How to choose the graduate scheme that’s right for you

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Before you begin applying, finding a graduate scheme that suits you is a key first step. We’ll show you how to get started below…

Just like you’ll have done when you picked your degree, choosing the right graduate scheme is something that takes time and research. But with so many companies, sectors, and schemes out there, deciding on the graduate schemes you’ll apply for can be a bit of a challenge. But if you’re looking to make a strong start in an industry you’re passionate about, it’s a challenge that’s well worth meeting head on.

To help you with your decision, this handy guide has plenty of tips and advice for you to check out. From identifying what you want to pursue to the different types of graduate schemes out there, here’s how you find out which graduate scheme is the right one for you.

Where to start with choosing a graduate scheme

The best place to start when choosing a graduate scheme is yourself. What are you interested in or passionate about? Looking back over your degree can help you with this – was there a particular module you enjoyed? Maybe there was a project you excelled at or a skill you developed that you’d love to put to use. The past few years of your studies are a great resource to help plot a course with.

As for identifying grad schemes themselves, you have plenty of options too. Many major employers advertise their grad schemes on graduate careers sites which are a strong place to start looking.


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A lot of graduate employers also take to social media pages, so be on the lookout for ads on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook – you’ll be seeing these because you fit the bill for the demographic they’re targeting. And that’s a strong indication that you’re a good fit for such schemes.

Before you get your gown and mortar board on, be sure to check out any graduate fairs if possible. Running from September to March, all kinds of different employers set up shop there, and they’re a great way to chat to those already on the scheme, ask them some questions and gain insights that you might’ve otherwise missed out on.

Word-of-mouth shouldn’t be ignored either. Try asking alumni, lecturers, and current employees to glean a bit more about prospective schemes’ reputations. From here, you can start weighing up whether certain schemes are worth applying for.


Different types of graduate schemes

Graduate schemes will differ from company to company, and sector to sector, but graduate schemes generally last 1-3 years.

On top of that, there’s the type of graduate scheme you’ll want to factor in too. These are as follows:

  • Rotational schemes: The broader option. As the name suggests, grads will rotate across a range of departments, where they’ll be trained across a number of areas and have the chance to learn a vast range of actionable skills.


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  • Technical expert schemes: These schemes narrow the focus, centring around a specific area of a sector and the skills that go with it. The specialised nature makes it perfect if you know what you want to do career-wise.
  • Project schemes: Project schemes are a combination of the two, giving you the variety of a rotational with the specificity you’ll find on technical expert schemes.


Different sectors to apply for

You’ll more than likely be able to find a graduate scheme in whatever sector you’re looking to move into. And while some graduate schemes might ask for a specific degree, there’s nothing stopping you from applying to schemes that aren’t related to your degree. Rather than subject knowledge, a lot of employers are on the lookout for transferable skills that can be applied across a range of different contexts.

So, what kind of sectors can you expect to find graduate schemes in? Here are just a few examples:

  • Energy
  • Accounting and professional services
  • Armed forces
  • Banking and finance
  • Civil service
  • Healthcare
  • Engineering
  • Law
  • Media
  • Retail
  • Science and technology


However, graduate schemes aren’t exclusive to private companies. You’ll find many different schemes across the public sector, as well as within charities.

Choosing a graduate scheme that’s right for you

Ideally, you’ll have a list of potential schemes that you’d like to apply for, but what can you do to narrow things down and start picking out the best? These top tips can help you with that…


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  • Research the employer

After all that time you’ve spent studying for a degree, you deserve to get on a graduate scheme that’s going to bring out your best and let you learn new skills in an environment that’s positive, collaborative, and healthy.

Even if it is your first job out of uni, there’s nothing wrong with high expectations. Rather than settling for second best, make sure you’re doing your research into the scheme and the company itself.

In your research, there are plenty of green flags that can clue you into how a company treats its employees. What is their approach to wellbeing, for instance? When it comes to growth, is there structured training and development in place? Look at how long the company has been around for too. Companies with a history offer a sense of career security that ensures you’re in things for the long haul.

  • Investigate teams across the company

No, we don’t mean snooping on employees’ LinkedIn articles here, but rather, what actual teams, departments and divisions make up the company’s workforce. Doing so will give you an indication of the roles you might find yourself in after the scheme has ended. How could you use the skills you’ve learned from uni, as well as in any previous jobs, in these roles? If they’re roles you could see yourself in later down the line, then the scheme could be one that’s worth applying to.


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  • Sync up their values with your own

For some graduates, an attractive salary could be the deciding factor. For others, it might be working for a company with name recognition. Both of these things have their benefits, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to choosing the scheme that’s right for you.

A company’s values, on the other hand, could be more important than either pay or reputation to you. If so, investigating the company culture is a great way of seeing whether your values sync up with theirs.

Is it the kind of company where everyone feels welcome and fits in? How is the company structured? Are things hierarchical or do they have a flatter structure that makes it easier to make your voice heard? Are they doing their bit for Corporate Social Responsibility and getting involved with charities? A company’s actions (or inaction) can be a big indicator of whether or not their scheme is the right one for you.


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