Underemployed graduates ‘stay in stepping-stone jobs too long’

Graduates in non-graduate occupations - ‘gringos’ - are not hunting for roles that use their higher education skills, say academics

August 14, 2014

Source: Alamy

Should have left sooner: graduates should not cling to their stepping-stone jobs

“Graduates in non-graduate occupations” are such a clear trend that they now have their own acronym: “gringos”. But according to two academics, graduates working in pubs and call centres might be more to blame for their own fates, rather than the shaky state of the economy.

For those who have graduated since the 2008 financial crash, job hunting has often been a tale of woe – almost half of employed recent graduates in 2013 were working in what the Office for National Statistics classes as a “non-graduate role”.

Gringos see their non-graduate jobs as a “stepping stone” to a better position in the future, which stops them worrying about their career, according to Tracy Scurry, a lecturer at Newcastle University Business School, and John Blenkinsopp, a professor at Hull University Business School.

Unfortunately, this means that many do not hunt for roles that use their skills gained through higher education, they write in the latest edition of Graduate Market Trends, published by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit.

“Making sense of their underemployment in ways that make it more bearable may therefore, ironically, lead to graduates staying underemployed for longer,” says the article, which draws on published and unpublished research by the authors and other papers.

The article also points out that gringos have their perceptions about job availability “coloured” by their peers, parents and media coverage.

“We have been surprised by how often graduates will make bold assertions about the lack of opportunities, but when questioned, admit that they personally have done relatively little to test out the labour market,” the article says.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Professor Blenkinsopp said that gringos often claimed that “everyone I know” is in a similar employment position. “There was no solid pressure to look for graduate employment” from peers, he said.

The jobs were seen as “an opportunity to take stock, be reasonably well paid and…pay down some debt,” Professor Blenkinsopp said. “The risk was that this became a comfortable story that they told themselves that led them to not take action.”

The article warns that there is “almost a silencing” of discussion inside universities about preparing students for life as a gringo. As universities are increasingly judged on employability, “it is difficult to acknowledge underemployment and therefore prepare individuals for this potential outcome”, it continues.

“Higher education institutions need to consider how to prepare individuals for the realities of the labour market and the possibility of underemployment, while not dampening expectations or constraining aspirations,” it suggests.


Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

British dean of US business school also questions the ‘strange’ trend of increasing regulation while reducing state funding in the UK sector