others to enter other aspects of animal care, the skills of ‘selling yourself’, developing a CV and coping with interviews are all relevant and needed. It was also useful for them to hear the career backgrounds and case studies of myself and others working in this field.
Whilst these and other students are now being better prepared for the opportunities that may arise, it’s also important for employers to think about their systems and procedures. Are they missing out on really good people by rigidly applying profiling to interview selection. What if the person hasn’t got the stated qualification? Or has experience in another field that may have similar skills? Will they automatically be rejected? There is skill in recruitment and selection and it is hoped the good employers have some flexibility in their systems and are keen to support and encourage suitable applicants from diverse backgrounds, qualifications and experiences.
After 30 years+ (which includes recruiting many people) I am really pleased to share my experience and answer questions to help others in their endeavours and career pathways.
So its that time again when students graduate and move on to the next step in their lives. It is a challenging time in many ways, and somewhat different from when I graduated from various parts of my academic career. Although I too have experienced unemployment and change of direction. However, in the 1980s there was perhaps more support (including the good old UB40 card and benefit) … but we didn’t have the internet and social media.
I have been lucky in recent months to meet many students on animal-care related courses at several colleges, and last week was pleased to return to Sparsholt College to run a couple of workshops on careers and communication skills for the 2nd year students who graduate this summer. Some will move on to colleges and universities to undertake degree studies, some will start their first jobs and others are looking.
There are many students now available for work… and of course not enough jobs directly in their field/career path. So employers are in a lucky position of being able to select what they consider the best candidates for the jobs they have on offer.
Having met lots of students, and been through hundreds of CVs, interviewed many, and employed a number of people through my career, I am aware that application processes can sometimes miss good candidates. Sometimes, the best person for the job doesn’t actually match the job requirements and specification. The challenge is, how can HR and employment practices account for this and give those people a chance – whilst also giving the employer the opportunity to develop and train someone suited to the role on offer. And of course this is especially so with the ‘trainee/junior’ positions.
I have been fortunate to have been given a chance when I chose to switch career and go into conservation education (mid 1980s) even though I had no qualification or experience, just passion, knowledge and enthusiasm. So, as much as possible, I have remembered that and always looked at recruitment to see if its appropriate to give others a chance and created / supported learning opportunities to help students find the right pathway for them.
So, I really do hope for this new generation of graduates, that they can get passed HR gatekeepers and systems and shine through as good candidates for the actual jobs on offer and training opportunities, and that thereby, employers get dedicated, enthusiastic and competent staff who can do the work required, assisted by their academic achievements where possible.
Good luck to all students graduating this summer – and that you get onto the path that you want to and are capable of.
Askham Bryan College near York (with other centres in the north of England too) has a very good reputation for specialist land-based further education. The college now has its own Wildlife and Conservation Park – which is of a very high standard, providing students with real experience of the operation and management of a small zoo (and this is a Provisional member of BIAZA).
It was great to meet over 50 of the students this week and provide an insight for them into the world of work with a careers workshop. The session was designed to give them an introduction to the jobs and career paths available in the zoo and wildlife sector, and with particular emphasis on the process, from job advert to CV and interview.
Whilst I indicated that there are some great opportunities for young people today, and the good work of zoos and wildlife centres is a great career to get into, the workshop provided skills that are transferable to other job situations, and I felt it important to be honest about the issues of current employment practice, HR, competition for jobs, and use of internships (and unpaid work). Students have to be prepared and learn the ways through the systems.
As someone who has interviewed a few hundred people in my career, and been involved in the recruitment process from both sides, I know there are some great people out there seeking employment or the next step on their career path. However, it seems many are finding that there are more barriers to cross and some of the good people get passed over because they don’t get past the selection systems. Good practice is seen across the industry, but at the same time, students and others are faced with different forms of ‘selection’ or ‘discrimination’ (in all but name). Today, as always, ‘zoo jobs’ are popular. So employers have to use some form of ‘selection’ to pick candidates for interview. More often than not, the job description/profile will define qualifications and experience (and skills) appropriate for the role. These will get used as a ‘filter’ in selecting candidates.
The problem now is that sometimes, there are excellent and suitable people for the job who don’t quite ‘tick the boxes’ and thereby don’t get selected. My career in zoos started thanks to a zoo education manager seeing that although I had no formal qualifications in biology or education (at the time) but had demonstrated an interest and a passion in my ‘application’. I then undertook my training and formal qualifications once I was in the profession.
Many applicants are rejected on the basis of not having the ‘correct qualification’ (and which college/university rated or not) and not having enough experience. However, they might actually be a better person for the role, its just getting past the ‘gatekeeper’ and demonstrating this at an interview. Persistence and passion are two characteristics that can help. Volunteering at the desired organisation is another, and worryingly there are now more unpaid internships being used – great opportunities for experience but for many this is a ‘luxury’ as it costs the ‘volunteer/intern’ and good candidates could be excluded due to their own financial or logistical situation.
There is a lot of emphasis upon the ‘candidate’ doing all the right things for their career development – which is of course quite right. At the same time, there are good employers who recognise their role in developing individuals and giving someone a chance. I wish this year’s graduates and college leavers success in their applications and steps on the career ladder, and encourage employers to support the next generation of employees and help them with training and opportunity.