Get ready, 2015 Graduates – your future awaits! Whether that’s a future of internships, experiencing other cultures, or as yet to be decided, your final year of University is the time to get this all under way. It might feel intimidating – adding more to the to do list than simply “pass 4th year” is a troubling prospect, but having the future you want depends on what you do now. What will it hold for you? (writes Sophie Craik).
As a current Intern with Eden Scott, I know first hand how valuable the experience of an internship can be. If you’re going into 4th year and haven’t yet managed to secure an internship, it’s not too late but it is crucial that you try to get one, even if it’s only for a few weeks. The fact that you went out of your way to track one down will really stand out to employers upon graduation, and the reason everyone says it’s important for your knowledge and skills? That’s because it is. If there’s one piece of advice that can be given in the hunt for internships, it’s “just ask”. If you’ve got a great CV, personal website and skill set, you might make a company realise that they could benefit from an intern just as much as you would love to have the experience. Make yourself known to them, and don’t be disheartened – if at first you don’t succeed, email, phone and email some more!
Shorter term work experience placements are also a really good way to build up different types of experience throughout your final year and in the summer after graduation. This will also help you to make connections in the industry and see what company cultures you fit best with. This is an especially useful tactic if you see your future in London or another big city – living expenses for a full internship can be difficult if you can’t stay with family members or have to support yourself, but a few weeks can be manageable if done on a budget. If hostels aren’t your thing, Room for Tea offers an alternative by connecting those with spare rooms in London with people coming from out of town for internships and placements.
Graduate Schemes vs Entry Level Roles
When it comes to grad schemes, it’s best to follow the mantra “apply early, apply often”. Before the applications can start though, you need to know the lay of the land. For example, for 2015 some schemes won’t open until January of that year, whereas others have a deadline of October 2014 – just a month after you’ve returned to Uni. If you’ve already decided on an industry you want to be a part of upon graduation, now is the time to sit down with a trusty spreadsheet and get organised. Even a column of the company name, the deadline and a link to the application page/mechanism will make you feel a little more on top of things.
If you haven’t gotten to that stage yet, dedicate a few days to completely immerse yourself in the world of grad schemes. Some great websites to find them include Milkround and Target Jobs, but don’t let these limit you – if there’s an industry or company that you have an interest in, add them to your spreadsheet and find out if they have a graduate scheme. If you can’t see one listed, there’s no harm in asking – some companies may not have specific graduate channels, but will still hire graduates they see potential in.
Of course, the graduate scheme route isn’t for everyone – if you would prefer to have more responsibility from the beginning and the opportunity to work your way up, then you may be more suited to an entry level role. They tend to be less structured in terms of training, mentorship and guidance, and yet this can be ideal for self starters who prefer to impress through hard work and networking.
Taking a gap year after University is the perfect opportunity to see the world and travel for an extended length of time, especially so if you are heading towards a career that doesn’t offer very much time for travel in the future.
To have the most successful gap year possible, 4th year needs to be spent saving – how much depends on where you’re going. Travelling around Asia, for example, can be relatively cost effective once the flights have been purchased, whereas America or Europe can be more expensive in terms of living costs. You might be able to work on your year abroad, but again, this must be planned well in advance to ensure you have the correct visa and haven’t missed out on any employment opportunities.
Many employers value gap years in job applications, but only if they are pitched in the right way. You don’t have to be doing something constructive with the whole time you’re away – everyone’s allowed some downtime. It is important, however, to be able to demonstate how the experience has strengthened you as a person in terms of skills, experience and global understanding, and so planning activities that you will be involved with accordingly is important to factor in.
Whether you already have your graduation journey all mapped out, or you’re leaving things a little more open ended, the most important thing to remember is to never be closed to an opportunity – you never know which path might be a shortcut to your dream future!