Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specializes in sourcing candidates for marketing internship roles and giving out graduate careers advice. For GSM London’s Careers in HR & Recruitment Week, Susannah reflect on whether mature graduates have the upper hand when it comes to employability.
A recent survey from the Higher Education Statistics Agency has declared that mature graduates not only earn more than their ‘immature’ colleagues but enjoy better job prospects. While the average starting salary for graduates under 25 is £20,009, the average for those above that age is a hefty £24,529.
Want to be among those earning £5000 extra? If you’re a mature graduate, there are ways to leverage your studies to help you stand out from the crowd. Here are the things to emphasise in the job hunt.
You know what you want
While it’s true that mature students have a higher dropout rate than their younger peers, they also have one distinct advantage: they exist in the real world. Students who go straight from A-Levels into a degree know nothing of the 9-5; the term ‘responsibility’ equally means little to them. Because most mature scholars understand the reality of the daily grind, they’re more able to make the most of their studies, and view education as a privilege, not a sine qua non.
Mature students also tend to be more driven. While around six in ten mature students cite ‘interest in my subject’ as a driving force behind their entry into university, over 40% are also seeking to improve their job prospects. You don’t go to university after the age of 25 without a clear goal in mind. Not for them is the common undergrad diet of cheap beer and all-nighters; they’re serious about their education, and their career beyond that.
You’re more… mature
Present a recruiter with a choice between a mature worker and a Millennial fresh out of university, and I probably don’t need to tell you which they’ll choose.
As a mature student, you have an opportunity to set yourself apart from the ‘typical’ Gen Y-er. Leverage your maturity. Use your CV to emphasise any work experience you have from before your studies, especially if you stuck out a job for more than a couple of years.
If you balanced your studies with family, part-time work or other responsibilities, stress the self-regulation and organisation that this demanded. Employers respect the ability to multitask, prioritise and juggle serious commitments – skills that few students straight out of school have ever had to demonstrate.
You’re more credible
If client-facing roles and management positions are what you’re aiming for, having a few extra years on your rivals could well be an advantage. While it can be difficult for subordinates to acknowledge a 21-year-old with minimal life experience, someone older may well find themselves commanding more respect in the office.
Although there are not many ways you can leverage your years in an interview, it may pay to consider roles where being older may work to your benefit. Office management, sales, or roles in which an aura of expertise is necessary, can offer opportunities.
You’ve overcome obstacles
Not everyone can go to university at 18. It’s an unfortunate fact that study incurs debt; it also demands grades of which not every schoolchild is given the best chance. As a result, those who delay their studies until their mid- or late twenties are more likely to be drawn from underprivileged backgrounds.
According to the NUS, mature undergraduates are more likely to be female, BAME, to hold non-traditional qualifications, to study part-time, to have disabilities and to obtain lower degree classifications. They’re also less likely to complete their courses. So, for those who do graduate, the prestige is double: they’ve battled the odds, struggled through the course and, thanks to personal drive, won through.
If you’re one of the many mature students for whom further education represents a fresh start and chance at social mobility, treat it as an asset. Recruiters respect individuals with tenacity and ambition who can fight their own battles. While no-one’s saying throttle your hiring manager with your working class background, ensure that you show how you have overcome hurdles in the past.
And finally, be aware…
As with all things, there is a flip side to mature employability. Thanks to family and property responsibilities, older job applicants typically have greater salary requirements and lesser flexibility than their junior rivals. Ensure that you apply to positions that match your location and salary needs. Alternatively, make it clear in your CV that you are willing to be geographically flexible for the right position.
If you are already a parent or plan to become so soon, ensure that this doesn’t impact your employability. Never mention family in an interview or CV; as employers are typically wary of the distractions family represent, it could result in unfair discrimination.
In fact, it is illegal for a prospective employer to ask whether you have or plan to have children, as well as anything about your relationship status. If a hiring manager ignores this rule, politely smile and state that you would rather discuss your eligibility for the role at hand.