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‘It’s not what you know’ - Students express concerns over appearance and contacts in securing dream job

More than a third of students believe having the right contacts is vital to securing a dream job while huge numbers also express concerns about appearance, ethnicity, class, and gender when it comes to securing employment. 

The findings were uncovered in research conducted by Yugo*, a leading global student housing brand, which has revealed student views on the quality of their education and how well the UK’s universities equip them for life beyond study. 

The study analysed the views of 6,000 university students around the world, including over 1,000 in the UK, where students gave their respective universities an average rating of 7.3 out of 10 for quality of education – the equivalent of First Class Honours. 

According to the findings, 85% of students consider a university education as a major factor in their journey towards achieving their career goals. Moreover, 79% of students believe that their university experience aids them in developing essential soft skills such as teamwork, time management, cooking, and networking, which they deem crucial for their professional growth. 

However, the study also revealed that across the country, 32% of students believe that having the right contacts plays a crucial role in landing dream jobs. Across certain regions of the UK this figure rises – to 43% in the South East of England, 42% in the South West of England and 41% in the North East of England. 

This sentiment was mirrored across the globe too, with students in Spain (45%), Australia (43%), Germany (41%), Ireland and the USA (39%) also identifying contacts as a major factor in landing their dream role. 

Perhaps even more of a concern is that 20% of students think appearance plays a key part in securing jobs – a figure that increases to 27% in the South West, 25% in the East of England and 24% in Yorkshire and the Humber. 

Ethnicity, gender and class were also cited as important factors by over 10% of respondents. 

The research not only provides valuable insights into the factors influencing students' career aspirations but also highlights areas for improvement in university support systems. 

Half of students (50%) said they think their university could do more to offer work experience or internship opportunities to help them prepare for their future careers. Just under half (42%) said that their university could provide more careers advice and a third (30%) would appreciate more insight into what working life is really like. 

Simon Griffiths, Regional Director – UK & Ireland at Yugo, said: “There are some real positives in this data. It is clear that students studying in the UK rate the quality of their education highly, but supporting students beyond lectures is a vital part of making their university experience a successful one. Empowering young people beyond the classroom and preparing them for their careers by offering career advice, real-life experience and coaching is crucial. 

“It’s concerning that so many students believe factors such as contacts and ethnicity play key roles in their job prospects. The onus is on employers to be proving these views wrong, opening up diverse routes to entry and encouraging applications from wide talent pools of young people from varied educational disciplines.”  

Yugo remains committed to supporting students in their journey towards career success by providing exceptional student housing experiences that foster personal growth, community, and well-being. 27% of Yugo's workforce consisted of students - providing them with professional skills in areas such as sales and customer service, event planning, performance feedback and goal setting, and networking and collaboration. 

According to the study, over two thirds (69%) know the future career they want to pursue before going to university, with 54% stating that they go for the benefit of their future career.