Screw your first – you’re more employable if you get a 2:1

Sitting in the library for three years won’t get you enough life skills

It’s official, getting a 2:1 makes you more employable after you’ve finished university.

Lately it’s been reported that graduates with a 2:1 tend to have better job prospects than those graduating with a first, and now questions are being raised about how useful a first really is. We spoke to Higher Education expert Charlie Ball at Prospects, who said candidates for graduate jobs need to understand a workplace and shouldn’t sacrifice external activities for a first.

Obviously the outcome is generally better for those who have a first, although recently these prospects have shown to not be that much higher than they are for those with a 2:1. Although graduates with a first are more likely to get onto a postgraduate degree, in terms of the job market the benefit of having a first is actually only marginally better.

Mr Ball says that work experience seems to be the most important factor when applying for a job, and apart from those industries where direct experience in the area is required, many employers are seeking graduates with any kind of experience. “Candidates can even refer to something low level such as waitressing, as this shows they understand how a business works and what it takes to succeed in a workplace,” he says.

“The key is to not sacrifice external activities in order to get that first, because they’re actually worth more than you think. A graduate with a solid 2:1 and work and pastoral experience is better off in the long run, as the added life experience tends to mean they are a well-rounded candidate who is used to juggling multiple challenges and commitments.

“Employers want to know if you’re flexible and adaptable to new challenges, they know there’s more to uni than academia and expect to see this reflected in your CV – both through work experience and society membership.

“Combined with indulging in uni activities and societies, a 2:1 is just as valuable professionally and personally as a first.”

He says that all work experience is good, and employers know they can rely on someone who turned up to a low level part-time job every day. It’s evident that these people will have a good team ethic and an understanding of how businesses are run, and therefore employers are more likely to choose a candidate like this over somebody who has a first but no workplace experience.

“It all boils down to acquiring skills that make you an asset to a company, and nobody can gain those just through studying. So while getting both a first and work experience would put you in the best position for getting a graduate job, don’t stew in the library for three years refusing to be distracted by societies and your mates. Employers want to see that you’ve actually done something with your life.”

So whether it’s becoming the Pres of Sussex’s Nicholas Cage Appreciation Society or having a summer internship in the City, experience trumps grades.