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Understanding the graduate market

Understanding the graduate market

As you go through your university studies you will hear the word graduate bounced around in relation to your career: the graduate market, graduate jobs, graduate schemes.

It can be confusing to make sense of them all so let's run through them to give you an overview of what's available. Understanding how these differ means you can be more strategic in planning your career and job hunting.

The Graduate Market

This just means the range of vacancies and salaries open to graduates. It's a good idea to keep an eye on key trends so you can make more strategic career decisions and future proof your career.

Graduate jobs

These are permanent roles open to students who have graduated and have a degree. They can be found in most sectors, and you'll be expected to be able to hit the ground running after an initial on-boarding or training. Your development will be mostly down to you and how motivated you are, as well as the kinds of opportunities available with the company. You'll not be tied to a graduate role if you decided it wasn't for you and wanted to move jobs. Graduate jobs are applied for in the usual way and opportunities are usually open all year round with a standard application process.

Graduate schemes

These are very competitive and structured graduate training programmes lasting between one to three years, so you'll have a certain level of commitment here. They're offered by large firms in many different industries as a leadership talent pipeline. There's a high level of support, and you may get the opportunity to rotate between several different departments.

Graduate schemes recruiters are very active on campus, so you'll have many opportunities to meet them and find out more about what they offer.

Graduate schemes will have a huge focus on developing you as a leader and you'll usually have a mentor supporting you. If you want to get into a leadership position quickly and are interested in additional training and development which you don't usually have to pay for, and can lead to qualifications and professional accreditations, graduate schemes should be part of your career plan!

Applying: You need to be organised and research the application deadlines for the schemes that interest you. Some schemes have application windows that run from September to January which means you need to be applying at the start of your final year. If you miss the application windows, you'll need to wait another year for the next cycle. However, there are many schemes that have a rolling recruitment process throughout the year. You just need to check.

Graduate schemes usually have a staged recruitment process which means its broken down into chunks.

1. Online application

2. Online aptitude assessment often involving gamification

3. Interviews online or in person/ Pre-recorded interviews

4. Assessment centres

5. Face to face interviews

Entry Level roles:

These jobs do not need require a degree and are suitable for people with little work experience. A degree can be an advantage but not always. These roles are fairly easy to come by but as a graduate you need to think carefully about how these roles help your career move forward. Are they helping you get new skills and relevant experience? Graduates in these roles are underemployed meaning in jobs where their skills knowledge and experience are not being used to their full potential and they are usually low paid in comparison to graduate jobs or graduate schemes.

Graduate salaries

The Graduate Outcomes Report by the HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) is where you'll find up to date information on the average graduate salary in the UK. This will be impacted by who your employer is, whether you're on a graduate scheme, where you're based and the market competition for that role. Check out the Suggested Reading section for key data on the average graduate salary to help you make decisions.

Suggested Reading

Average graduate salary breakdown by UK region

Average UK graduate salaries by industry

Find out which organisations run Graduate schemes

How much will I be paid

Understanding the graduate market

By Anna Gordon - Certified Business Coaching Psychologist ABP CBCP

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