Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Enterprising Students Lack Support From Universities


On your own
Like it or not, at some point every graduate has to wave goodbye to the lie-ins and embrace the world of work. Boo. But it’s not all bad news. Graduates these days have more career options than ever. Taking the traditional full-time employment route isn’t necessarily the default choice any more – self-employment is increasingly popular and perfectly viable. Specifically, a new study shows that more students and graduates are turning to freelancing. Clearly it’s no longer considered exclusively for older, more experienced professionals. And while that’s a good thing, everyone has to start somewhere. So, if you’re at university and considering going solo after graduation, where do you start? Well, according to the same study, perhaps not your university’s careers department. You might find it offers rather less support than you’d like.

Room for improvement
Of the 1,000 or so recent graduates surveyed, 62% said freelancing wasn’t discussed by their careers department at all, with just under half (48%) disappointed with the level of support they got. This despite 80% saying they’d considered self-employment, and more than half dabbling in freelancing while studying. Not only that, but the type of university they went to made a difference too. Perhaps not surprisingly, bearing in mind their more modern outlook, post-1992 ex-polytechnics proved to be marginally more successful at engaging with potential entrepreneurs than their traditional Russell Group counterparts. But still not to any great extent – only 15% of post-1992 (and 7% of Russell Group) undergraduates were happy with the freelancing advice they got. With 700,000 more freelancers around today than in 2008, it seems universities generally are in danger of not keeping up with the way the job market is changing. Or rather, they’re in danger of not keeping up with the way students are changing the job market to suit their needs.

Time for change
So where are some universities going wrong? Will Calderbank, founder of software engineers Distorted Logic said: “The university careers support available to me was basic, and mainly focused on getting an internship in my third year. In my opinion, university careers departments need to think a little less about the one-size-fits-all approach, and help students and graduates consider all the options out there.” Luke Boobyer, of LSB Web Design, has a similar story: “Unfortunately, I never really received much support from my careers department regarding self-employment. Since my degree was focused on management roles, the careers department kept giving me advice and information that all pointed towards managerial positions within large companies.”
With this in mind, and with one eye on the entrepreneurial spirit, it seems most students will have to do the finding out themselves. But that’s OK because a little digging might unearth your uni’s enterprise officer. Or maybe you’ll discover your careers department’s links with local businesses, or find workshops and meet-ups designed to encourage potential entrepreneurs. Better still, perhaps you’ll come across a handy tool that answers the question ‘should I go freelance after graduating?’. Just make sure, if it turns out you should, you read this good advice about starting up alone from seasoned freelancers.

Written by:
Kerri-Ann Hockley from PolicyBee. PolicyBee is a business insurance broker with a knack for covering freelancers, sole traders and brand-new businesses.

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