A graduate scheme is a structured program of work designed for those who have just left university and want ongoing training in a real work environment, often with the opportunity for a full-time job at the end of it. Internships can be a risk, you often do not know the level of training you will actually be given, and a lot of the time can end up as the office tea-maker.
University and College serves well for theory, but employers continue to assert that graduates are falling short of practice and real experience. Graduate schemes are a formal way to apply studies to on-the-job development, over a course of anything from three months to two years and usually pay relatively well.
Application for graduate schemes can be very competitive, with only 12-15% of students getting accepted in highly sort-for positions. The long and formal recruitment process happens over several weeks (sometimes months!) and can incorporate interviews with several senior staff members, psychometric testing, and work-based assessment days. The starting salary for those on a graduate scheme is typically much higher than the average starter wage, and definitely higher than internship wages.
But, whilst graduate schemes have always been the ultimate achievement for ambitious undergrads, low recruitment rates and the recession are forcing many to question their value.
It might seem as though graduate jobs aren’t all that different from a regular non-graduate job. Most entry-level positions focus primarily on administrative and clerical skills, allowing first-time employees a glimpse into an organisation with relatively little demand. Employers look to develop soft skills, such as written communication, and encourage creative thinking. Graduate programs are often very broad, allowing trainees to get a “feel” for an organization or company before choosing to specialise. All things, arguably, you’d get from any first foray onto the career jungle gym.
Graduate schemes have some superb benefits. Getting a foot-in-the-door at a big company and working alongside influential and like-minded people means huge potential for professional development. Chances of continuing your career at the same company are increased if you’ve done their graduate scheme, and if they don’t take you on you’ll at least have a killer reference for the next step of your world domination.
It’s competitive. You’ll be working long hours- no simple nine to five- and will probably be expected to travel a lot, or even move to a different city. It really will be a case of proving your worth, of working from the bottom up. Even getting onto a good scheme takes so much time and effort that it might not be worth jeopardising your important final year studies to focus on filling out applications.
Essentially the point is to think through carefully what you want. Decide for yourself if a graduate scheme is the right fit for you- whilst job security and the lure of a big name company might be appealing, ask yourself if it’s an organization you believe in and want to grow with, and look at other options like volunteering and apprenticeships for ideas about alternative career paths.
The world of work is no longer a lifelong commitment to a job you start at 21. Companies value the varied and comprehensive skillset that comes with embracing new challenges, identifying and improving your weak spots, and innovative thinking. You don’t need a graduate scheme to teach you how to be a great and satisfied employee- but often the structure they provide can help.
This post was guest-authored by Milestone Operations, the U.K.’s leading HGV jobs recruitment agency.
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Also take a look at: 8 Reasons Why You Won’t Be Hired (And How To Get Past Them)
Good luck in your search.