Understanding your options in the graduate job market
Your degree will open up a huge range of job opportunities for you. Knowing your options in the graduate labour market is the first step to your dream job.
Graduate opportunities exist across all sectors and with employers of all sizes, but there are significant differences in the recruitment process and focus of the roles. Much depends on the size of the company. For example, most large private sector companies and multinationals recruit and train a number of graduates via a graduate scheme every year, whereas many public sector employers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) advertise graduate roles on a more ad-hoc basis.
Where to look for graduate-level jobs:
Lots of websites will advertise graduate jobs and you should always check out individual company websites for organisations you have an interest in working at. However, here are some websites to get you started:
You should also check out the jobs boards available via Careers Zone 24/7 (link to Careers Zone 24/7 page), which features job listing locally, nationally and internationally.
Large companies and mutilnationals
Larger employers tend to recruit graduates via a graduate scheme (or programme). Most graduate schemes involve training in different business areas or working on a range of projects, and around half of all the schemes with large companies are open to graduates from any degree subject. The application process for these programmes can be lengthy, with closing dates as early as Christmas in your final year, followed by online tests, telephone/video interviews and assessment centres. Many companies of all sizes also use recruitment agencies to fill temporary vacancies. These can be great to enhance your CV and may lead to additional opportunities within the same company.
Applying for a graduate scheme
If you are considering applying for graduate schemes you will need to think about the recruitment cycle and ensure you are familiarising yourself with the appropriate skills and knowledge in time for each stage of the selection process, which runs during your final year at university:
- Autumn – Online applications/CVs/psychometric tests
- Winter – Telephone/face-to-face interviews
- Spring - Assessment centres (including presentations)
Please note: these are only approximate dates and all graduate schemes will have different recruitment timescales.
Remember that there are many job opportunities available for graduates with SMEs. Graduate schemes may not suit everybody or there simply may not be schemes available in the job area that you wish to go into and some graduates prefer to start their working life with a smaller company which may have a different working culture. Employers at SMEs tend to advertise jobs when they arise rather than offer a structured training programme. Read the section on The Hidden Job Market for information about how to find jobs in SMEs.
Not for profit organisations
The types of paid and voluntary roles within the third sector are extremely diverse. Vacancies are advertised in the local and national press e.g. The Guardian and on the charities’ own websites. Many charities do not have the resources to run intensive training programmes and prefer to take on staff as and when they are needed. However, Charityworks offer a paid, 12-month graduate programme for those looking for a career in the not-for-profit sector - charity-works.co.uk. Also, check out the Career Insight guide for your programme of study for more information about opportunities in the third sector.
A recent report published by High Fliers Research, entitled ‘The Graduate Job Market in 2016’, reported a growth in public sector vacancies in 2016. To find jobs in the public sector keep an eye on a particular council’s own website or go to findajob.dwp.gov.uk, jobsgopublic.com or lgjobs.com to view jobs from a range of councils. Many councils also use recruitment agencies to fill temporary roles and this provides a way of getting into the public sector and may lead to other opportunities when vacancies arise.
The hidden jobs market
Organisations are under no legal obligation to advertise their jobs externally. This means that when you look at job postings online or in the newspapers, you are only seeing a fraction of the job market, or the ‘open job market’ as it is called. What you don’t see are the hundreds of other jobs which are offered and accepted through other means and never advertised to the general public. These positions are often created for the individual or offered to candidates sourced from an employer’s trusted network. This is often referred to as the ‘hidden job market’. Networking is the key to opening the door to the hidden job market and it is easier than you think:
Get out there!
Find out what events are coming up in and around your area which individuals and employers you would like to work for are likely to attend. These may be graduate recruitment fairs, conferences, talks and can even be social events. Once you are there, make the most of it! Employers are impressed by those individuals who are truly passionate about working for them, so demonstrating knowledge of your chosen profession and their organisation is an effective way to engage them in conversation. Remember the Careers Team organises a number of employer events and careers fairs, so keep an eye on our events website to see what’s coming up.
Social media is a networking gold mine! You can use social media to follow organisations and even individuals working in the sector you are hoping to go into. Not only can you keep up to date with organisations’ most recent activities, but you can chat and interact with individuals who may be able to offer you advice, support and even job opportunities in the future.
LinkedIn is the leading professional network on the web. Your profile acts as a CV and you can connect with individuals and organisations to increase your network and gain insight into your industry. There are even a number of sector specific groups on the website which you can join to meet other professionals and make some great connections. LinkedIn also has a good job search facility - university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students
You have to speculate to accumulate
As well as meeting prospective employers through networking, online or at events, you can also make contact through a speculative application. This means sending a CV along with a covering letter to an employer who may not be currently advertising any job vacancies. If an employer is suitably impressed by your CV and covering letter, they may contact you for further discussions. You may not be offered a job instantly, but you may be considered for upcoming positions or a position could be created for you.
Starting your own business
LJMU’s Centre for Entrepreneurship can help students who want to develop a new business idea, work as a freelancer, launch a product or service or grow an existing business. You can attend a free workshop or confidential business advice session or take part in the enterprise programmes. Call 0151 231 3300, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the startup page for more information.
Help and support available to you:
One to one support in the Careers Zone
If you are unsure of your options after you graduate, you can speak to a Careers Adviser to discuss which sectors and opportunities may best suit you, and our Employability Advisers can help you ace your applications for a range of graduate positions. To book an appointment, call into a Careers Zone or phone us on 0151 231 2048/3719.
Throughout the academic year, we run a number of events to help you understand your job options in the graduate labour market, from our workshops and webinars on graduate schemes and the hidden job market to a range of employer talks and fairs. Keep an eye on our events website and get networking!
We run a range of careers fairs throughout the academic year, giving the chance to meet and engage with graduate employers and get information about career paths and opportunities. Most of the events are open to students from any degree programme so even if it doesn’t appear to be aimed at you, you never know who you might meet and what options may become available. Keep an eye on our events website for details!
Download our career mini guides
Download our guides on ‘graduate schemes’ and ‘the hidden job market’ for further information from the resources page.