Jobs & Careers

6 great alternatives to graduate schemes

Thinking about your next step after uni? A lot of the focus is likely to be on graduate training schemes, but have you considered the alternatives?

graduate scheme alternativesCredit: Nottingham Trent University – Flickr

While graduate training schemes do tend to be a popular road for uni-leavers to take, it's for this reason that they tend to be super competitive – not to mention the fact that they aren't always the right choice for everyone anyway.

In fact, the majority of graduates don't get onto graduate schemes, whether by choice or otherwise!

Luckily, there are loads of alternatives to try, and we recommend that even if you are taking the plunge and applying for some grad schemes, you keep these options in mind too.

Interested to know what the average graduate salary is for your degree? We've got the figures!

6 alternatives to grad schemes

  1. Apply to companies directly

    graduate scheme alternative apply directly

    Skip the whole formal graduate scheme application process and contact companies that interest you directly.

    They may have graduate positions available that aren't explicitly advertised, or simply not have enough positions available to justify a training scheme.

    This can mean the competition is less intense than on well-publicised graduate programs, but as there are likely to be fewer positions on offer, you'll still need to work hard to impress!

    The other benefit to this alternative process is that you're showing potential employers you can take initiative, and that you're genuinely interested in their company rather then just applying because there's a grad scheme available.

    By applying directly with your excellent CV and covering letter, you're demonstrating you have the drive and confidence to succeed. You're also able to give more of an impression of your personality this way, rather than going through a relatively generic application process.

  2. Try an internship

    graduate scheme alternative internship

    Taking a temporary internship at a company you're keen to work for is as good a way as any to further your career, and the great thing about this option is that you don't have to wait until you're graduated to get started.

    Many companies are interested in students interning a couple of days a week while they're still studying, and this can be a great way to help you decide your career path once you graduate.

    Not only should an internship give you an idea of what the day-to-day responsibilities will be in that specific industry, but it'll also give you a foot in the door once you've graduated.

    If a job opens up there once you've finished uni, you'll be top of the CV pile. Even if no opportunities arise, it'll still look great on your CV.

    If you can't manage to get a placement with the company you're after, apply to another company in the same field and use it as a stepping stone to work out what's expected of you.

    If you do an internship whilst studying then that company might allow you to fast-track your application to their graduate training scheme later.

    What's ‘fast-track'?

    A fast-track is when a company sends you straight to the interview stage without an official application.

    This normally happens if you've already been affiliated with the company during your degree, perhaps through an internship or something similar. It's also possible to get fast-tracked if you're a very high achieving student, so you best get your head down!

  3. Check out the start-up scene

    graduate scheme alternative start up

    The startup scene in the UK continues to thrive, and there are loads of reasons to choose a much smaller company (sometimes called an SME/small to medium enterprise) over a larger corporation.

    Your experience working for a smaller company is likely to be more personal and less hierarchical. Plus, it's easier to get the chance to prove yourself in a smaller office.

    You're also likely to get way more responsibility than you would be given in a larger company, which is great experience and means you'll learn a lot – and quickly!

    One thing to keep in mind is that smaller companies might not openly advertise graduate roles, so it is important to search for them yourself and apply directly.

    Start-ups tend to favour people who think outside of the box, so it can be a good idea to get creative with your CV and how you approach them.

Don't forget to keep an eye on our vacancy page for any opportunities at Save the Student!
  1. Do a postgrad

    graduate scheme alternative postgraduate degreeCredit: University of Exeter – Flickr

    Admittedly, at this stage the idea of studying for at least one more year may not be too appealing!

    However, doing a postgraduate degree will put you ahead of the competition when you do start applying for jobs, and this is a particularly good option if you're still deciding which direction you'd like to go with your career.

    Not only this, but the government now offers loans of up to £10,280 (depending on location) to wanting to do a Master's, and many unis have started offering majorly discounted postgrads to undergrads wanting to progress to Master's level at the same uni.

    If the idea of increasing your debts is too much to handle, you can also do a postgrad at one of these great cities in Europe for free (or almost free). Something to consider, especially as they're often taught in English!

  2. Start your own business

    grad scheme alternative start own businessCredit: Jakob Steinschaden – Flickr

    If you're business-minded and have a bit of the entrepreneurial spirit in you, don’t rule out the idea of starting your own company.

    Our annual student money survey has shown as much as 9% of current students make cash working for themselves, suggesting this is increasingly becoming a lucrative option for young people in the UK with bright ideas.

    If this is something you think you'd be interested in, try looking into funding that government-backed business schemes offer, or even check with your university, as some will be keen to invest in their alumni.

    A popular path that many young entrepreneurs take today is setting up a business or website online due to lower costs and immediate access to a global market or audience. In fact, this is how Save the Student began!

    Check out our guide to starting a website as well as our guide to making money as a blogger as a bit of inspiration to get you started.

    As a side note, don't be afraid of failing with some of your ideas. Whatever happens, you'll learn an incredible amount about yourself and pick up a whole range of new skills to take forward in your career, whatever you decide to do.

Read how one teenager from Gloucestershire managed to make £48,000 in one year with her bright idea for a baby-naming website! 
  1. Look further afield

    graduate scheme other options abroad

    If you're really struggling to find something that appeals to you in the UK job market, there's nothing to stop you looking abroad.

    If you've got a second language under your belt, your options are extremely broad. But even if you don't, don't let that put you off – or better still, start learning now.

    English is an official language in more countries than any other, and even where it isn't, there's bound to be some English-speaking firms. It's just a matter of getting your search on!

    Even if you don't want to make the move permanently, applying for relevant work experience or internships across the water will really help you stand out when applying for jobs on your home turf.

Just remember that while a lot of your fellow students might be gunning for graduate training schemes, they're certainly not the be all and end all.

Exploring different options is the key to finding the perfect role, so don't be scared to play the field a bit when it comes to your career!

Next step: get that CV up to scratch and start scoping out what else is out there. Best of luck!

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