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You didn’t land the graduate scheme you were hoping for and the pressure to have a graduate job lined up straight after university feels ever-present.
Any graduate job rejection can be disheartening, and when constantly surrounded by the prospect of graduate schemes, it might feel like the only graduate career option available.
It’s worthwhile considering other avenues that exist outside of these highly-coveted schemes, so we've dug a little deeper into why you should also be applying for graduate jobs this summer, particularly within SME’s and start-ups.
What separates graduate schemes from graduate jobs is how they are structured. Offered by larger corporations, graduate schemes clearly signpost how graduates will progress throughout the programme and what their time at the company will look like.
Application processes normally open at the start of the academic year and will close early if all of the graduate positions have been filled.
Graduate jobs within SME’s and startups, however, are relatively more flexible. According to the European Union, SME's (also known as small and medium-sized enterprises) are a category of companies that hire up to 250 employees and generate no more than 50 million euros.
Whilst start-ups can fall under the SME category, they can also encompass a much broader array of businesses; this can range from a small London tech two-man band to a burgeoning, globally renowned brand such as Uber, Monzo or Deliveroo.
Whilst employers are transparent in the duties and responsibilities involved in these roles, there is greater scope for graduates to shape these roles by what they make of the graduate job and can gain vital responsibility from the get-go.
Equally, openings for these graduate jobs tend to appear on a more ad-hoc basis throughout the year with immediate start dates.
According to Accenture’s 2016 UK University Graduate Employment Study, 68% of 2016 graduates look for on-the-job training and invaluable experience in their first job after university, and one of the most exciting prospects of graduate jobs is the opportunity to take on encouraging amounts of responsibility from the onset.
Employers within SMEs, especially fast-growing start-ups, are on the lookout for ambitious graduates who can bring fresh perspective and drive growth to their business. They nurture innovation, welcome new ideas and explore different avenues which could disrupt the industry.
In their Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace survey, PWC found ‘opportunities for career progression’ was ranked as the number one priority for millennials, and organisations who can offer that are more appealing to graduates.
Whether you’re bringing on new business or leading a B2B marketing campaign, graduates can be an integral part of a team and make a noticeable and individual impact on a company’s direction and development.
Building higher levels of responsibility will enable high-performers to be rewarded with well-earned promotions where career growth is very much attainable.
Give A Grad A Go’s Team Leader, Claire Donaldson, serves as the perfect example for the potential of the rapid career development start-ups have to offer. Claire shares her exciting journey at Give A Grad A Go:
“University had always pushed me into the graduate scheme direction, where I spent my final year applying frantically to every scheme under the sun. Unfortunately, those didn’t work out (I blame the Numerical tests) so I decided to apply for graduate jobs instead – which is where I stumbled across Give A Grad A Go! I’ve been working at Give A Grad A Go since the summer of 2014, and have been given some fantastic career development opportunities. Since starting as a Resourcer, I’ve had 4 promotions in the space of under 3 years. I am now the Team Leader of the Corporate Desk and managing a dynamic team of 4 (soon to be 5). This has challenged me immensely, keeps me on my toes, and I definitely believe I have gained a lot more responsibility than I would have gained in a graduate scheme over the same amount of time.”
Results have shown 98% of 2016 graduates strive for further training to improve their employability. Additionally, PWC found that 65% of millennials stated, ‘opportunity for personal development’ would be the number one factor influencing their decision to accept their first job.
What makes graduate schemes highly attractive to graduates is the big investment made by corporations. Often outlined, these schemes offer extensive formal training and development programs in which there are also opportunities to gain professional qualifications.
SMEs not being able to afford a similar scale of training is a common misconception amongst graduates and it couldn’t be further from the truth. One fundamental characteristic SME’s look for in graduates is their coachability and willingness to learn and take constructive feedback.
Not only can SMEs and start-ups provide comprehensive formal training, but also highly tailored long-term professional and personal development programs, further supported by on-the-job learning and performance-related reviews.
SMEs and start-ups have cultivated a unique work culture which encourages a positive and social atmosphere within the office through promoting a ‘small-team feel’ to facilitate better employee engagement.
With many graduates aspiring to pursue a meaningful graduate career, working within a small team can bring a sense of purpose and belonging in which employees are unlikely to be overlooked. Joining a smaller organisation can often involve working closely with senior staff, including the MD or CEO.
Start-ups have notably been the forerunners in promoting a lively office environment - from crafting exuberant office designs to offering fun office perks, these businesses are recognising the importance of building a positive office culture for graduates.
Dipping into Accenture’s survey again, we found over 2/3 of 2016 graduates would “trade a higher salary for a positive social atmosphere”, so working in a start-up or SME and being part of a tight-knit team within dynamic office surroundings are ideal for nurturing the refreshing atmosphere graduates are seeking.