Graduate jobs and 2:2 degrees...what are your options

Your options with a 2:2 Degree?

According to 2018 data from the Higher Education Authority, up to 25% of students graduating get a 2:2 degree. With a 1:1 or a 2:1 viewed as an imperative for many jobs, what are the options for these students when it comes to their graduate job search? Thankfully, there are plenty!
The only person placing obstacles in the path ahead ultimately will be you. Grades don't dictate the shape of your future, be determined, be resourceful, be resilient and most importantly, be happy!

The reality is that, in the wake of turmoil caused by the pandemic, the graduate jobs market is more competitive than it has been for many years. The latest HEA data from 2018 reveals that 19% of students graduated with a First-Class Honours Degree, a 1:1. 45% landed the coveted 2nd Class Honours (Grade 1). That leaves 36% with other grades, ranging from a pass to a Grade 2 Second Class Honours. It is the latter that we are specifically talking about in this article. A 2:2 degree still has real value, particularly if you can ally it with experience and a demonstrable range of hard and soft skills. So let's see what you can do if you find yourself in the 2:2 category.

Don't try and hide your 2:2 degree

Your 2:2 is still a degree, remember that. While you may have been aiming for higher, the only sensible policy is to be honest and upfront about your grades. The worst thing you can do is try and hide your degree classification if asked, or worse, lie about it. Background checks are a frequent part of selection processes these days and you're likely, morally and practically, wasting your time if you try to either fake or hide your 2:2. If and when it is discovered it would irreparably damage any relationship with the employer concerned and probably have a lasting impact on your own reputation, as graduate recruiters do communicate with each other. Also, you dedicated three or four years of your life to studying your chosen area, be honest and proud of what you have achieved and remain ambitious. Remember, it's still a degree!

It closes some doors, not all

A 2:2 degree will exclude you from many graduate programmes, that's the harsh reality. But not them all, indeed some major employers in the retail space, in FMCG and even international graduate programmes in the public sector accept 2:2 graduates. Of course, criteria can change frequently so we advise you to do your own research and liaise with your own careers services to make sure you are eligible to apply. In terms of speculative applications, you can of course apply, particularly to smaller organisations. However, if a 2:1 is specified you need to ask whether it is worth investing the considerable time needed to put together a graduate application. Conversely, if the application says that a 2:1 is 'preferred' an opportunity exists for you to include all your other strengths, skills and experience in your application. Remember, employers are seeking an 'employable' graduate, and employability amounts to much more than just academic achievement. This is particularly the case for small to medium employers or enterprises (SMEs). Although the graduate programmes you hear the most about may be with large employers, its is SMEs who actually employ most graduates. It's also remembering that up to half of the available jobs may not be advertised, so speculative applications, or indeed just a speculative phone call or email, to an organisation that you are interested in is always worth it.

Focus on the goal and build experience

If you're finding it tough to land a graduate job, as plenty are in the current environment, maybe it's time to take a step back and focus on gaining some relevant working experience. This could be within your area of interest, or indeed in any area that will add to your experience and skills. The old adage of 'getting your foot in the door' is almost always appropriate and can be a route to securing a longer-term position within an organisation. Regardless of where you are applying, focus on your skills and building an application that will show you as a rounded and capable applicant. For example, if you're a business graduate with a 2:2 that chaired a society, worked part-time in a shop and are doing an online course in data analysis, your application will stand up well against the competition.

No matter what your degree, you still have to deliver

No matter if you have a first-class honours or a pass, if you land an interview you are of interest to the employer and all your degree has got you is a seat at the interview table. The rest is up to you. If you deliver well at an interview, employers are less likely to get hung up on the fact that your degree isn't top of the class. If you have a 1:1 but fail to deliver at an interview, then an employer is unlikely to point to your higher grades. At the end of the day, personality is a key element in any application.

Stay positive

There is nothing to be gained from dwelling in the past. The exams are done, the results are in and it's time to move forward. Don't let a 2:2 be a burden, let it spur you on to greater things. That could be pursuing a qualification to boost your skills or getting a part-time job or experience to add to your CV. For many a 2:2 is an achievement, not a setbaks, plenty of students battle setbaks and adversity that many students will never have to face. The only person placing obstacles in the path ahead ultimately will be you. Grades don't dictate the shape of your future, be determined, be resourceful, be resilient and most importantly, be happy!