Now that graduation is over, many of you are no doubt thinking of your next steps into the workplace. While the structured graduate schemes of the big well-known companies can be a great option, you should also consider the opportunities available at small and medium-sized organisations, known as SMEs. According to Prospects, more than a third of students and graduates are looking to start work in SMEs, and while many won’t run graduate schemes, they will have graduate positions available.
What can an SME offer?
- Although SMEs by definition employ fewer than 250 staff members, they make up a massive 99.9% of all enterprises in the UK- making them a great place to find graduate opportunities.
- Their selection processes tend to focus less on grades and more on the skills and work experience of their candidates.
- Their selection processes are often simpler and less time consuming than larger corporations and vacancies become available throughout the year, compared to the set dates of recruitment schemes.
- You are more likely to be a part of a wide range of projects- making your job more flexible as well as giving you an opportunity to build different skills.
- Opportunities for you to take on more responsibility and advance can often become available earlier on.
- In a smaller team, you will have more direct personal contact with senior management.
After studying at QMUL, it might seem like the natural option to look for work in the capital after graduation. The number of possible businesses to apply to as well as the vast and diverse job options available in London is almost too big to comprehend. Many companies have their head offices here and it is also a big centre for industries such as finance, politics and media/arts to name a few.
Typically the salaries are higher too, which is often a big incentive for graduates looking to pay off their student loans as quickly as possible. But there is also a lot of competition, not just from other graduates in London, but also graduates from the rest of the UK and even worldwide.
However, by only looking at London based jobs, you could be seriously narrowing your options and missing out on some excellent opportunities. Tech Nation’s ‘Powering the Digital Economy’ report from 2015 suggests that almost 75% of UK digital companies are based outside of London, whilst this recent article from CV Library which highlights the top 10 locations for salary growth (July 2017) shows that London is some way behind other towns and cities across the UK.
With London in 7th place, with a salary increase of 1.5% since 2016, Sheffield is booming with an average rise of 11.3%, whilst the cost of living is likely to be far cheaper outside the capital.
For more information about regional vacancies across the UK, see this guide from Target Jobs.
Sandeep Saib, QMentor (pictured right)
During the six month mentoring process, both my mentee, Iqra Bari, and I have had a fantastic journey, which has indeed gone by so quick! I would only love to have more meet-ups and continue this relationship for years to come, come rain or shine!
Overall, my main motive for undertaking and participating in my University’s mentoring scheme is to give something back and teach the QMUL students that there is definitely more to life than just education, it is you and your life. However, to really know yourself and understand your needs and requirements, mentoring provides that necessary reflective time and space to work on yourself as much as possible, to be listened to and respected, and for that to be reciprocated.
It was also great going back to my educational roots, reminiscing of the good times at QMUL, and lovely hearing and learning from current students. Therefore, it was key for me to listen to Iqra and the meeting was really all about her needs, goals and aspirations in life, and how I can do anything in my power to help and support her and be there for her.
Two specialist Careers Consultants, Gemma Garrett and Andrea Cox, provide careers support for PhD students and postdoctoral/early career researchers across all three faculties at QMUL.
One to Ones
Free, confidential one-to-one appointments are available to PhD students and postdoctoral researchers each week, from 11am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 2:30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. These are held at The Careers and Enterprise Centre (WG3, near the Octagon in the Queens Building) and can be booked by telephone on 020 7882 8533, or in person at the Centre. You can discuss a range of issues, including:
- Career options, planning and job hunting (whether you want a career in academia or elsewhere)
- CV, covering letter and application advice
- Interview preparation (including practice interviews).
To find out more, visit: www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/researchers/advice/index.html
A range of alumni, employer, and student-led events are timetabled each academic year, including:
- PhD alumni discussion panels and speed networking events
- Employer-led events – talks from PhD employers. For example, employers at previous events have included PhD alumni discussing self-employment and a social enterprise called The Brilliant Club that arranges for PhD students to deliver tutorials in secondary schools.
- Café Scientifique (hosted in collaboration with our Centre for Academic and Professional Development) – speakers are current PhD students talking about their research to non-specialist audiences. Volunteering to talk at these events is a great way to practise and develop your communication and public engagement skills.
Events are listed and available to book at: www.cpdbookings.qmul.ac.uk.
Congratulations to everyone receiving their exam results from QMUL; well done! Some of you might have faced the disappointment of just missing out on a 2.1, and are now left wondering what your future looks like with a 2.2. The first thing to remember is that a 2.1 isn’t a ticket straight into a dream job. Neither, on the other hand, is a 2.2 a life-long barrier to it. Getting a 2.2 might be a disappointment and it might mean having to re-think your options, but it doesn’t mean automatic exclusion from a fulfilling career.
You have options …
You may be surprised to discover that the vast majority of employers are flexible in the grades they require because they’re more concerned with your personality, skills and experience. Remember, academic grades are not everything and you can certainly compensate for them in other areas.
There will of course be several immediate options that aren’t open to you, but just from taking a quick look at this Target Jobs article, you’ll see there are a number of graduate schemes accepting 2.2 degrees. It could be that when you apply to these schemes, the rest
Amrish Rajdev has just completed a degree in Dental Materials and has been offered a place to study Dentistry at Bristol from September.
Over the last 2 years, I have been fortunate to be a Widening Participation (WP) Student Ambassador. This has given me a number of opportunities to work with students, ranging from primary to secondary school age and my own skills have developed as a result. I have just completed my final year of studying Dental Materials. Within my role as a WP ambassador I was given the chance this year to enhance my presentation skills by delivering a session in schools about my own experience of studying an Alternative to Dentistry degree course. It was really fulfilling helping students considering their options and encouraging them to thoroughly do their research.
Taking a “gap year” either for self-fulfilment or career development can reap rewards. In a recent survey, 37% of employers believe it increases people skills, and 35% agreed a year out helps people adapt quickly to new situations.
To make the most of it, make your time out count:
Why take a year out?
Going abroad provides a chance to broaden your horizons, discover new cultures, and is a great way to network and make new friends. Picking up a language and teaching English are also motivators for some. Remember, taking a year out is not just about travelling – you may want to stay in the UK to pursue your passion for music for example, or volunteer for a while.
What about my career?
Activities undertaken on a year out can boost skills sought by employers, and can give you space to work out what you would like to do in the longer term.
If you’re undecided on what you want to do next, make sure you do some thinking before you go (or come and speak to one of our Careers Consultants!). A gap year is a great opportunity to pick up some work experience in an area that interests you.