Graduate Routes

Graduate routes

As you approach the end of your time at university you are faced with a lot of choices. Whether you plan to get a job as soon as you graduate, continue studying or to take some time out there are many options open to you and many decisions to be made.  If you are not sure about what life may hold for you, it makes sense to get some advice about those first steps, and to start planning your future.

What are the options?

  • Graduate Employment: The obvious route for most students after graduation is to find a full-time job, particularly if you are keen to start earning a wage.  Most of you will be aiming for a ‘graduate job’, one in which a degree is part of the essential criteria, and this can cover a broad range of occupations and job sectors. 

    Opportunities exist within a range of employment settings including both small and medium-sized employers (SMEs) and larger organisations.  A graduate job with an SME has the potential to offer wider exposure and challenge within an environment where you can make a significant impact; the downside is the 'potential' absence of structured training and professional accreditation.  Graduate jobs with SMEs are advertised throughout the year and unlike graduate schemes there is often no distinct application and assessment process.

  • Graduate Schemes: If you have already decided on a specific industry that you want to work in, then a graduate scheme may be the perfect match.  They are structured programmes that combine working and training, targeted to recent graduates.   Offered mainly by large employers they can typically last for a period from 6 months to 2 years, and often provide the opportunity to experience different departments within the organisation. These schemes do prove popular with graduates as successful completion normally leads to a permanent position and a professional qualification.  They also have a high profile, being widely advertised in graduate directories, websites, on social media and via recruitment fairs. 

  • Further Study: Continuing with your studies is a good way to develop your knowledge, skills and experiences further, and will also help you to add new professional qualifications to your CV.  Consider your reasons carefully for carrying on with your studies.  Clarify your motivations and expectations for wanting to continue down this route. Ensure you know where it will lead you professionally and how it will fit into your overall career plans.

  • Gap Year: After working hard at university for so long, taking some time out before making your next move can be a great way of seeing the world, meeting new people and developing key life skills.  In today’s competitive job environment it is vital to also look at a gap year as a step towards employment, rather than simply as a break.  It can inform your career by helping you to mature as a person, giving you time to reflect and review your goals, and offer a fresh perspective about what it is you want from life.  Employers now look more favourably on organised gap years which appear to have provided you with some structure and the chance to develop your employability skills further.

  • Internships: These are short-term periods of work experience offered by an employer to give students and graduates exposure to the working environment, often within a specific industry, which relates to their field of study.   They can be as short as a week or as long as 12 months and they can be paid or voluntary.

    An internship will allow you to build on the theory you have learnt whilst at university and help you to gain practical skills that will strengthen your CV and make you more employable.    

  • Self-employment: Self-employment is all about working for yourself rather than an employer.  It involves setting up your own business to generate money. It can also mean more flexibility in choosing the types of work you do and scheduling when you work. The main advantage to being self-employed is that you take control of your own company. While self-employment may be an appealing career path for some enterprising individuals, it won't be right for everyone. Before starting a business, you'll need to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of working for yourself.

  • Freelance: This is a form of self-employment and involves working for a number of different clients on a more flexible basis.  This option provides more freedom to choose the projects you would like to work on.  Creative roles are particularly popular for freelance or contract work opportunities, although freelancers with the right motivation and skills are welcome in a range of industries.  There is no set path into freelancing, but to succeed in any form of self-employment you will need the motivation, enthusiasm and passion to network and secure clients and projects.

How to decide?

Some people know from a very early stage what they want to do but, for others, deciding upon a particular career path is a daunting task.  There is no single way to approach career planning, as everyone makes decisions in different ways.  Working towards an answer often involves:

  1. Understanding what matters to you in terms of your career

  2. Exploring the options available and researching your idea

  3. Assessing your skills and identifying what you have to offer

  4. making that final decision

It is always a good idea to develop a careers action plan to help keep you focused and on track.  This will help you to plan your short, medium and long term goals.  You need to bear in mind practical considerations such as your personal circumstances and family commitments that might impact on any career choice that you make.

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Part of the University of Bolton Group

Bolton college
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