Graduation is an exciting time, but not everyone has a clear idea of what to do next now that the structure of university life is gone. Some students are lucky enough to have bagged a graduate job already, often through previously completing an internship with a company, but what can you do if your life isn’t so planned out?

Apply for a graduate scheme

With a good degree and some previous work experience to boost your CV, you are in a great position to apply for graduate schemes. Usually at large, multinational companies, graduate schemes are designed to provide new graduates with experience across a range of business sectors or job roles in order to train you up and give you an insight into where you would best fit in the company.

Although most graduate schemes have deadlines earlier in the academic year, there are some still open for applications and if not you can usually apply for entry into the following year’s cohort. Students with STEM degrees are greatly sought after in a wide range of sectors – so make sure to highlight your unique skills even if applying for non-technical roles. Great websites for graduate roles include the Graduate Recruitment Bureau, Target Jobs, and industry-specific websites.

Work in an SME

Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are often not considered by graduates during the usual job application round since they rarely come to university careers fairs and have less of a presence on campus. However, that doesn’t mean they’re inferior to large graduate programs – far from it!

Working in an SME could give you greater opportunities to make an impact to the company, demonstrate your entrepreneurial spirit, and potentially be rapidly promoted to managerial or senior positions. Additionally, they generally recruit for roles when they need to rather than through a yearly application system, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities available even late into the summer for immediate start.

However, finding out about these job openings is often the challenge – try checking out websites such as Instant Impact which specialises in roles with SMEs/ start ups.

Do an internship

Internships may be more well known as summer jobs for students, but for those graduates with less experience or trying to get into particularly competitive industries they can be a great stepping stone into a full time job. Some large employers will accept recent graduates as well as penultimate year students onto their internship schemes, or alternatively you can make a speculative application to companies you are particularly interested in to see if they would accept you as an intern – generally considered a much less risky commitment for a company taking on an unproven new employee than a full time job contract.

Graduate internships can be found on website such as the Graduate Recruitment Bureau and Target Jobs, or by directly contacting employers you are particularly interested in.

Continue studying

For many STEM degrees, a masters is a great way to gain more specialist knowledge or research experience and is required by some employers for technical roles. Additionally, if you are interested in obtaining a PhD then a masters is a great stepping stone after your undergraduate degree. Deadlines for masters courses varies between universities – some will still accept applications into the summer and there may also be the chance to start in January rather than September if you want to have a short break from studying.

Don’t feel restricted to staying at your previous university either – this is a great opportunity to experience studying somewhere else or even travel abroad. As well as masters courses, you can also consider direct entry into a PhD program (for students with particularly high grades and previous research experience), graduate entry medicine, or non-degree courses such as language programs abroad.

Take a gap year

Not ready to step into the office just yet, but don’t fancy studying? Taking a gap year is a great opportunity to have a break, travel, develop your skills and consider your options. Once you start working, you’re unlikely to have many chances to go on long vacations so seize it while you still can! If you’re worried about costs, consider getting work-travel visas to countries such as Australia, scholarships for short-mid term study abroad programs (such as these ones through the British Council) or sticking closer to  home.

However, bear in mind that employers would want you to be doing something constructive with your time out rather than playing computer games or catching pokemon, and you may also need to be available for job interviews at certain times of the year.

Set up your own business

If you have a great business idea and want to take it further, setting up on your own could lead you on the path to success. You’ll need to be flexible and skilled in a wide range of different business roles, from technical product development to marketing – but having a team of similarly minded people on board could help lessen the challenge.

Even if your business doesn’t take off in the end, the entrepreneurial skills learnt from the experience will be highly valued by employers. If you’re a younger student reading this article, don’t forget that you don’t need to be a graduate to set up a business – many successful businesses such as Facebook were set up while their founders were still studying. If you’re interested in setting up a business, here is some info to get started.


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