Building your shortlist of graduate employers takes some research, but following these simple tips will benefit your job hunt…
Finding graduate jobs
Vacancies are advertised in many places. Use the following resources to find jobs, checking them regularly for updates if job alerts don't inform you automatically:
- careers fairs, open days and workshops;
- professional associations;
- recruitment agencies;
- sector-specific websites;
- social media;
- trade journals;
- university careers and employability services.
Some of the world's largest companies offer fiercely competitive graduate leadership programmes. Participants earn a respectable salary, gain hands-on professional experience, and receive training and skills development. Programmes exist in most sectors, and typically last one or two years with the possibility of permanent employment if there's a job vacancy at the end. Around half of graduate development programmes are open to students of any discipline, though most demand that applicants have achieved - or are predicted to achieve - at least a 2:1 at undergraduate level.
Such graduate fast-track schemes are hard work; companies invest their time and money, so expect your dedication in return. You'll usually work in different areas of the organisation such as HR, IT, sales, finance, marketing and business management. You may also work in different locations across the UK, or even overseas. Training in areas including law, construction and management is often accredited by a relevant professional association.
Companies may use the 'graduate milkround' to attract university leavers to their general management trainee programmes. This sees employers give presentations and hold interviews at targeted institutions. Doing plenty of research about the business and demonstrating your enthusiasm for working there makes you stand out.
Application deadlines are often between autumn and early spring, with assessment centres or interviews taking place soon after if your initial application is successful. However, some employers close their schemes once vacancies are filled, so apply early. Be prepared for psychometric, competence-based tests throughout the application process.
Get started by searching graduate schemes.
These are an increasingly common way for students to gain work experience in a particular role. They can last anywhere between one week and one year, and sometimes lead to permanent jobs.
Internships are worth considering if you're looking to:
- boost your CV;
- network with industry professionals;
- have an edge when job hunting;
- confirm that a certain career is right for you;
- gain valuable skills and work experience in your chosen field.
Job sectors commonly offering internships include:
Agencies help with your job hunt, connecting those seeking work with potential employers. Many employers recruit solely through agencies, meaning that signing up gives you access to job vacancies not advertised elsewhere. Companies expect recruitment consultants to recommend candidates with relevant skills.
Specialist sector job agencies often have a strong knowledge of their particular industry. What's more, they can analyse and develop your skillset, provide advice to boost your application, and prepare you for interviews. They're also well-connected, meaning that your CV can be sent speculatively to numerous employers. This saves valuable time, especially if you're already in full-time employment.
Find out how to get a job through recruitment agencies.
Graduate employers that are recruiting can be found:
- on social media;
- through professional associations and industry bodies;
- at your university careers and employability service; and
- in publications such as The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.
However, be proactive - some opportunities may not be advertised. Applying speculatively shows prospective employers your initiative.
Various factors will influence your choices, but consider searching employers with a commitment to diversity and strong ethical credentials. Check company websites to discover the employer's level of commitment to equal opportunities. The public sector generally has a strong record for supporting equality.
Many job vacancies are hidden, so failing to network leads to missed opportunities. Family, friends and colleagues should be your starting point, but you can build a broad network of useful contacts through careers fairs, open days and workshops. Contacts can provide job leads, introduce you to employers with a job vacancy, and offer advice and information.
Simple conversations can lead to work experience and job opportunities, so don't be afraid to approach people directly. Proactively contact prospective employers for openings before they reach job boards, pre-emptively tailoring your CV and cover letter. Keep in contact, perhaps even asking whether they can recommend you to anyone else if full-time work isn't available. Referral increases your chances of being interviewed and getting a job.
Students and graduates are increasingly being contacted by recruiters thanks to their social media presence, so use LinkedIn and Twitter to your advantage. Use a consistent username and image, and reference other platforms that you're using professionally to link them. Join relevant LinkedIn groups to get involved in discussions, and keep adding contacts to grow your network.
This requires creativity, determination, knowledge, leadership, organisation and self-belief. However, being your own boss can have many benefits.
There are several types of business you could set up:
- sole trader;
- limited company;
- social enterprise;
You could also become a freelancer or consultant - a particularly popular option for those looking to work within sectors including:
- accountancy, banking and finance;
- creative arts and design;
- information technology;
- leisure, sport and tourism;
- media and internet.
Find out more about self-employment.
Top five job-hunting tips
- Network - Ask your contacts for advice and opportunities, and use social media and careers fairs to your advantage. You'd be surprised how important connections are when you're looking for your first graduate job.
- Sign up for job alerts - Take advantage of websites' automatic job updates, as this saves you plenty of time. However, remember to utilise the more traditional methods of browsing job boards and local newspapers too - these are tried and tested ways of finding vacancies.
- Stay motivated - Your job hunt will prove fruitful - even if it becomes arduous, frustrating and disheartening at times. Learn from your setbacks, but always look to move forward. Ask for feedback wherever possible.
- Target your application - Tailor your application to the individual job specifications and values of each organisation. Make every cover letter as personal to the role and company as possible - this always goes a long way.
- Volunteer - This enhances your CV, tests out your chosen career and puts you in pole position for any arising job opportunities. Behave well, be smart and enthusiastic, and get stuck into everything they ask of you. Remember to enquire about potential vacancies.
The essential guide to your career
Discover how to make yourself more attractive to employers while at university and ease the pressure after graduation with our job hunting advice.