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Want to get on a graduate scheme? Here is how to start your search

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Searching for a graduate job is daunting. After three or four years of university seminars and assignments, you would think that you would feel prepared for the world of work. Quite the contrary - unless you have made a conscious effort to make an appointment with a careers service or by chance conversed with a career-conscious coursemate, it is unlikely that you are well-informed on the process of applying for and securing a graduate job.

Contrary to the popular myth that graduate schemes are exclusive to career areas such as banking or law, there are many graduate programmes tailored to different industries - including creative ones. Graduate programmes run in career areas such as media or marketing, as well as engineering, or accounting and finance, and such schemes are easily accessible to students online.

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Perhaps the most daunting aspect of finding and securing a graduate job is the wealth of information and advice out there, which makes applying for a graduate scheme seem like a mammoth task.

In reality, applying to a graduate scheme does not have to take up your every waking hour. Undoubtedly, discovering a graduate scheme compatible with your skills, qualifications, and visions takes research and diligence, however, a helpful aid to your graduate job search is the student recruitment site TheBigChoice.com, which sorts programmes by industry and location for you, and provides expert career guidance. 

Naturally, different graduate employers are looking for different types of people with varying skills and interests. However, as experts at TheBigChoice.com advise, employers are trained to detect potential in candidate applications, so it is crucial to focalise your unique skillset through presenting tangible examples of how you have demonstrated qualities such as computing, leadership, and problem-solving.

According to career experts, some of the most sought-after skills are effective communication and negotiation, self-motivation, and teamwork. Less obvious but highly desirable to employers is a sound commercial awareness, best mastered through work experience. Commercial awareness spans from a wide understanding of the chosen company’s position in the market and its relationship to its clients. Other advantageous skills such as research can be easily demonstrated through work undertaken within a degree.

When beginning your graduate job search, it is beneficial to have a career area in mind to narrow down your options. However, investigating graduate schemes outside of traditional routes and saturated industries can make your job search more lucrative.

For instance, the Unlocked Graduate scheme, dubbed the Teach First of the prison service, helps graduates to develop leadership skills while tackling the damage and costs of prisoner reoffending. Just as rewarding, or perhaps even more so, than a traditional teaching graduate programme, the two-year Unlocked scheme assists graduates to earn teaching jobs in a rewarding industry, all while supporting the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Another tried-and-tested method of unearthing exciting opportunities is by utilising your connections to talk to people about their own careers and future visions.

Jessica Helly, the Director of Operations at Hilton London Canary Wharf, found out about the Hilton Elevator graduate programme through talking to people about careers. She advises: “Ask questions, be curious about what other people do. You never know what story will captivate you or what advice will come your way”.

Following Jessica’s graduation from Manchester University with a 2:1 degree in 2013, and after successfully applying to the Elevator scheme, the French and Spanish graduate rose through the ranks beginning as Front of House Manager at Hilton Heathrow Terminal Four and later earning positions such as Food and Beverage Manager and Director of Operations at Hilton London Canary Wharf.

“I applied for the scheme, with no experience whatsoever in hospitality”, Jessica recalls.

Working on a graduate scheme enabled her to learn more about the hospitality industry and boosted her chances of gaining a managerial position. “Programmes like Elevator will give you the right support and guidance for your career to take off”, she says.

Similarly, Sara Griffiths, a final-year English undergraduate at the University of Birmingham who recently successfully received an interview for the Admiral core graduate scheme based in Cardiff, found out about the programme through talking to other forward-thinking students.

In addition to utilising your connections, Sarah advises other students to spend sufficient time refining their applications: “Make sure your CV is up-to-date and polished. Don’t put anything in for the sake of it. Graduate schemes are super competitive, so I thought about every question quite carefully. Spend time on your application and CV,” she aays.

For Sarah, finding and applying to a graduate job is important so that she can have something lined up for after graduation that's relevant to her career prospects, and that lets her use skills gained from her English degree.

Searching for and securing your ideal graduate scheme, as daunting as it seems, is achievable when you know where to start. While utilising connections, broadening your graduate job search, and taking on expert advice to polish your application, take some time and perseverance, as a graduate, your skills and expertise are desirable to employers. With years of research, teamwork, and self-motivation under your belt, the next step is to transfer your focus into your graduate job search and, if you’re still not sure where to start, begin by initiating a conversation with a friend or colleague.

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