With so much time and energy spent on achieving your degree, you’ll want to ensure it comes to fruition with a rewarding new career. To shed some light on your options, here’s what you can expect when applying for graduate jobs and graduate schemes.
Run by employers, graduate schemes are entry-level programmes open exclusively to those with a degree. Gaining a place means you will be working in a junior role while also gaining access to ongoing training. Although they’re traditionally associated with large, multinational organisations, the schemes are available within businesses of all sizes.
Each company has its own way of doing things, but there are similarities between the programmes. Typically, an organisation recruits a batch of graduates every year. Most graduate schemes start recruiting through the Autumn term, with interviews around February/March and a start date the following September. If you decide to stay after the programme, you can easily move into a range of different careers within the organisation. If you decide to leave, you can apply your skills and experience elsewhere.
What you gain from a graduate scheme
Graduates typically gain a high level of support in terms of personal development and mentorship and might try out several roles in the business over a one or two-year period. Many companies also offer extensive professional training programmes to help kick-start your career.
La Fosse’s training programme is spread out over two years, designed to foster the skills needed to launch a career in professional services, including research, business development, client pitching and negotiation. In 2018, our Learning and Development opportunities were awarded best in our industry.
Many graduates who go on the scheme, move on to leadership or more senior positions with greater responsibility in the company. Companies want to secure their future by onboarding talented graduates with good leadership and technical skills. Their aim is to get a return on their investment by moulding the cream of the graduate crop into the managers of tomorrow.
Getting a place on a graduate training scheme
Large organisations put a lot of time and effort into recruiting applicants for their graduate schemes. However, competition for places on the most well-regarded schemes is fierce. A popular method of inviting new grad scheme applications is for businesses to deliver presentations on campus. Your university should be able to tell you when and if they are happening. These events are often a great opportunity to ask lots of questions about both the scheme and the company.
If you missed La Fosse at your university careers fair, check us out online for more information on our grad scheme, or just get in touch with someone on our team – we’d be happy to chat through any questions you have. After applying, applicants may be then invited to an interview, a group assessment centre, or a psychometric test.
What are the most popular schemes?
Most graduate schemes are sought after, though many don’t ask for a specific degree. At La Fosse, it’s much more down to how you perform in our application process – we’re assessing those who are values-led, driven, and commercially-minded, with the potential to be upskilled.
Salary shouldn’t be the only consideration. Although you’ve got student debt to pay back, it’s wise to also pay careful attention to which company offers more in the way of training and progression. There’s lots of information online to help you select the graduate training schemes which are best for you.
Graduate scheme salaries
It’s probably the most common question asked by graduates – what will you be paid? The truth is that it varies hugely. The average starting salary is between £19,000 and £22,000, but top training schemes could pay more (La Fosse’s scheme offers between £23,000 and £25,000 base salary, plus commission and share options).
Take note of other factors such as benefits and company culture – check out what current employees say about the company on Glassdoor to determine whether you could see yourself there. Don’t just consider the bottom line – look at the entire picture and package on offer.
What To Expect From A Graduate Recruitment Day
Many large organisations with graduate schemes run recruitment or assessment days. These events bring together a group of graduates who are assessed to help determine their suitability for a place on a company graduate scheme. Generally taking one or two days, they offer a chance to show off a broad range of skills, but exactly should you expect?
To be on duty 24/7
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that there is never a time you’re off duty on an assessment day. All that small talk with other candidates or a meal and drinks with the previous year’s graduate intake is a chance to both assess and be assessed. Be yourself, and don’t feel you have to talk shop all the time. On the other hand, don’t get roaring drunk, tell inappropriate stories or make negative comments about other candidates or the company. An evening reception provides a great opportunity to chat with staff and get a lot more information about what the company does and what type of people it employs, so make the most of it!
A range of activities
Most graduate assessment centres will combine several different elements and you will be told the structure of the day when you arrive. Usually, the tests will include one or more conventional face-to-face interviews, some sort of group exercise or discussion, and a mix of psychometric, numeracy and/or literacy tests. At each stage, your performance will be noted, and afterwards, the hiring team will get together, compare notes and scores, then decide who gets the job offers.
One of the more recent types of exercises which employers are using is the in-tray exercise. This is either done with physical pieces of paper or electronically. Candidates are usually given a range of information to work with, such as phone messages, emails, letters or queries from customers. Their job is to prioritise which jobs to do first, and work through the in-tray as they would in a real-life situation. If you’ve never done this sort of job before, there are simulation exercises online which can help you prepare.
Depending on the company, graduates might be asked to put together a short presentation on a topic given to them in advance. Prepare carefully for your presentation and stick rigidly to the brief. Practise in advance and time yourself to make sure you can get all of your points across in the time given. If you are presenting as a group after an exercise, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to get involved in the preparation and delivery of the presentation.
To be aware of the “cut”
One particularly ruthless technique used by many companies is to send some of the weaker candidates home at lunch, or after the first day. This might sound brutal (and it is) but recruiters will take care to do it discreetly. If you have been unsuccessful, ask for constructive feedback – it might help you work on improving things for next time. If you make it through to the end of the process, decisions are generally made fairly rapidly.
As you near the end of your degree, you will hear more and more about making the decision between a graduate scheme and a graduate job. So, it’s important to know the difference between the two.
Graduate jobs differ from schemes in that generally, you apply for a job once you have left university, not during your studies. Like graduate programmes, these are roles which are only open to people who have graduated. However, unlike a scheme, you are being recruited to fill a specific vacancy and to take on a fixed role.
The hiring process for graduate jobs is typically more traditional and roles are more readily available across a range of sectors and industries. The opportunities for training and development will depend on the company you are applying to and are usually less structured than schemes. You can expect a higher salary on a grad scheme too.
The availability of graduate jobs varies. If you have an employer in mind, they may not need any graduates when you are ready to apply, but you can apply all year round and not have to wait for a specified recruitment period. With graduate schemes, an intake is guaranteed every year.
If you’re clear about what you want to do when you graduate, then a job offers the potential for more in-depth experience. You won’t have to spend time trying out a range of departments to see which one you like best. As you will be going into a vacancy, you might even be able to start right after your exams, so you’re not spending summer twiddling your thumbs.
Timing your first career move
Whether you decide to go straight into a graduate-level job or try to get into a training scheme, the one thing which is true is that you can’t rest on your laurels. Employers open up applications as soon as term starts in September, and if you leave it until after Christmas, you may find many of the deadlines have already passed. Your university careers service should be able to give good advice on where to look for opportunities, and how to apply.
The La Fosse graduate scheme combines the best of both worlds. We run an award-winning training scheme which fast-tracks your career by teaching you all the skills necessary to launch a successful future in professional services, without having to compromise on salary or give up your summer. It’s currently open for applications – in fact, we’ve already accepted individuals who are finishing uni this summer, to start from then onwards.