“How do I get myself a graduate job?”

This is a question we frequently get asked within the career service, and one that can often be difficult to answer. A common goal for almost all students is to get themselves a graduate job at the end of their course, but the harsh reality is this:

Having a degree alone is not always enough.

As well as studying, it is vital that students use their time at university to gain professional experience in order to get ahead in their chosen career path. This blog post aims to sign post students to the different types of professional experience opportunities available no matter what stage they are at in their degree, and explain exactly when they should be applying for graduate opportunities.

First Year and Mid Degree students

From the moment you start your course you are in control of your own career planning, and everything you do will help you reach your end destination of becoming an employable graduate. Don’t forget the careers service can support you during any stage of your degree.

Gaining transferable skills for your CV

Transferable skills are skills that you develop during your time at university which you can draw upon when applying for professional opportunities. Skills include things such as: project management, written and oral communication, self – motivation, teamwork, resilience, leadership and many more. You can develop your transferable skills at university:

  • On your course
    (e.g. giving a presentation, working in a group, or managing a project)
  • By becoming a course rep
    Being a course rep gives you the opportunity to develop skills such as: communication, interpersonal, public speaking, negotiation, self management and many more.
  • By joining SU societies
    To see how joining an SU society can help you get a job, have a read of this article
  • Starting a blog and/or portfolio
    Setting up a blog, website or online portfolio gives you the opportunity to showcase your work and show off to employers
  • Taking part in the Student Leadership Award
    The aim of these awards are to  help you take that next step after University and into working life by giving you a complete portfolio that represents key graduate competencies that employers are looking for
  • Volunteering
    Volunteering allows you to develop the skills and experience to gain graduate employment after your studies.

Gaining professional experience

Gaining professional experience is one of the most important things you can do whilst at university. You can do it at any stage in your degree but it is always beneficial to start as early as you can. Below are a few examples:

  • Part time work
    Getting a part time job alongside your studies demonstrates your ability to manage your time as well as giving valuable work experience.
  • Work shadowing
    Observing somebody in their  role helps you to gain an understanding of the workplace, build up a network of contacts and discover whether a job is right for you.
  • Employer insight days
    Employer insight days are a great way of getting your foot in the door within top graduate companies, and seeing how they run on a day to day basis.
  • Summer internships
    Doing a summer internship lets you discover what working in a particular role is like and gain the essential experience that is highly sought after by employers

Final Year Students

By the time you reach your final year of university hopefully you have chosen a specific career direction and have an idea of how you plan on getting there. If you haven’t, DON’T WORRY! Book in to speak with a Careers Adviser as soon as possible. In order to know when you should be applying for graduate jobs it is helpful to know the about the different types of opportunities:

Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes are a structured training programme targeted to recent graduates, and are offered by many large employers. They typically last a year, but some extend to 18 months or even two years – after which you often become part of the company.

When to apply

Generally speaking, graduate schemes tend to be advertised from September to January the year before the scheme starts. This means that if you are starting your final year in September you need to be applying straight away in order to get onto a graduate scheme for the following year. Some graduate schemes are also advertised in January, so keep an eye out for these.

Direct Entry Position/ ‘Graduate Jobs’

Direct entry positions differ from schemes in that the company is hiring you to fill a specific gap, and you immediately become part of the company and learn new skills on the job. Direct entry positions are a common form of recruitment in SMEs (small to medium enterprises).

When to apply

Direct entry positions or ‘graduate jobs’ are advertised all year round with peaks in May – July and September – December time. This means that in theory you will be able to apply for direct entry positions as soon as you finish your course.

Finding opportunities

You can have a look for graduate opportunities on our JobShop. In addition to this, the Careers Service has put together a list of graduate opportunities to help inform your job search. These include:

Employability Timelines 

It is a difficult task thinking about your employability whilst juggling everything else whilst at university, so we have created a month by month interactive employability timeline for each year of study.