‘A chance to network and get serious about career prospects’

More than 100 graduate employers expected at 2019 gradireland careers fair

Potential earning for graduates have reached a new high this year. When taken as an average across all sectors, a 2019 graduate can expect to be paid a starting salary of about €30,000. Photograph: iStock

Potential earning for graduates have reached a new high this year. When taken as an average across all sectors, a 2019 graduate can expect to be paid a starting salary of about €30,000. Photograph: iStock


With unemployment at record low levels, the jobs market is looking rosy for this year’s graduates.

This year’s gradireland fair is taking place at Dublin’s RDS Simmonscourt on October 2nd and is set to be another bumper event.

Despite impending Brexit doom, a healthy economy and the high quality of graduates coming through is fuelling greater job demands and higher salaries for graduates.

It’s a far cry from the 2008 credit crunch, when some employers scaled back or pulled the plug on their graduate programmes and students faced a choice between greater competition for what jobs remained or emigration.

There will be more jobs on offer than at any time over the past five years, says Gavan O’Brien, managing director of gradireland.

This year’s fair is expected to be the biggest to date, with something on offer for students from across every discipline, reflecting the growth in employment opportunities available, says O’Brien.

“While the bulk of attendees are in their final year, I would also encourage first- and second-year students to come along and see what to look out for. Some companies also offer summer internships so it is well worth going along and seeing what opportunities are available,” he says.

The 2019 gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey shows companies are optimistic about jobs growth and expect to hire more graduates.

Editor of gradireland Ruairi Kavanagh says this year’s gradireland fair at the RDS should see more than 10,000 attendees.

“Like last year, we have had huge demand from employers, who want to set up stall and really push the boat out in terms of their displays and how they will attract people to them,” he says.

“We expect to have about 100 employers there on the day and they are going to be looking to employ several thousand graduates, so get the CVs ready,” he says.


With Britain set to leave the European Union on October 31st, Irish companies are understandably anxious about what lies ahead, says Kavanagh.

“There are obviously some unknown quantities on the horizon, namely Brexit. and it remains to be seen how it will affect the graduate recruitment market. So far, it has been business as usual and there has been some relocation of firms – but of course there are opportunities too if more firms decide to locate here after Brexit,” he says.

“Some companies may cut back, reconfigure or tighten their belts but that is not something we have seen too much of yet. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next few months but there is no need for graduates to stress,” he says.

In fact, potential earning for graduates have reached a new high this year. When taken as an average across all sectors, a 2019 graduate can expect to be paid a starting salary of about €30,000.

About half of the graduate employers surveyed this year pay between €24,000 and €30,000 as a graduate starting salary.

“The average salary has now broken the €30,000 mark since the first time we have been doing this survey because salaries are on the rise along with the amount of opportunities,” Kavanagh says.

Chance to network

For graduates, the RDS fair is usually a nice break from lectures but Kavanagh says students should come along and treat it as a chance to network and get serious about their career prospects.

He says students should come with a plan and a purpose.

“Bring a CV and be game-face ready. Bring along a notebook or something to take down notes because it’s the start of the academic term and you’re not going to remember conversations you had several months from now. Make sure your CV is under two pages and full of relevant information about your degree but also any experience you have gained besides academia such as clubs, societies, volunteering and any internships or placements you have done,” he says.

There will also be a CV clinic on the day where attendees can bring along their CV and have it reviewed by a specialist in order to see how they can improve it.

Kavanagh says while it is assumed Generation Z – those born in the 1990s – prefer to engage online rather than face to face, he says this has proved not to be the case.

“What they really like is a personal connection and not just an anonymous review of the company written online. Employers bring along people from their programmes to man their stands, which makes it more engaging and accessible for the student to relate to and ask what the reality of the job is like, how they can get there and what the interview process is like,” he says.

Kavanagh stresses it is important to speak to current employees on the day instead of going around snapping up piles of brochures.

“If you can talk to someone on the programme, have a conversation with them, you have made a contact and then can follow up with them when you want to apply and may need advice,” he says.

At the end of the day, soft skills are important too – being able to relate to people, write and speak clearly and that is one thing employers are sometimes saying is lacking in graduates.

While salary is always an important factor for employees, this generation of graduates also value jobs with purpose and want to see employers with a focus on corporate social responsibility – which means more hard selling on behalf of employers.

“They are far more aspirational than the ones that have gone before and who perhaps just felt lucky to get a job and not have to emigrate. They stress the important of work-life balance, workplace culture and so on. Some graduates we surveyed are willing to work for someone for less money if they think it is a better fit for their values,” Kavanagh says.

However, while this tranche of graduates might be in a more enviable position. employers are still discerning.

“It is important graduates have that conversation about what you expect from the job at the right point with the employer as you don’t want to be going and making demands before you have even gotten the interview. Each company has its own unique terrain, which is why going to talk to people who actually work there is a great help

“Companies offer more now but there is a time for that conversation when you talk about what you expect from them as an employer. Graduates do have a bit more power because there are more jobs around but employers are still demanding in terms of the calibre of graduates they want.

“They still want people who can hit the ground running and that will be a good fit for them too,” he says.

And while a 2.1 degree or a strong academic record is important, there is more wriggle room for graduates than in years past.

“Having a 2.1 isn’t the be-all and end-all. It is not the knock-out question that it used to be but if a programme has high demand, it can still be used as a blunt instrument to cut through applications. It is always a good idea to show your initiative, be that through work placements and internships or showing some experience in the area you want to work in,” Kavanagh says.

“We encourage second- and third-year students to come along too because if you can get involved in university societies, placements . . . see what you can do apart from academia – they want fully rounded people,” he says.