It can be really difficult going into the final year of your degree.
‘What am I going to do in the real world?’, ‘When do I apply?’, ‘How do I create the perfect CV?’, ‘What career path am I going to choose?’ – they’re all questions that pop in and out of students’ heads at some point during their uni journey.
Add keeping on track with your degree, aiming for the best possible accolade, and attending the odd party or two (because how else are you meant to experience uni life at it’s very best?!) into the mix and you’ve suddenly got a lot to think about.
Our first tip is not to worry, take time and appreciate that your degree is the most important hurdle to conquer first, and then start to consider your options. Your career is a long old haul and a constantly-moving feast, so try not to worry too much about getting that perfect job first time around.
It’s also worth remembering here that you may not be in your first post-grad role for over 12 months, and secondly (as harsh as this may sound), over 20% of graduates don’t actually complete their graduate training schemes! However, given this, it’s not wise to leave your applications until the last minute, week or month of your degree – you’ve got to get out of those starting blocks fast, depending on what you want to do.
You could join a Blue Chip employer on a structured graduate training scheme or, if this doesn’t float your boat, you could take up a role within a small business or SME with 50+ employees. And if marketing’s more of your thing, you can either choose in-house or agency – the options are incredibly varied, particularly if you like the sound of the latter.
Graduate schemes are an attractive option and span a number of specialisms, ranging from finance, retail, HR and marketing, to management and law. However, these schemes tend to last between one and two years, so if this is the route you’ve set your sights on, you need to be 100% sure it’s the one that you want. We feel a Grease song coming on!…
The best graduate schemes tend to be offered by big employers, such as the likes of EY, KPMG, BP, Boots, Kellogg’s, Google, John Lewis and Zurich. And they can also cover a wide spectrum of industries, from FMCG, retail, energy and utilities, to tech and healthcare.
There’s no shortage of graduate options out there, however, if you want to be in with a chance of nailing one of these positions next year, your academic record needs to be pretty exemplary. What’s more, next year may seem like ages away, but the application process for some of these roles actually starts as early as September and, at the latest, October and November this year.
You see applying to become a grad is a long old process, so be prepared for lengthy application forms, interviews (via the telephone and face-to-face), as well as assessment days. The fields of marketing, media and digital are becoming increasingly popular, so competition is hotting up within this arenas, however, it’s refreshing to see that certain companies, such as Sky and Virgin, are offering more placements.
If the agency world is more of your thing, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are plenty of opportunities to be had. Outside of London, cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol have a vibrant agency scene where there’s no end of PR, media, brand and integrated agencies, as well as specialist digital outfits. And each one can offer different career options within fields, such as design and development, creative, client management, social media, PR and content.
The continually evolving nature of technology and the digital marketing industry, in particular, has made this an extremely exciting and desirable sector in which to work, especially among graduates. While the selection process isn’t as long-winded or regimented as applying for a graduate scheme, competition is tough. As a result, it’s not easy to gain immediate entrance into this industry without any experience, but if you’ve managed to gain relevant work experience, alongside your degree, this will significantly increase your chance of getting in there. Even with a marketing or business-related degree in your back pocket, the standard of applications for jobs within this sector is high, so you need to go that extra mile to stand out from all of the other candidates, a bit like 23-year-old Jade Delaney did by turning herself into a replica of the famous Fearless Girl statue and standing outside McCann’s office in Bristol for hours. Her efforts paid off and she’s now working for McCann as an advertising intern. Nice work!
If you don’t fancy turning prospective employers’ heads by going down the creative route, you can always wow them with your hands-on know-how. Experience really does speak volumes and the best way to gather this is by contacting local agencies to see if they offer insight days or internships during your holiday periods. The more effort you make, and the more immersed you are within their given sector, the greater your chances of pipping everybody else to the post.
Peek hiring times for agencies tend to be during April, May and June and also later in the year, September and October, although some agencies have openings all-year round. A word of warning for you – do take the time to research your potential employer, immerse yourself in their world and don’t send a standard application – it won’t get you anywhere. Instead, you may want to consider writing an opening email that reflects enthusiasm and interest and shows that you know all about their culture, latest developments and client growth. The more insight you provide, the more impressed they’ll be…
Last, but not least, don’t worry if you don’t land your dream job straight away. It may seem like the end of the world, but this phase in your life really is the very start of your career and it’s an incredibly exciting time. Always keep an open mind and don’t turn a potential interview down if it doesn’t seem ‘right’ on paper – the inner sanctum of most agencies can be vastly different to the external vibes they give off.
So, what are you waiting for?! Get to it grads and best of luck!