The Highs and Lows of the Job Market


WORDS Todd Newton

Many students enter university with the expectation that a degree will earn you first priority in the job market. Unfortunately, the job market is rapidly changing and competition is growing.

Growing competition

It’s clear that the employment process is a very competitive one, but new research has shown that competition is creating dire situations in the workforce. Paul Barbaro, Executive General Manager of the company ‘Clarius Group’ informs how the proportion of candidates is growing: “The number of applicants per quality role advertised has increased by about 40 per cent. A general admin role which has previously attracted 200 applicants may now attract up to 400, but only 50 of those may come close to fitting the bill.”

This is just the icing on the proverbial sour cake. As Clarius Group notes, graduates are being forced to jump more hoops and hurdles. Graduates have to contend with competing with a greater pool of people with a longer drawn-out process of interviewing. “Where once a role would be filled in three to four weeks, it can now take up to eight weeks with more cautious, onerous interviewing and testing processes… Those who do make the cut are being interviewed by a broader array of people including the hiring manager, senior managers and team members. In some sectors, for example accountancy, a candidate may be asked to attend up to nine interviews,” says Paul Barbaro.

So how can you stand out among your competitors? “It’s all about selling yourself,” informs Sabina Newson, a former human resources manager. “I have many clients who are university students and are not aware that their qualifications aren’t enough, and many fail to successfully sell themselves with their resume and cover letter. You need to show and tell whoever you are applying for as to why you are the best fit for their role.”

The case for Macquarie University graduates

How do Macquarie graduates fit into the mix of all this? According to the 2011 statistics on the website, the figures show that between 70 and 75 per cent of graduates in the banking and finance sectors landed a full time position; 84.9 per cent of law graduates found work in months after completing their degree; between 60 and 70 pre cent of students in the media and performing arts sector acquired employment; in computing, 74.3 per cent of students were in full time employment upon completing, and in the science, only 55 to 65 per cent of graduates moved into the workforce in quick succession.

For those that are left in the statistical minority, it leaves some floating in a state of labour limbo. Is it worth the acquisition of an extra degree, masters or a postgraduate course which means more debt is added onto the thousands of dollars we owe now? Students surveyed by the Co-op Future Leaders Index found that four in ten students considered further study due to the shortage of job prospects in their chosen fields.

In conducting a quick search on the availability of jobs on a popular job search engine such as Seek: it was found that over 300 jobs were advertised in one week for banking and finance sectors, compared to the availability of positions in the Advertising, Arts and Media sectors with just over 100 jobs advertised in one week. Only 35 jobs were advertised in the Science & Technology sectors.

Now think about the hundreds of graduates from Macquarie University per semester applying for jobs, multiplied with other graduates from other universities looking for work. One can see that employers see the words ‘University’ and ‘Bachelor’ sprawled across hundreds of resumes so earning a degree might be more expected these days than it being seen as something that will impress.

In order to set yourself apart, you need to have more to offer. Internships and work experience beneficial, but according to the Public Relations Institute of Australia: “It’s all about networking and the way to create your networks is to get out and meet people in the industry.”

One unique feature to Macquarie Univeristy’s program structure is the opportunity for some students to undertake PACE units (Participation and Community Engagement). These units come in a number of different styles including internships, professional experience with praticums, field trips, community development projects and many more.

Successful Macquarie University alumni

Don’t fret. Macquarie University has had its own fair share of successful graduates.

Linda Li, a regulatory economist at the esteemed Civil Aviation Authority in the United Kingdom, completed her Bachelor of Applied Finance program years ago at Macquarie University. In graduating, she completed a Masters in Economics while working with the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in NSW. For her time at studying at Macquarie, she shows great praise: “Macquarie provides students with not only the relevant theory, but also practical, first-hand, industry knowledge that I could apply immediately in the workplace.”

Other notable graduates to have had great success include:

Chris Lilley: Most people know him off of several popular television shows such as ‘Summer Heights High’ and ‘Angry Boys’ with which he produced and acted in. But few know that in 1997, he graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Arts degree supplemented with a Diploma of Education. Upon graduating, he performed at stand-up comedy shows until six years later, he appeared on the Seven Network program ‘Big Bite’ where his career soared.

Iggy Pintado: Known as a Marketing Guru in business circles, Pintado graduated from Macquarie University in 1982 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English where he majored in mass communication and graduated from Macquarie Business School. Pintado has worked in high management and executive positions in companies such as IBM and Telstra. With 20 years’ worth of marketing experience under his belt, he is currently General Manager of Members and Member services at the Australian Institute of Company directors.

Peter Debnam: For those well immersed in politics, you might have heard the name. In graduating from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management with a Master’s in Business Administration, Debnam worked for several companies before he entered into politics. In being elected into the NSW Legislative Assembly as a liberal representative for the area of Vaucluse: Debnam climbed the political ladder where he became shadow minister for transport, police, housing, planning and urban affairs.

The alternative

With growing hardships for Macquarie graduates to enter the job market, some are beginning to choose to start up their own business. According to the Co-op Future Leaders Index, 40 per cent of students surveyed stated that they were planning on opening up their own business and brand.

Macquarie tells own story when it comes to notable alumni who have built themselves their own empire. Murray Cook, Anthony Field and Greg Page met while studying Early Childhood Education at Macquarie University and together formed the Wiggles in 1991, which has now boomed to a million dollar global empire with a net worth of 28 million dollars in 2012.

Now it’s up to you

The job market is certainly a tough beast to handle indeed but if you have direction, aspiration and persistence, the sky could certainly be beyond your limit. Aim high and keep trying.