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What factors contribute to a successful graduate transition?

April 2018

Finishing university represents a massive change for individuals as they leave the security of their student identity. This can be a turbulent time of adjustment, but research indicates that there is steady improvement in the circumstances of graduates in the first two years after completing their degrees

Universities can support graduate transition in many ways, for example by ensuring careers support is still available for graduates, as well as embedding a strong infrastructure that helps students understand career planning and employability before they leave.

Key findings

  • Movement and change is commonplace in early graduate careers: 58.9% of graduates changed their job and/or career status between 6 and 16 months after graduating.
  • Changes in career ideas after graduating is normal: at 16 months post-graduation, only 25.9% stated their career plans hadn't changed since finishing university.
  • Many graduates are proactive when faced with initial challenges in finding fulfilling work; examples include moving into self-employment, undertaking further study, and venturing overseas.
  • The support of family and friends is vital for graduates, as well as engaging in career conversations with people they trust.
  • Location matters. Those living in small towns with fewer graduate opportunities can feel stuck if they feel there are fewer suitable opportunities.
  • Career attitudes are influenced by graduates' social background, e.g. 91% of higher-class respondents were confident discussing their skills/strengths and 85% were confident at an interview; in comparison, just 68% of lower-class graduates agreed to both those statements.
  • Gender differences were also evident. For example, men (81%) report greater confidence at interviews than women (75%), but 83% of women said they were proactive in taking action about their career in contrast to 56% of men.
  • Graduates can sometimes blame themselves incorrectly when a hoped-for career doesn't materialise quickly. Graduates need to be aware of wider labour market issues that may make a certain career harder to get into.
  • Graduates need support to reflect on how their degree-level skills and knowledge can transfer into areas of work unrelated to their degree subject.

Download the full report

Uncertain transition: exploring the experience of recent graduates

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Download the full report

Download PDF file Uncertain transition: exploring the experience of recent graduates

What's inside

This report provides an insight into the early careers of arts, creative arts and humanities graduates. A specific focus was placed on graduates who experienced some difficulty/uncertainty in getting their career underway.

Following the analysis, a number of recommendations are provided to help effectively guide graduates into employment, as well as help universities and employers to support this.

About the report

This report, funded by HECSU, aims to better understand what the transition from university into the workforce is really like for graduates. The research was conducted and reported in 2016 by Fiona Christie, careers consultant at the University of Salford.

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