If you come from a less ‘well-off’ background, it can seem like you’re already at a disadvantage against your peers. Youth Ambassador Meg spoke to Jade Azim, a Programme Coordinator at UpReach to find out more about the barriers that graduates and students from less privileged backgrounds may face, and how you can overcome them.
The issue is known as ‘the class ceiling’, which means that even if you have the same academic achievements as your richer peers, you face obstacles of ‘unconscious bias’ and different levels of soft skills.” She explained how this divide can exist between poor and rich, private and state schools, as well as when looking at different areas of the country.
Jade emphasises networking is key, networks that individuals may not have access to due to their backgrounds. “Employers favour people ‘like them’: the old cliché about ‘who you know’ is unfortunately very true.” It is not just about being offered the job, talking to people who are working in the sector you’re interested in can help you clarify your ideas and give you some tips on where to find opportunities. This is particularly relevant for professions like law, finance, or business where it’s difficult to ‘get in’ if you don’t know anyone in that sector. Furthermore, networking allows you to discuss your ideas, and in some cases raise your profile within a professional setting. By doing this you may make useful contacts and find out about opportunities that have not been advertised.
You can build up your networks in many ways, such as networking with peers and alumni or even finding someone to mentor you.
Secondly, Jade identifies “soft skills like CV building and how you conduct yourselves in an interview are often taught in more privileged households and schools at an early age.” However if you missed out on that you can develop your soft skills yourself in a number of ways. Joining sport teams, fundraising for local causes, organising events, and getting involved in extra-curricular activities at university all develop your soft skills, and will be noticed by employers. Still unsure? You can sign up to the free YEUK Young Professional programme to develop your ‘soft skills’ like teamwork, organisation, and resilience.
Jade agrees, she recommends “ask around for advice, and set yourself the challenge of getting involved in extra-curricular activities, but also don’t feel pressurised to mimic middle class culture – build your case for ‘grit’ and resilience. Build your personal story. And convince others why they should be aware of your merits and talents against the odds.”
UpReach is a social mobility scheme for graduates where we can help develop your skills. UpReach help with CVs, mentoring, insight days and a whole lot more. Consider getting involved!