Is a graduate scheme for you?
Graduate schemes are sometimes seen as the normal option, but actually only a minority of graduates get hired onto them. Another common opinion is that a graduate scheme is a ‘gold-plated’ job option – a sign of success, but they do not suit everyone. Many jobs on CareersLink are for immediate start jobs that have just come up as a one-off, these can lead to just as rewarding a career as a graduate scheme.
Consider why you want to do a graduate scheme in the first place. Many graduates tell me they don’t have much experience or are undecided about what they want to do and therefore think a graduate scheme will allow them to get trained and/or taste a range of careers. The facts are that graduate schemes are competitive so totally inexperienced and unfocused applicants are unlikely to be selected and these days only a few schemes give you the chance to try out different careers (yes it was different in your dad’s day!)
Not all sectors and organisations run graduate schemes anyway. Many companies are small, or only recruit graduates occasionally or in small numbers. For them it does not make sense to create a graduate scheme, they will simply advertise jobs as and when they arise. Find out what the norm is in your target sector on our sector pages.
If you have several years of relevant experience post-graduation you may be more suited to experienced hire positions instead.
The Careers Service website includes a page of useful information and websites to find schemes.
The graduate directories are available to collect free from the Careers Service, these list hundreds of companies recruiting.
How many should you apply to?
As many as you can manage, provided the quality is good. These companies are looking for strong applicants, and in these tough economic conditions they will have lots to choose from. It is better to apply for 5 well than send 50 applications that are non-targeted, riddled with mistakes or that you were not really interested in/qualified for in the first place. Make your applications as strong as possible.
Many organisations close applications early when they have sufficient quality applications for their needs. For organisations that recruit for several types of role you may find that more popular options are full even if applications remain open overall. It is best to apply early as soon as possible after applications open to avoid missing out. But remember the need for speed is no excuse for a sloppy application.
My colleague Natasha has spent the last couple of weeks trawling the directories and compiling a list of closing dates (where available) for the organisations advertised in them. The list is available either in date order or alphabetical by company and can be downloaded as a PDF from the graduate scheme page.