To grad scheme or not to grad scheme…

To grad scheme or not to grad scheme…

Don’t do it, you’ll be roped in! They’ll work you like a dog! Your wages will be awful!

You’ve all heard these questions when discussing graduate schemes with your friends. It’s true, they aren’t for everyone, but some people have had a fantastic experience with these schemes, which is why you should read this article and hear about some of the opportunities they can present you with.

Foot in the door

First of all, let me highlight, grad schemes are what enable you to get a head start in a career! You will have access to other companies/ teams/ networking pools that you otherwise wouldn’t have encountered. Like most graduates, what you have in qualifications and academia you lack in experience. Graduate schemes are suitable as they recognise that despite lack of experience you have a bright mind and willingness to learn; and so want to invest in you. They can offer training to you  (sometimes with qualifications), and some even have a mentorship programme so that you can get guidance from a previous grad schemer, or somebody more senior in the company.

Career change

For some people, including myself, it’s not a clean cut I want to be a … when I graduate from university. It’s an evolving decision which comes as part of learning who you are, which ultimately begins when you start uni. I always knew inside I was interested in IT but I also knew I had a passion for my degree subject. Thankfully, many grad schemes will take on students in a field they didn’t graduate in as, believe it or not, your skills are extremely transferrable. I met a girl who graduated with a music degree, then like me, moved to IT and was incredible. Certainly, one of the quickest excel skill acquisitions I’d ever seen. Despite not being able to see an obvious connection, your studies will have some part in your grad scheme no matter how minor you consider it to be.

Let’s get real, only a handful of us will know at age 17 that they want to study X then become Y, and stay in that job for the next 40 years. This is the modern world and we are allowed to change our career paths. For me, I’m chasing my IT career, I have friends chasing a career in sales, teaching, recruitment all different to their degrees!). It’s your life and your decision- just because you gradated with a degree in history doesn’t mean you have to stick with it! I’ll also add that you should be chasing what you enjoy rather than money as you spend more time at work than anything else so it’s better to be doing something you have a genuine interest in. Plus I’ve found that financials follow through enjoyment. 

As I said before, grad schemes aren’t perfect …

A lot of people seem to get the idea that because you’re a graduate you’ll be doing monkey work, you’ll be overworked and treated like a baby. I can say first hand that it is a load of rubbish. Your average working hours will be highlighted to you in your contract. Why would they commit to you for 2-3 years if they were going to make you run to make copies of documents and get coffees? You’re a graduate and this is your first real job for many of you, so they’ll be treating you as adults as you transition to non-student life.

Yes, there may be clauses which tie you into the contract such as being charged with a high training fee if you leave before the period ends, or having to be geographically flexible, or having to complete work in 3 or 4 different parts of the business. But you’ll be aware of that before signing the contract. Nobody is holding a gun to your head until you sign the dotted line. It’s your choice, but as far as I’m concerned 2 years being geographically flexible is the sacrifice worth taking to kickstart your career, and also you know that when you reach your contract end you’ll have had 2/3 or more years solid experience. You can always look for a fixed role once your scheme ends. You may love the grad scheme, and it may be the best decision you took. Equally you may not feel it’s for you, but it’s worth at least giving it a go.

I personally think the recruitment process is quite long and I find the online tests challenging,  however they aren’t everything. If an employer interviews you and sees something in you then they may still take you despite not reaching 93% in your mathematical skills test. Your logical reasoning score is not the key identifier in a suitable candidate – so have a go! Plus you can always re-sit or re-apply next time.

A few words of advice:

  1. Do your research-do not give yourself the 4 weeks between final exams and graduating to pick a graduate scheme. This is a multiyear commitment so research research research!
  2. Variety- The famous phrase don’t put all your eggs in one basket, apply for multiple graduate schemes. You then have a choice which one you want to go into
  3. Stay clear of rating sites- I know we’ve all done it and had a sneaky peak at sites like glass-door for employer ratings, but honestly, every person will have a different experience. Ask questions in interviews, go to recruitment days, seek out employees on linked in. You’ll get a far better overview than some online sites, plus not everybody will have written a rating on them so it isn’t as representative
  4. Do not sign if you don’t agree-don’t say you’ll be flexible if you can’t commit. You’ll be aware of an important aspect like that before your sign any contract so make sure you get reading that fine print
  5. Make friends- you can seriously meet some wonderful inspiring people. I love the sense of community in grad schemes because it’s like a little family-you’re all in it together. Make sure you seek advice, and share experiences- it’s a shared journey and you could meet people you want to work with again.

You may still be as undecided as when you began reading this article but know graduate schemes are nothing to be afraid of, they’re here to benefit you and some people have had some really fantastic starts to a successful career. If any of you want to ask more questions, then get in touch on my linked in account or email me and I’m more than happy to help.

Hope that’s been at least a little insightful.


Tattie xo

Ps: here are some blog posts I wrote for FDM when I was on their grad scheme:

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