Why don’t museums, publishers or creative industry employers come to Grad Fairs?

As a careers consultant working with Arts & Humanities students, this is a question I get asked all the time. It’s a fair question as it’s logical to assume that any employer that recruits graduates (and/or students for an internship or placement year) would want to come to an event aimed at students seeking employment and/or work experience. It’s also logical to assume that these same employers would all advertise their vacancies on the main graduate job hunting websites to help promote their opportunities to the maximum number of students and graduates. 

However, it doesn’t work like this! Basically, different types of employers and sectors recruit in different ways, depending on the number of vacancies they have; their recruitment budget; the employers they are competing with to attract students and graduates; the popularity of their sector/organisation with students and graduates; their recruitment targets in terms of skills, diversity, location etc.

In general, there are 2 main types of graduate recruitment:

  1. Big private sector organisations; large, well funded public sector organisations; large and well funded charities:
  • A specific recruitment cycle involving different stages and deadlines (typically starting in September)
  • High numbers of vacancies (e.g.20-300 per year) 
  • Significant recruitment budgets (so they can pay for advertising and selection tools like tests and assessment centres; time and travel to Grad Fairs; team of recruitment specialists to run the process and so on)
  1. Small and medium sized private sector organisations, small charities/social enterprises, poorly funded public sector departments (eg educational institutions), creative and heritage industries (eg film and TV production, performing arts, museums and galleries, commercial archaeology firms, journalism and publishing companies), start-ups, small/medium research organisations:
    • Recruit on an ad hoc basis, as and when they need people
    • Small number of vacancies per year (e.g. 1-20) and some years no vacancies
    • Small recruitment budget or no recruitment budget at all
    • Popular area of interest for job seekers, so don’t need to raise brand awareness
    • Some are niche or specialised sector/company looking for very specific skillsets so target recruitment adverts to specialist publications/websites/word of mouth

So yes, as a university careers service, we have Graduate Jobs and Placement Fairs every year in line with the types of employers in pool 1 above, but we also provide events and information resources about the types of employers in pool 2. We want students to be able to explore whatever you are interested in, inspire you with new possibilities and support you to do what’s right for you. However, it may in fact not always be clear to you exactly what is “right for you”.

For instance, another thing a lot of students say to me is that “I don’t want to work in a business, I know nothing about business” and assume that unless you’ve studied Business, Management and Accounting, employers wouldn’t actually be interested in them anyway. Consequently, it might be logical to assume that there’s no point in coming to the Grad Fairs. But, there’s one thing all sectors and all companies have in common: they are all businesses.

Companies all need to make money- for some, profit is their core purpose, for others they need money to fund their work. They all share a need for certain skills eg the ability to communicate effectively; collaborate with others; intellectual flexibility; initiative; problem solving, etc. 

Some job roles also exist across many or all industries, for example Marketing and Communications – you could do this for a finance firm, but you could also do it for a museum or a healthcare provider or a publishing company or a human rights charity or a political party. So gaining experience with an employer in pool 1 could actually be a great way to build experience to break into pool 2. Many employers in both pool 1 and 2 accept graduates from any academic discipline – they need your skills, strengths and interest in the role, not your subject knowledge. 

Also, you might actually like the pool 1 employers! If you don’t really understand what certain employers do and what a job role involves, it can of course seem pretty alien, unappealing and even off-putting. To be fair, you might not like them, but it’s better to make an informed choice not to apply to them, rather than be held back by fear/lack of knowledge.

To help you navigate this situation we are holding an event called “Arts & Humanities: Are Grad Schemes For You?” the week before the fairs. With a panel of professionals from a range of employers coming to the fairs you will get an insight into: 

  • what these types of employers do 
  • what’s involved in a grad scheme
  • the jobs they have available
  • what these employers are looking for in terms of candidates
  • why they value the skills and qualities arts & humanities students typically possess 

You can ask questions or just sit and listen. We only hold this event once a year,  it’s in-person and won’t be recorded, so if you think it might be useful, come along.

Some other resources you might find helpful: 

Finally, remember that if you want to chat about your situation – maybe you have no career ideas, maybe you have too many ideas, maybe you have a clear goal but are not sure how to achieve it – wherever you are at with this, you can book an appointment (virtual or in person). We’re here to help and we don’t judge!

Kate Morris, is a Careers Consultant for the Arts and Humantities faculty and is part of the University’s Careers and Placements team