Are Graduate Schemes the Be-All and End-All of Job-Hunting?

Both students and graduates desire graduate schemes; they are prestigious, affiliated to famous companies and are usually seen as the next vital step that every graduate must go through.

But is the crowd mentality of focusing so much on graduate schemes harmful? There are certainly strong benefits to graduate schemes, but are they for everyone?


1) Peer pressure

It’s not usually the case that this term is used in the context of job applications. However, it is easy to become obsessed with graduate schemes when all your friends are applying to them. Although it certainly doesn’t hurt to apply and test one’s chances and application strength, it seems counterintuitive to apply to work in an industry that is of no interest to you just because your friends applied there as well.

Understand and accept that working in the City is not for everyone, and that it is perfectly fine to feel this way— “if you don’t want to become a banker, you’re not a failure”.


2) Prestige, flattery, security, money

Applying and being offered a job offer, with all related benefits, is extremely flattering—it means the company values you and your future contribution. This is felt even more when the company happens to be a big one with a prestigious history. Furthermore, graduate schemes are often associated with security and money; Aldi, for example, starts off its graduates with a generous £42,000 salary “plus an Audi A4”. With a salary that can potentially rise to £72,000 after four years, a graduate scheme at Aldi seems very attractive.

In reality, Aldi’s is an isolated case. A survey of 197 companies that operate graduate schemes carried out by the Association of Graduate Recruiters in 2013 suggests that the average graduate scheme salary is £26,500.

The allure of these elements, however, serve to frame graduate schemes as the best possible option for graduates and students. Indeed, being ‘on a graduate scheme’ is seen as being more prestigious and successful than ‘getting a job’. Therefore, in an almost twisted sense, not being on a graduate scheme and having to scour the job market for a graduate job is perceived as a last resort.

Somehow, for these ‘unlucky’ ones, a common perception is that they will have a ‘job’ but not a ‘career’. This means that most graduates are simply unaware of other opportunities that may be available to them, choosing instead to focus on big graduate schemes. Research carried out by Newcastle University Business School suggests that there is “a lack of awareness among graduates about small and medium enterprises as employers and the opportunities they offer”.


3) Career progression

It’s often possible to feel that one has a job but not a career. A lack of progression means that many employees feel that they are stuck and can no longer improve. This is the quickest way to burnout and disappointment. For career progression, graduate schemes have the advantage; graduates are assisted and supported through a teaching/learning framework and opportunities to progress upwards are part of the two-year scheme or otherwise at the end. Having this support framework makes undoubtedly easier to move up. Indeed, the completion of the graduate scheme can be seen as progress.

In comparison, a standalone job does not necessarily always have this support framework. Promotions and other similar opportunities definitely exist, but the overall process is different from graduate schemes. Notably, career advancement, if the current position does not have future prospects, means having to start over again with job applications and interviews.

Being on a graduate scheme means that you are already part of the workforce of a big company with opportunities to move up within it. Smaller companies may require graduates looking for more to move on to other companies.




Ultimately, it is true that graduate schemes provide excellent opportunities. However, it is important to understand that being rejected does not mean you are not good enough as a person, or that you are a failure.

PWC, a top graduate scheme provider, had 41,000 students apply to its paid internships and graduate placement roles in 2015, and only recruited 1,450 graduates. The competition is ridiculous and the application process harrowing. Rejection after a long five-step process will leave you exhausted and disappointed. However, whether or not you make it, recognise that whatever step you made it to is an achievement in itself.

Finally, while money and security should definitely be a priority, these can still be found within industries that interest you. It is crucial to not give up on your career interest because your peers did so. If you secure a graduate scheme but are absolutely miserable, then you will also have a job, but no career and no interest.



William Tong is a contributor for Inspiring Interns. 

Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobsLondon, visit their website.