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Attention Notts final years: Here’s how to secure yourself a grad scheme

Speeding towards adulthood is scary


If you’re a final year uni student like me, that means you’re stressed and depressed 99 per cent of the time thanks to the impending doom of actually having to be an adult in a few months time. As if juggling lectures, seminars, dissertations and exams aren’t enough, you’re meant to find time to apply for and then get on to a graduate scheme and let me tell you, it’s not easy.

When you do manage to carve out an hour or two for a grad scheme search, you’re hit with the overwhelming list of different companies and schemes, so much so that sometimes it’s just easier to close your laptop and pretend it isn’t happening. But never fear – I am here to help! Without further ado, here’s how to get yourself onto the grad scheme of your dreams from someone who (finally!) managed it.

Get your CV checked then get started

Let me tell you, I didn’t realise how bad my CV was until I had it checked by a careers advisor. As he so kindly put it “you have all the content, just in the wrong order, format and style”. Safe to say the CV I ended up with was nothing like the one I started with. UoN and NTU both have careers services that are there to help, so use them. They can help you for the rest of your professional career after graduating, but you might as well make the most of it while you’re a student here anyway.

Once that’s sorted, just open your laptop and get started. Get Bright Network (my personal fave), GradcrackerMilkround or your target company website open and start filling out those applications. The first step is always the hardest.

Know what you want

This was a big learning curve for me. It is unrealistic and, to put it bluntly, just plain stupid to try and apply to every graduate scheme you see. You’ll drown in applications, psychometric testing and assessment centres which risks the grad scheme you actually want slipping through the cracks. There is no point applying for stuff you don’t even want – even if you get it, you’ll be stuck in a role you never really wanted in the first place. For me, I knew I wanted to work in tax (ride or die finance girlie) and it would’ve saved me a lot of time and sanity if I’d have stuck to that from the get go.

Keep track

This was a big learning curve for me. It is unrealistic and, to put it bluntly, just plain stupid to try and apply to every graduate scheme you see. You’ll drown in applications, psychometric testing and assessment centres which risks the grad scheme you actually want slipping through the cracks. There is no point applying for stuff you don’t even want – even if you get it, you’ll be stuck in a role you never really wanted in the first place. For me, I knew I wanted to work in tax (ride or die finance girlie) and it would’ve saved me a lot of time and sanity if I’d have stuck to that from the get go.

Keep track

Do your research and prep, prep, prep

Never, I repeat NEVER, go into an interview without having done your research. Having done a placement in tax, I had a little knowledge already but I still looked up what was going on in the world of tax as well as researching all company values so that I could drop them into conversation in the interview.

Also have your situational question examples ready to go as they’re standard in all interviews. These are the “Tell me about a time you… ” questions and you can find a whole bunch to practice online. Record yourself answering them as well as this will help you if you ever have the dreaded video interview. Make use of the STAR technique – situation, task, action, response – to get your point across clearly and efficiently. Remember you don’t need professional experience – examples from uni work just as well.

Don’t be phased by rejections

Easier said than done, I know. But just because one company rejects you, does not mean every other one will. The picture below was one that I sent to my mum and if you look closely, you can see my soul being crushed. But you just have to keep going. There is always a reason that a company didn’t hire you and you can ask for that feedback to use for your next interview. It’s likely you didn’t align with them or their values so in the long run it’ll be a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel it right now. Chin up buttercup – you’ll find the perfect place for you.

Don’t panic!

Again, easier said than done but this advice applies to multiple things. We’ve already covered rejection emails but let’s talk about interviews. It’s normal to be nervous but don’t let it consume you or you won’t perform well in group tasks or individual interviews. Be confident in yourself and your abilities – if you’ve prepared and have a genuine passion for the role, this will shine through.

Consider your offers

If you’re lucky enough to get multiple offers, then really think about what you want. You obviously listened to all my stellar advice so only applied for roles you want, so it’s a tough choice. Make use of your network – message your personal tutor and lecturers, ask your course friends and parents for their opinions or use any professional connections you have. Ultimately it’s up to you, but there’s no harm in getting advice.

Remember there’s more to life than grad schemes

Grad schemes are NOT the be all and end all. The pressure of graduating is enough to make us final years cry let alone the expectation that we have our whole careers planned and sorted. None of us know what we’re doing and that’s okay!

In that vain, graduate schemes aren’t for everyone. Maybe you want to pursue a Master’s or a PhD. Go for it. Maybe you want a break before beginning the rest of your life. So valid! Maybe you just haven’t found the perfect job or company for you this year. So what? There’s always winter intakes or next year. At the end of the day, you’ve got a degree and that’s an achievement in and of itself.

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