Graduate jobs: It’s not all about the graduate schemes

We see many students – particularly at this time of year – who are concerned they might have missed the boat with graduate jobs, or who aren’t interested in the graduate training schemes with the large corporates, but aren’t sure what their options are. Whilst it can feel that these training schemes are a graduate’s only option, nothing could be further from the truth:  The organisations offering these schemes typically recruit large numbers of graduates every year, so they invest a lot of time – and money – on advertising these opportunities as widely as possible, thus giving a disproportionate impression of the graduate jobs market.  However, the majority of graduates go on to secure good, graduate-level jobs outside of these types of opportunities:  Due to the fact that such opportunities are not as widely advertised – and sometimes not advertised at all – they can be harder to identify.

So, what do other graduates go on to do outside of these schemes?

Small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

SMEs account for 99.9% of all enterprises in the UK. Any organisation employing fewer than 250 people is classed as an SME and can be micro: 0-9 employees, small: 10-49 employees, or medium: 50-249 employees. Due to their smaller size, SMEs can provide the opportunity to get involved in many different areas of work and involve working very closely with senior staff so provide great development opportunities. This article by jobsite has further consideration of the pros and cons of working for an SME.

Public sector

Whilst there are many graduate training schemes available within the public sector, for example, the Civil Service, NHS, and in local government there are many more graduate opportunities besides.  Keep an eye on the job sites of local authorities, the NHS, colleges, universities, and other public sector organisations.

The ‘Third’ sector

The third sector refers to the charity and voluntary sectors which have experienced significant growth over recent years and therefore offer many employment opportunities.  Previous voluntary experience within the sector is highly valued and can be a great way into paid employment within the sector.  Prospects provides a good overview of the sector and the types of opportunities.


Graduates are increasingly starting their own businesses either after, or sometimes during, their studies.  Our Spark service provides a range of support for students interested in starting their own businesses and has an excellent track record of helping many Leeds graduates get their businesses off the ground.

Regardless of the type of opportunity or sector you are considering, there are some golden rules to ensure success:

  1. Know the market: Not only will this enable you to spot opportunities, it will also help you be successful in the application process.
  2. Use a range of strategies: Don’t limit yourself to the ‘visible’ or advertised jobs market. The majority of jobs are not widely advertised. Having a good knowledge of the sector will help you spot, or present yourself well for such opportunities. See ‘How to find jobs’ for some ideas on tactics to try
  3. Develop your network (before you’re job seeking): Having a strong network, and the ability to network effectively is one of the most useful career skills to have.  See our page on networking for tips and advice.


Filed under Advice, Job Market

8 responses to “Graduate jobs: It’s not all about the graduate schemes

  1. Great article and sure to help graduates appreciate the huge “hidden” jobs market out there.

  2. Great article. Should help me out when I get to this point!

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