10 myths about graduate schemes

1.Graduate schemes are the most common form of graduate employment.

False – It’s been suggested that around 10% of graduate employment is in graduate schemes. Most are employed in graduate jobs in companies that do not offer graduate schemes.

2. Graduate schemes are a kind of training, rather than a job.

False – although a lot of graduate schemes have some training courses or induction processes, they are jobs – you will have responsibilities and tasks to do in return for the salary you earn, and will be expected to contribute to the company from day one.

3. Getting into a graduate scheme is easy because they take a lot of applicants in one go.

False – although most graduate schemes do take more than one applicant in each recruitment round, the high number of applicants for graduate schemes means that the selection process is very tough. Companies may regularly have over 1000 applicants for their graduate schemes, and will usually select the best through a lengthy recruitment process which may include online reasoning tests, application forms, video interviews and assessment centres.

4. Once you are on a graduate scheme, you are on a career path for life and don’t need to make any more major career decisions.

False – a lot of graduates who start with a company on their graduate scheme will choose to move to another company and/or change jobs within five years of starting their job. Even if you stay within the same company, you will continuously need to make career decisions as to what departments you work in, how much responsibility to take on, and whether you want to apply for promotions.

5. Graduate schemes are only for the private sector.

False – public, not-for-profit organisations such as the NHS, Metropolitan Police or Teach First also offer graduate schemes.

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What is a graduate scheme?

At this time of year, you might be hearing a lot of people talking about graduate schemes; but what do you know about them?

A graduate scheme is a structured programme that combines working and training, targeted at recent graduates. They allow graduates to experience many aspects of both the role and the organisation as a whole, over a period of anything from 3 months to 3 years.

Things you need to know …

  • There are a limited number of spaces available on any graduate training scheme, so employers will set minimum requirements to qualify for entry, in a similar way to when you applied to university. It’s common for employers to expect a 2:1 degree or higher for most graduate schemes (see here for information on schemes available to graduates with a 2.2).
  • In some sectors, such as finance, retail management and surveying, graduate schemes are common in the large companies. Other industries such as the charity sector, journalism and NGO fields run very few graduate schemes.
  • Application deadlines are often from September to December, almost a year before the start date, so you’ll need to start looking now if you’re in your final year.
  • Graduate schemes are competitive and only 12-15% of students get a place on one.  They tend to have a longer and more formal recruitment process. 
  • Salaries tend to be relatively high for graduate roles.

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Apply now for 2018 Graduate Schemes

This is a good opportunity to remind you that many large graduate programmes conclude their recruitment by the end of the autumn term. If you think you might want to apply for one of these schemes make sure you start looking now! Many finance positions are already open and fill quickly. The benefit for you is that you can complete the recruitment process before you get too far into your final year – so you can concentrate on your exams rather than your job hunt.

Banks who have opened up their graduate scheme applications include Citi, Goldman Sachs and Credit SuisseFor those of you thinking about applying to Investment Banking internships for summer 2018, please note that some Banks have already started accepting applications – including Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

If you need some support in your job search, or with applications and interview practice, please do make use of the Careers & Enterprise Centre as soon as you can. During the first few weeks of the autumn term we will be extremely busy with appointments, so the more you can do over the summer the better!

Also don’t forget we have a huge range of events taking place in the autumn term where you can meet lots of employers with open positions. These events will be announced on our website before the start of the new term.

In the meantime take a look at careers.qmul.ac.uk for further resources, and our vacancy site www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/jobs for opportunities.

Graduate schemes – not the only option!

There are lots of attractive things about graduate schemes: they’re usually well-paid from the beginning, offer job security for the length of the scheme and the opportunity for career progression afterwards, and often give you the experience of working for large, prestigious or well-known companies. But it’s worth remembering that graduate schemes are NOT the only way to begin your career.

There can also be some real disadvantages to applying for graduate schemes: they can be extremely competitive, have early closing dates and long, time-consuming application procedures.

One option could be to think about applying to jobs in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

There are many SMEs which also recruit graduates and offer the opportunity for career progression. This route has valuable benefits:

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What to do if a graduate scheme isn’t for you

If you’ve graduated this year and were not successful in getting on a graduate scheme then don’t despair. According to this recent article in the Guardian, graduate schemes are not necessarily the key to a happy career future. Apparently, a quarter of all graduates will leave their roles within the first year of starting. The reason? Well, a number of things for different people but essentially it seems to all boil down to the issue of not realising what a certain industry/sector/job role would be like until you are in the thick of it. Feelings of being unsupported, not connecting with the goal or ethos of an organisation and not liking the work culture are all quoted in the article as reasons recent graduates have left their first jobs.

Our advice would be that while it might be a scary time, finishing uni and starting work, don’t rush into anything, and don’t assume a graduate scheme is going to be the best thing for you. If you’re not sure what you want to do, or what type of work environment might suit you best, book an appointment to have a chat with one of our Careers Consultants. One great way to find out whether a sector/job would suit you is to do an internship or find work experience in that industry. Not only will you get exposed to the type of work environment but you will get to talk to people in that industry and find out what they think about their job.

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Why small businesses offer big opportunities for graduate jobseekers

We’ve previously extolled the virtues of small to medium businesses (SMEs) for graduate work opportunities and we are not the only ones! This article in the Guardian explains why graduates should be looking at smaller businesses if they want to find work. In fact, SMEs represent 99.9% of all private sector business in the UK.

Because of the nature of SMEs, starting salaries may not be as high as large graduate schemes and your period of training may not be as structured. But you will be less constrained when it comes to your role or about how you progress, and you’ll be able to take on more responsibility so your development is quicker.

The problem is, SMEs don’t have the same recruitment budgets as large companies so they can’t target graduates for jobs or offer graduate schemes in the same way others can. They can’t send staff to careers fairs or pay for job advertisements. So you may not hear about them.

The best way to find them? Well we’ve done some of the work for you. Use our ‘Getting into’ guides (available online or to pick up from the Careers Centre) to find out more about the sector or industry you’re interested in. Take a look at the websites in the guides, particularly some of the professional bodies. Some of them have lists of members which include SMEs. The guides also have advice on networking and sending speculative applications. And once you’ve found some places you want to send an application to, you can talk to us about the best way to go about this.

Expert Advice on Applying to Graduate Schemes

Applying for graduate schemes can be quite a complicated process and if you’re thinking of going down this route then you probably have lots of questions. In this article, The Guardian summarises the key points from a recent live chat between students thinking of applying for grad schemes and experts involved in recruitment. What’s interesting is that, even though grad scheme applications might feel intimidating, the main advice that the experts give about how to stand out from the crowd is actually really straightforward.

The experts say that in CVs, covering letters and in answers to questions at assessment centres you should avoid general or generic information. You need to make it clear why you are applying for this company and this role. You should know and be able to explain exactly what the job involves and how the employer differentiates itself from its competitors. This means that to catch the eye of recruiters you don’t need to do anything dramatic or wacky; you need to make sure that the various aspects of your application are not interchangeable with your application for another job; they should be specifically tailored to the particular company and role you’re applying for.

To read the article, which also includes advice on graduate scheme options if you think you will graduate with a 2.2 and tips on assessment centres, click here.

And remember that if you need help with tailoring your CV and covering letter to apply for a particular job, you can book an appointment with an applications adviser at the Careers Centre.

Emily Hogg

Applications Adviser
QM Careers & Enterprise Centre