Help! I’ve not got onto a graduate scheme. What can I do now?

As with many students the whole world over, the obvious destination upon completing your degree is a place on a graduate trainee scheme.  It’s the expected norm, right?  And yet numbers of graduating students each year vastly outweigh the number of places on such schemes.  Contrary to popular belief, it is only small minority of students who start their career this way.  As unsettling as it may be to find out you are not one of the ‘lucky ones’ there are plenty of options for you to explore.

Direct entry/junior roles

Just because a job opportunity isn’t officially labelled as part of a graduate scheme, doesn’t mean it won’t have something to offer graduate applicants.  A huge number of employers will be looking for ‘graduate calibre’ applicants in junior roles that can offer great future opportunities. Or starting a little lower on the ladder, perhaps in an admin role, can be a great way to show your talents. Employers are not daft – they will spot the hard workers and people with potential.  Who knows where things can lead.  Use job boards to seek these opportunities.  Sign up with recruitment consultants.  Network with your friends, family and industry links to try and expose some of those vacancies that are never advertised.


The traditional route of doing an internship, graduating, then starting a grad training scheme is being challenged.  The competitive job market over the last 6 or 7 years, and the shrinking of graduate opportunities that came with it has resulting in a rise in the number of students who are prepared to turn this order on its head by graduating first, and considering an internship later.  Perhaps it simply took you longer to discover what you really want to do (it happens!) and only now are you in a position to start making headway into your chosen industry. Just because you are a graduate, doesn’t mean that internship opportunities won’t be open to you, and won’t be a good career move post-graduation.

Further study

Has applying to grad schemes unsuccessfully highlighted a skills gap in your CV? Is there something other applicants are offering that you aren’t? Is this something you could address through further study or vocational training?  Maybe you have always toyed with the idea of doing a Masters and this is now something you wish to consider more closely (but don’t let this be your only reason for choosing a Masters – remember there are no guarantees that employment will be any easier at the end of it). Doing further study and combining this with relevant work experience can, however, help to produce a well-rounded applicant of the future.


There’s a lot to be said for the temping market, particularly if you still remain a little uncertain as to which industry you wish to enter. Or perhaps if you are lacking in experience and finding it harder to access permanent opportunities? If this is the case, it may be worth considering registering with a few recruitment consultants operating within the temping market. Show willing to try your hand at anything so that you get good exposure to a range of industries. Or focus on one area you really want to work in and be prepared to expand your experience and professional networks.  Temping is great for building adaptability and initiative. And what starts as a one week assignment could even become a successful career.

Time out

Let’s face it, at the end of 3 (or more) years of study you may be feeling just a little burned out. It could be that the job rejections you have received are actually a blessing in disguise as what you really could use is a bit of breathing space!  Go travelling, get some volunteering experience, rediscover who you are and what you want.  Then come back to the job market feeling refreshed and ready to go.

A place on a graduate scheme is not an indicator of ultimate career success, nor is it right to assume that it is the best option for you.  Career is a long distance race – an unpredictable journey of twists and turns – and not a sprint to the finish line, so don’t be disheartened if it hasn’t started the way you wanted it to.  There is still everything to play for.


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