Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Milkround? (Graduate schemes, it’s obviously about graduate schemes.)

So, July is upon us, exam season is over for one cohort but the real challenges are still yet to come. For many now is the time of year when you’ll be starting to consider your longer term career options, post university. Now, apologies I couldn’t get to you when you were 15 and still wrestling with such matters but now I’m here and ready to discuss graduate schemes and the benefits of getting some practical, real world experience and potentially net your first proper job after the scheme concludes. And the time is now. Actually for many it was last month.

Now graduate schemes aren’t for everyone, they are highly competitive so a 2:1 or higher is realistically the best shot you have of getting on to one. Also they are quite prescriptive and it may be that you are still toying with what it is you want to do, being as it is that you would need to be applying from last month in advance of starting your final year, so literally over a full year before starting. Also unlike UCAS there isn’t always a deadline per se, it’s much more a case of first come first served – they will recruit on an ongoing basis and when they are full, they are full. Which means the early bird catches the worm and you’d be well served to start thinking about applications immediately and what you can spend the next month or so working on that could enhance that application if there is still time to do so.

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Ideally you won’t have embarked on a degree without some view of where it may take you, but by now you’ll know I don’t consider that to be common practice. So start from the logical end point and work backwards. It’s unlikely you’ll have a burning desire to work for any specific company at this point but you may have a clear view of where you want to live and the kind of industry that may be of interest. From then on it’s a question of whittling down, identifying the companies involved in such schemes that are in the Venn diagram sweet spot and that acting upon that information.

Many of the big companies run a variety of schemes aimed at a broad range of skill sets, so it may well be that industries and companies that you might imagine would be a closed shop will still be able to consider you. For example someone like Google, you might imagine they would only be interested in IT people etc but actually they offer schemes in Consulting, Marketing, Media, Sales and IT. It’s true for banking and finance as well, they offer opportunities in Accounting of course but also areas like Law and Project Management.

I obviously deal with a lot of people who have gone through graduate programmes and whilst after a few years many of them move on to the next thing it is generally perceived as being a good thing from a CV perspective. It’s an extra layer of protection for any employer, if someone else was willing to take a risk on you with no experience it offers them some comfort that you now you have a little bit you might be a good bet.

So if you’re unsure which way to turn once uni’s over, do yourself a favour and do something about it now. If you get accepted you have a sure thing path and even if you change your mind between now and next September which is when most schemes start you at least have a fallback.

There is no one place to look for the schemes but tech savvy younglings such as you won’t struggle to track them down but somewhere like www.prospects.ac.uk isn’t a bad place to begin. Good luck and remember the clock on your future has already started ticking so don’t waste the summer…

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