6 Career Options for Graduates

February 21 2020 , 0 Comments

Girl at graduation

“What are your next steps?” If you’ve graduated or are nearing the end of your degree, you’ve probably been asked that question many times.

But what if you don’t know what to do with your degree and are unsure of your career options?

It is common for new graduates to leave university feeling confused and perhaps a little lost. Working out what route is best for you will involve self-reflection and research. Investing time into these two actions will help you to make an informed decision and help you to start your graduate career on the right foot.

In this post, we will outline some of the routes you can take after graduation. If you need some help to discover your career path and land a great graduate-level role, visit the Graduate Coach website and explore the career coaching services that are specifically designed for students, graduates and career changers.

So, without further ado, here are 6 career options for graduates:


 1. Get a place on a structured graduate scheme

A graduate scheme is a highly structured training programme offered usually by larger companies. They are designed for graduates who are in the early stages of their career.

If you are offered a place on a graduate scheme, you will work at the company, take on responsibility and earn a salary.

Is a graduate scheme the right route for you?

If you would like to keep an open mind with regards to your career path, a graduate scheme might be the right pathway for you. This is because most graduate schemes will give you the opportunity to rotate around different departments and get a feel for what you enjoy doing most

A graduate scheme may also be right for you if you would like a clear progression route. Many companies invest a lot in their graduates. Some companies will pay for you to get relevant qualifications and ensure that you gain specific skills and experiences required to thrive in your role within the company. If you perform well during the graduate scheme and wish to remain at the company, you may be offered a permanent position.

Alternatively, if you decide that you do not want to remain at the company, you could always apply for a job at another company using the skills and experiences you gained on your graduate scheme.

How to get a place on a graduate scheme

It can be extremely difficult to get a place on a graduate scheme. This is because there is an overabundance of academically qualified students and graduates all competing for a limited number of positions.

Therefore, graduate recruiters select only the most work-ready applicants who can demonstrate that they have the skills and experiences to thrive. 

Here are some top tips for getting a place on a graduate scheme:

If you feel that a graduate scheme is the right career option for you, it is important that you send out high-quality applications for opportunities that you are best suited for.

  • Apply early. Many graduate recruiters start screening and processing applications as they come in and close the application portal once they have filled their vacancies. Submit your application early to avoid disappointment.
  • Research the company and graduate scheme thoroughly. If you cannot articulate why you are the right person for the job, you will have a hard time trying to convince the hiring team. Identify the skills and experiences the company is looking for in their graduate hires and align them to your attributes. 

  • Refine your interview technique. You could be the perfect candidate for the role, but if you cannot communicate this throughout the interview process you will struggle to land a place on a graduate scheme. Being able to perform highly in interviews is a lifelong skill that will help you to gain more opportunities throughout your career. If you have interview anxiety or lack confidence when interviewing, you will benefit from investing in interview coaching. 

STAR Technique


The STAR technique is an effective method for articulating what skills you have and how you used them to add value to a company. 

  • Gain work experience. A degree alone is not enough to get a place on a graduate scheme. You must be able to articulate what skills you have and how you have gained them. Having varied work experiences will help you to provide evidence of your skills and potential to perform well on the graduate scheme.

    If you have already gained work experience from internships or part-time jobs, highlight the transferable skills that you have gained. 

2. Get a graduate-level job

Now you are probably wondering, what is the difference between a graduate-level job and a graduate scheme?

As mentioned above, graduate schemes are highly structured and often offer graduates the opportunity to rotate around different areas of the business to work out what they enjoy doing the most.

There are many similarities between graduate schemes and graduate jobs. Graduate jobs are also aimed at high-calibre graduates and often offer training opportunities, however, they are usually less structured.

They may also be with smaller companies and involve working in a specific role rather than rotating across departments.

Another key difference between graduate schemes and graduate jobs is that most graduate schemes have fixed application windows. They generally start accepting applications in September and take on new graduate hires the following summer. Graduate jobs, however, have many start dates throughout the year, depending on the needs of the business.


Graduate Job vs. Graduate Scheme


Is a graduate job right for you?

If you have a clear idea of what you would like to do, you may be better suited for a graduate job, instead of a graduate scheme.

A graduate job may also be an option for you if you have already graduated and have missed the application for graduate schemes, but do not want to wait for the next graduate scheme application window.

How to find graduate job opportunities

Sometimes, graduate jobs are less advertised than graduate schemes so it is important that you proactively search for graduate job opportunities.

Here are some tips on how to find graduate job opportunities:

  • Use your university’s job search portal. Local businesses may post listings on your university’s job search portal. These companies will be looking for graduates for a wide range of roles.
  • Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn can be a really powerful tool for finding a graduate job. Therefore, it is important to optimise your LinkedIn profile, so that you are visible to recruiters who are looking for university leavers. You can also use the platform to search and apply for graduate job vacancies. Your LinkedIn profile and online presence should complement your CV.
  • Attend networking events and build up a list of key contacts. Also, don’t forget to ask your family members and friends if they know of any suitable opportunities. You can use sites like Eventbrite or MeetUp to find nearby networking events.
  • Write a high-quality graduate CV. Your CV needs to convince recruiters that you have the potential to thrive in the role. In order to get invited for an interview, it is important that you have a great CV. For more tips on writing your graduate CV check out this graduate CV guide.
  • Send out speculative applications. The key to getting a graduate job is to be proactive and to actively seek out opportunities. If you have a few smaller companies in mind that you are interested in, send them a speculative application with a copy of your CV and cover letter. Check out this guide on how to make speculative applications for graduate jobs.
  • Follow the companies you are interested in working for on social media. Doing so will help you to stay up to date with the company and see any job vacancies they advertise.


3. Join a graduate training academy

If you would like to get more training in a specific area to upskill before getting a graduate job, joining a graduate training academy may be an excellent career option for you.

Graduate training academies last for several weeks and involve learning specific skills that are required to successfully get a specific role.

Upon successful completion of the training programme, the training provider will help you to get a job with one of their partner companies.

Is a graduate training programme right for you?

This may be an ideal career option for you if you are a graduate who is interested in going into a technology-related field.

Here are some examples of training academies and programmes for graduates:

- QA has a graduate academy that is designed for graduates who wish to become a digital consultant. The training programme lasts for 12 weeks and involves gaining practical hands-on experience, consultancy skills, support from mentors and ongoing learning. 

In order to get a place on the 12-week programme, you will need to have:

  • An interest in software development
  • a 2:2 STEM degree
  • Geographically flexible
  • Can commit to a full-time permanent role

- FDM recruits, trains and then deploys graduates. FDM’s career programmes are designed to bridge the gap between academia and the commercial world.

Once you have completed the training programme at FDM, you get a foot in the door with one of their prestigious clients.

You can choose between a technical pathway or a business pathway.

Therefore, if you are interested in launching your graduate career in software development, business intelligence, IT service management, Robotic process automation business analysis or risk regulation and compliance, there may be a suitable training programme at FDM for you.

Mthree's alumni graduate programme offers training for the following roles:

  • Software development
  • Production support
  • DevOps engineering
  • Cyber Information Technology
  • Anti-financial Crime
  • Business Analysis

Once you’ve completed the alumni graduate application process, you will begin an 8-week training programme in the role that you are interested in. Upon completion, you will start an 18-24 month placement with a global tech brand. 

Turing Talent offers a one year programme for graduates who wish to pursue a career in tech.

Once you’ve joined the programme you will become a Turing talent Fellow and you will be placed at a destination company and receive a mentor. During the programme, you will attend 12 monthly training sessions covering technical and leadership skills.


4. Get a graduate internship

An internship is an excellent way to get some hands-on experience and to develop your skills.

You can still do an internship even though you have already graduated.

Graduate internships are short-term periods of work experience that can significantly boost your employability. You may be able to can convert your internship into a full-time position at the company if you perform well.

Is an internship the right career option for you as a graduate?

An internship as a graduate might be a good career option if you are unsure of what career is right for you. A short-term internship will give you the opportunity to dip your toes into a role before fully committing to it.

If you have graduated and are struggling to find a graduate job or scheme, you may need to get an internship to gain work experience. Once you have gained experience, you’ll be able to add it to your CV, which will strengthen your future job applications. 

You may feel reluctant to get an internship as a graduate as some internships are unpaid or pay very little. However, there are some really high-quality internship opportunities out there for graduates at reputable companies.

Another option might be to take on a part-time job whilst doing an internship part-time. This will help you to earn money whilst gaining experience that is relevant to the career path that you wish to pursue.

Alternatively, you could apply for a graduate placement. Professional services company PwC offers graduate work placements. The placement lasts between six to eleven months and allows graduates to gain experience in several departments, such as:

- Business enablement

- Project management

- Operational excellence

- Innovation

- Data Intelligence

Tips for getting an internship as a graduate

  • Search for companies that offer internships to recent graduates. For example, Accenture offers a Marketing and Communications internship for graduates.
  • Virtual and remote internships are growing in popularity. You can fit a remote internship around your daily routine.

    InsideSherpa is an online platform that allows students and graduates to complete virtual internships for free with companies including JP Morgan, Accenture, Citi, General Electric, Linklaters, KPMG, Deloitte and many more.
  • Read job descriptions carefully to ensure that you will gain valuable skills and experiences.
  • Even though you have graduated you may still have access to your university’s online job listing portal as an alumnus. Search through the listings to see if there are any graduate internship opportunities.
  • Evaluate the skills that you gained whilst at university or from your extracurricular activities. Showcase your skills on your graduate CV.

 Key employability skills for students

4. Become self-employed

Once you’ve graduated, you may decide to become self-employed and set up your own company or freelance.

If you decide to go with this career option, you should check to see what support your university can offer you.

Some universities offer their entrepreneurial alumni resources, office space and even funding to help graduates to successfully start their own businesses.

Self-employment can come in many forms:

  • Start-ups - startups are emerging businesses that are launched by entrepreneurs
  • Freelancing - freelancers offer their skills to a business for an agreed period of time
  • Contracting - contractors can be self-employed or work for an agency on a contract basis.
  • Consulting - you could offer your expertise in a particular field to companies who do not have the resources internally.

Is self-employment for you?

Becoming self-employed straight out of university can be challenging. You will need to be confident, resilient and very passionate about what you do.

The benefits of self-employment include:

  • Having high autonomy and independence
  • Freedom and flexibility
  • Control over who you work with and what you do

Without a training budget from an employer or a structured progression route, it can be difficult to balance learning new skills with running your company.

6. Pursue a postgraduate degree

If you’ve recently finished your undergraduate studies, you may be considering doing a Master’s degree and furthering your education.

At Graduate Coach, we advise graduates not to pursue a Master’s degree if they:

  • Don’t know what else to do and are unsure of what career path is right for them.
  • Think that having a Master’s degree will help them to get onto a competitive graduate scheme
  • Believe it will help them to progress faster in their career.

The truth is, getting a Master’s degree won’t necessarily boost your employability. This is because graduate recruiters usually look for a minimum requirement of a 2:1 or 1st class degree.

Once candidates meet the minimum entry requirements, graduate recruiters focus on candidate’s skills, experiences and overall suitability for the role.

Therefore, if you already meet the minimum academic requirements then it’s worth focusing on boosting your employability by gaining work experience and developing your skills.

Having a Master’s degree won’t necessarily help you to stand out as 40% of graduates have a Master’s degree.

With that in mind, doing a Master’s is a viable option for some graduates.

Should you do a Master’s degree?

There are certain specialist graduate roles that require Master’s degrees. For example, if you want to become an economist and work in an economic consulting role, you may be expected to have a Master’s degree.

Therefore, if you are thinking of studying for a postgraduate degree, think carefully about why you are embarking on it instead of pursuing the other graduate career options outlined above.

Take a look at some job descriptions of roles that you are interested in and see if any of them state that they require or prefer applicants who have a Master’s degree.

Here are some useful resources if you are considering doing a Master’s degree after university:

Thanks for taking the time to read this post outlining some of the career options you can take as a graduate.

Written by Adina Pascall a content marketer at Graduate Coach, the UK’s leading career coaching company for graduates.

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