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Alternatives to graduate programmes

Despite their high profile, graduate training schemes are not the only employment option.

Glance through the materials available at your careers service and you will recognise many major business names offering graduate training programmes. These high-profile recruitment campaigns may give the impression that this is the only option for graduates looking for jobs. The truth is that the majority of graduates do not enter these structured training programmes, but source employment in a ‘hidden graduate pool’ that is not part of a graduate training scheme.

There are several possibilities for graduates who don't join a formal graduate scheme after graduatiom: a temporary job unrelated to their chosen career; a temporary job that isrelated to their career; a permanent career in a non-graduate job; or permanent graduate job that isnot part of a graduate training scheme.

Alternative routes into the job market

There are many routes into the job market, and the alternatives to graduate recruitment programmes have some advantages. For example, working in a smaller business can provide opportunities to be involved in a range of activities and business functions, and promotion can come quickly. Self-employment is likely to suit self-motivated and well-organised graduates who value autonomy.

Outside of graduate schemes, well-established industry sectors provide good long-term prospects to graduates willing to be flexible and take control of their career. Many small businesses provide employment in popular areas such as accounting or consultancy. There is a breadth of opportunity in the growing social economy or ‘third sector’.

On the other hand, your first job may only be a short-term stepping stone but even in a ‘stop-gap’ job the contacts you make and the experience you gain can prove valuable in progressing your career. For example, tasks like compiling paperwork and data entry show that you understand and use business systems effectively; this increased awareness is an asset to your current or future employer.

How to find an alternative job

If you haven’t got a place on a graduate recruitment programme – or if you feel this is not for you – the best way to finding alternative employment is to consider your network. Your careers service, friends, lecturers and family can all suggest employers for your first graduate job. Look at organisations where students have gained work experience, part-time, vacation and voluntary work. Many recruitment agencies specialise in particular industry sectors and have consultants who are familiar with current trends and skills needs; they will also have a wide range of contacts.