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‘To be employed is to be at risk, to be employable is to be secure’ (Hawkins 1999).
Today employment is no longer a form of security because of the ever changing nature of the economy, the workplace and the changing needs of employers. If graduates are to attain employment, retain their positions in the work place and move up the career ladder, they need to continuously develop themselves professionally and build on their employability skills: they need to have a plan.
This report researches graduate opportunities in the Business administration/Management sector. ‘Business administration is used as a synonym for management. Administration is often seen as paperwork and form-filing, but it reaches more widely than that to encompass the coordination of all procedures that enable a product or service to be delivered, together with keeping of records that can be checked to identify errors or opportunities for improvement.’ (Business Administration 2009).
This sector was chosen because the researcher is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and aspires to know exactly what is needed to become employable.
The researcher plans to fulfill this aspiration by first identifying key information regarding this sector in terms of: general employment trends and graduate opportunities, the employability skills organizations expect from graduates and the recruitment and selection methods used by organisations. The research methods used to accomplish the former is explained in detail in the methodology section of this report.
Second, the findings of the research in terms of the employability skills are then matched against a personal analysis of the researcher and a gap analysis and career action plan formulated.
Finally the report concludes with the researcher reflecting on what was learnt from the research experience and the usefulness of the career action plan for the future.
This section of the report provides a factual reflection of the findings from the research conducted on graduate opportunities in the Business administration/management sector.
Terms of Reference
This report researches graduate opportunities in the Business administration/management sector. Through a process of factual and personal reflection it provides information on how can graduates in this field can increase their employability and marketability through personal and professional development. The report is required to show evidence of the research used for reflection.
This report is based on secondary research carried out between February and March 2011. The researcher aims to gather factual up-to-date information on graduate opportunities in the Business administration/management sector in the following areas:
- General employment trends.
- Opportunities for recent graduates.
- The skills knowledge and experience required from graduates by employers.
- How graduates are recruited and selected.
The researcher set out to use the case study method for research as this method allows the researcher to investigate a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident, and in which multiple sources of evidence are used (Yin, 1989). However due to difficulties faced in completing interviews with companies chosen for the case studies and the large number of incomplete questionnaires returned, the researcher had no choice but to complete the report with the use of secondary research only. Using the limited information attained would have compromised the accuracy, reliability and validity of the report. Time constraints prevented the researcher from setting up interviews with other companies and it would have been unethical for the researcher to force respondents to complete the questionnaire or to fabricate information.
Thus a wide range of secondary research from academic sources were used such as journal articles, books, business databases, newspapers, jobs and career websites and general job and specialist websites.
For general employment trends in this sector not only articles were used but up to date statistics as well from reliable sources (The United States Depart of Labor, Bureau of Statistics) to maintain accuracy. Information for employment opportunities were found mainly in job and career websites.
The summary provided on the skills, knowledge and experience required from graduates and the recruitment and selection methods was based on online research from six organisations in different sectors ranging from large enterprises to not for profit organisations. Although company websites provided the majority of information for this section they were not the only source used.
The researcher is aware of the limitations of secondary research such as inaccuracy and out of date information, however the researcher attempted to counteract this by using reliable sources such as journals and databases and sites that provided up to date information and national statistics.
This section of the report provides key information regarding the Business administration/management sector. Whether the industry is expanding or contracting is vital information for graduates as this directly affects the demand for jobs in fields within the sector. With this knowledge graduates will be able to make informed decisions, for example, to choose a career in a field that is growing and not declining. In addition, graduates will be able to reflect on their knowledge, skills and experience after gaining information on the employability skills employers are seeking, thereby providing them the opportunity for professional development in areas needed. Furthermore, being aware of the recruitment and selection practices employed by organisations allows graduates to prepare themselves to get the job they desire.
General employment trends in this sector
Administration and Management are extremely broad areas and graduates seeking employment in this sector can get jobs in the goods-producing industries such as manufacturing and construction or the service-providing industries such as health care, education and administrative and support services. See section 2.2.2 page 9, figure 3 for a list of graduate jobs in this sector.
According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, ’employment in goods-producing industries has declined since the 1990s. Although overall employment is expected to change little, projected growth among goods-producing industries varies considerably. See Figure 1.This is in contrast to service producing industries; ‘the shift in the U.S. economy away from goods-producing in favor of service-providing is expected to continue. Service-providing industries are anticipated to generate approximately 14.5 million new wage and salary jobs.’ (United States Department of Labor 2010). See Figure 2.
According to these industry trends, graduates who choose jobs in the growing service industry are expected to have a long-term career as opposed to those in goods- producing industry.
Industry growth or decline will affect the demand for occupations. Thus if an industry is growing for example the health and services industry then graduates who gain employment in this industry will be able to move up the career ladder from perhaps a junior health administrator to a senior health administrator. However if the manufacturing sector is on the decline then entering this industry as a junior production manager may not be wise as the post may be short lived through retrenchment or layoffs.
Statistics reveal that employment in management occupations project to grow slowly over the projection period 2008-18, increasing by 5 percent, an addition of 454,300 new jobs and office and administrative support occupations expect to grow by 8 percent, adding 1.8 million new jobs by 2018. (United states Department of Labor 2010).
Another recent trend is the demand for graduates from Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). ‘There are an estimated 4.8 million SMEs in the United Kingdom (UK) employing 23.1 million people with a combined annual turnover of £3000 billion.’ (Kewin et al 2010). Thus, graduates who do not wish to work in large corporate have an option and opportunity to work in a different atmosphere as compared to the past.
Also in recent years, there has been an increased interest in employability skills by employers. ‘A degree alone is not enough. Employers are looking for more than just technical skills and knowledge of a degree discipline. They particularly value skills such as communication, team working and problem-solving.'(Jones, D 2005).
In addition, the methods used to advertise jobs are also changing. In the past, it was common for advertisements to be in newspapers, career magazines, career services under universities and spread by word of mouth. However, due to increased technology organisations are putting advertisements on employment websites and using online recruitment agencies. By the click of a button, graduates can access and explore a range on different job opportunities and career information locally and globally as well as apply online for jobs instead of the traditional way by post or hand delivery.
Furthermore, there are changes in the methods used for graduate recruitment and selection. ‘Socio economic and political changes as well as developments in information technology have all led to the introduction of new and more sophisticated methods of recruitment and selection.’ (Sackett & Lievens 2008 cited in Brianne, M 2008).
The roles employers expect graduates to perform are also changing. For example, ‘earlier, the role of the secretary was limited to taking notes from their heads, typing and storing information. However, with the advent of technology in companies and offices, the secretary duties have extended to things that are for the professional and managerial staff.’ (Kartha, D 2010).
Additionally, because the world is now becoming a global market place some occupations require graduates to have a second language as they will be communicating with clients worldwide, for example a sales manager or executive administrative assistants and secretaries.
Graduates may have certain skills, interests and objectives, however, they need to take into consideration these industries and employment trends so they can make informed decisions regarding their career choice. The following section will now uncover the range of opportunities available to graduates.
2.3.2 Opportunities for recent graduates
All organisations, large or small and across all sectors need administrators, managers and administrative support staff. Thus, graduates can get jobs in the public, private and not for profit sectors, in large corporate and in SMEs. In fact, if graduates do not want to choose the traditional graduate management route self-employment, franchising or branch management could be what they are looking for. Fig 3 shows a list of careers available in this sector.
Figure 3. Source:University Career Center. KUCareerHawk.com
The role graduates perform would depend on the organization they are working for in terms of the sector, the organization structure and culture and the leadership styles within the organization. For example in large organisations graduates may perform routine structured roles in a specific area of the job example finance as compared to Small and Medium sized Enterprise (SMEs) who duties may be unstructured and graduates will be involved in all aspects of the organisations work.
Employers advertise graduate employment opportunities in newspapers, career magazines and through university career services. However, the most popular form of advertising today is on company and university websites, online recruitment agencies and graduate jobs and career services websites such as targetjobs.com.
The next section provides information about the employability skills employers seek from graduates.
2.3.3 The skills, knowledge and experience required
Leaving university with a Bachelor Arts degree in Business administration is important in attaining a job in the graduate employment market, however it is not enough. According to Carl Gilleard – Chief Executive, Association of Graduate Recruiters ’21st century graduates need to demonstrate to employers that they can ‘hit the ground running’. In addition to working hard to gain a good degree, students should engage in extracurricular activities and obtain work experience in order to develop skills that will make them better prepared for the world of work. It is also important for students to become self- aware and develop the confidence to market themselves effectively when the time comes to apply for jobs.’ (target jobs.com)
Apart from the formal qualifications of a degree which was strongly desired by five of the six organisations researched employers’ required graduates to have at least one year experience in the field. In terms of skills, commercial awareness skills, people skills, enthusiasm and motivation and communication skills were deemed to be the most important.
The section that follows provide information on recruitment and selection processes used by organisations.
2.3.4 How graduates are selected
‘Graduate recruitment and selection is a process of searching for and obtaining potential job applicants from graduates in sufficient quantity and quality so that employers can select the most suitable candidates to fill in their job vacancies .'(Beardwell et al., 2004). ‘In practice there is no one best way or commonly agreed procedure on how to recruit and select graduates because different employers have different recruitment and selection methods depending on their operations, size and needs.’ (Sackett and Lievens, 2008).
According to the employers in the organisations researched they preferred to recruit graduates through online methods, example via milkround. Other methods sometimes used are recruitment brochures, recruitment fairs; this method was very popular, recruitment agencies, and to a lesser extent newspapers and magazines.
The selection process has changed as organisations are not only using interviews as a means of selecting individuals. In order for individuals to display their knowledge, skills and abilities the use of assessment centers was most popular in large organisations. The smaller organisations that do not have assessment centers set up used aptitude and psychometric tests.
This section of the report is based on a personal analysis which is matched against the findings of the research. A career action plan is then developed to for future use.
Drew and Bingham (2001) define reflection as ‘looking back on experience and making sense of it to identify what to do in the future.’ The following skills were indentified after I did a personal reflection.
I enjoy working with people of all ages and backgrounds. At work I have experience in training On the Job Trainees( OJT’s) via workshops and in my second year at the University of the West Indies I coached students on a weekly basis for two modules for a period of six months. I communicate with the public on a daily basis and this has enabled me to strengthen my skill in this area.
I have experience in giving presentations to small groups in the first two years at university as some of the modules were partly presentation based. Assignment based presentations has allowed me to develop the use of clear and concise language, good planning and organisation and good interaction with the audience.
My work experience throughout the years enabled me to gain extensive experience in the area of customer service. My first part time job in a fast food restaurant as a customer service worker has developed my team building skills. I was promoted to team leader in one year time and I was awarded for having outstanding enthusiausm and motivation skills. As a Secretary I was involved in the preparation of correspondence, reports, plans and budgets. Multitasking was a skill I learnt as a telephone operator whereby I handled six incoming lines with 40 extensions transferring calls to department heads. The position I currently hold requires me to work in a fast paced, hectic environment so I am capable of handling multiple tasks at once. I know how to prioritize job assignments, work independently and interdependently and resolve problems on my own as well as part of a team. I am very organized and detailed oriented. I am the project leader for all incoming projects because I possess good motivation skills and organizational skills
CV & Covering Letter
Appendix – is a cover letter and CV prepared in response to a job vacancy recently advertised in the Public service sector as a Business Operations Assistant.
After conducting research and conducting a personal analysis I have matched all the skills needed excepting commercial awareness skills. I have plenty experience in the Administration field and I am in the process of obtaining my degree.
Apart from theses knowledge skills and experience, I have hands on experience in typing but lack a formal certificate, which are often requested by organisations.
Lack of education in terms of possessing a foreign language has always restricted me from taking advantage of opportunities I would like to apply for. Many times I see a job advertised and I have all the qualification and experience except the ability to speak a foreign language
Career Action Plan
The definition most often used for Commercial Awareness is by Christopher Stoakes in his excellent book ‘All You Need to Know about Commercial Awareness’. He states
“At heart, commercial awareness is about being able to talk to clients, finding out what they want, why they want it, what they will do with it and what they are prepared to pay, and then delivering it in the way they want. To do that you need to understand how organisations work, the issues they face and the role of people within them.”
To increase my commercial awareness skills I intend to read not only the newspaper articles but also published business magazines as well. When applying for jobs I also intend to research the company and even prepare a SWOT analysis of the company for two reasons. First to let the interviewer know that I have extensive knowledge of the company enabling me a better chance of getting the job and second, to know if the company is one I would really like to work for. Furthermore, I intend to buy the book ‘All You Need to Know about Commercial Awareness’ by Christopher Stoakes – it is selling on Amazon for just $24.27.
I have located a business school that offers a short course on typing. The duration is 3 months part time. I intend to take this course as a next step to developing my skills. Having achieved this will better position me to apply for those jobs that require the certificate in typing.
Spanish and French are two popular foreign languages, however because I live in the Caribbean Spanish is more often requested by employers. A local university offers introductory intermediate and advanced levels in Spanish courses. The total duration for all three parts is one year part time. As a part of the course the university in the final stage takes a trip to a Spanish speaking country to give students practical experience in the field in real live settings. I also intend to take this course. Appendix 3 is a summary of a career action plan I developed.
Having completed this exercise has made me aware of available opportunities I never knew existed in this sector. Having knowledge of the recent trends and developments and future trends in this sector will now enable me to make more informed decisions when applying for positions in the job market.
Also I was not aware of commercial awareness skills until I did this report, I never even knew that a skill like this existed. Furthermore identifying my strong and weak areas gave me a sense of self fulfillment and now I know exactly what steps I had to take to develop them.
Drawing up a career action plan allows me to see exactly how long it will take me to achieve my career goals and I am enthusiastic to start. I intend to continuously keep up to date with trends in the sector and always keep updating my career action plan. I am extremely happy that I did this module. It really helped me personally and professionally.
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