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Finding a Graduate Job

So, you have graduated from university. Starting your graduate job search can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be!

The best way to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed by the whole process is to have a plan - and that’s what we are here to help with.

Start early

Even if you've already graduated, it is never too early to begin researching your career options or searching for opportunities.

Many of the big employers start recruiting in the Autumn term, so it is important that you make time to develop ideas on what career you want to pursue. 

Do your research

With more than half of graduate job vacancies open to graduates of any subject, you may have more choices than you think. That is because employers, who recruit to these, focus more on your graduate skills than your degree subject. As a result, it can be helpful to narrow down your options. This will help you to decide where you look for graduate vacancies, and will help you to develop the best strategies for finding opportunities in areas that are of interest to you.

Researching careers is not just about exploring the options that are available to you, but it is also about assessing your skills, experiences and values. Talking to one of our expert Careers Advisors will help you to research various job sectors, assess the skills that you have gained during your course, and the career options that are typically related to your degree subject.

Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes are structured training programmes used by employers to recruit leaders and managers of the future. High starting salaries and good promotion prospects make the schemes attractive to many students, so expect strong competition.

Which organisations and industries offer graduate schemes? 

The majority of graduate schemes are offered by larger organisations in both the public and private sectors. Some opportunities exist with smaller organisations and the not-for-profit sector.

Graduate schemes are available in a diverse range of career areas including retail, manufacturing, engineering, IT, advertising, hospitality, transport, healthcare, finance and the public sector.

When should I apply?

Recruitment for graduate schemes typically begins up to a year in advance; rigorous application processes and multiple interview stages are common, so it's essential to do plenty of research - with our help - before sending off your application. Your first opportunity to apply will be at the beginning of your final year. 

Generally, the schemes will give an extended period in which to submit your application. So, applying early is advised, as some schemes have closing dates as early as November, and in some instances, recruiters will stop accepting applications if they reach a certain quota.

What do I need to apply for a graduate scheme?

Many graduate schemes accept applications from graduates of any degree subject; exceptions to this tend to be in relation to engineering and science opportunities.

Entry requirements vary, but a minimum degree classification of 2:2, and often 2:1 is required.

Useful links

Prospects 'How to find a graduate job': offers information on graduates schemes and tips for success To find out more about graduate schemes

Grad Diary and Save the Student: have comprehensive details of closing dates for graduate schemes

Graduate Jobs and Opportunities with Smaller Companies

As a graduate, your qualifications are greatly sought after by all sorts of companies – not just those running large-scale graduate recruitment schemes. In fact, the majority of graduates ultimately find work outside of these schemes, so keep your search broad and don't limit your search to larger organisations.

Small and medium-sized businesses (those which employ fewer than 250 people) often hire graduates, and more are recruiting as time goes on. Approximately 99% of businesses in the UK are small or medium sized, and around 60% of the UK private sector workforce are employed by one of these organisations; so opportunities are aplenty for graduates.

Why choose a smaller company?

The smaller size of these businesses means that your presence will be highly valued: without the large hierarchy of a major corporation restricting your position, and you could find yourself working alongside more senior staff sooner, all of which is great for your personal development.

Training is likely to be tailored to individual requirements, rather than a standard, structured training programme.

Where do smaller companies advertise vacancies?

Opportunities with smaller companies are likely to be less widely advertised than the high-profile schemes so you will need to think more creatively about your job-search.

These companies tend to advertise vacancies through their own channels, on websites related to their sector or geographical region, or through graduate or sector specific recruitment agencies. Book a Guidance Appointment with us for help with your graduate job search.

Some smaller companies will recruit graduates through internships, and given suitable progress will promote from within. In some small companies, jobs may not be advertised and opportunities may be filled through personal and professional networks.

Applying for graduate jobs in smaller companies

Smaller companies will often require a CV and covering letter, rather than using an online application form.

If you’re thinking of applying get your CV and Covering Letter checked in a 1-2-1 appointment with one of our expert team.

Starting your own Business

Running your own business may sound daunting, but it is an increasingly popular option for many graduates, and we can help you each step of the way. The Enterprise Place, our business start-up service, is available to all students whilst at Sunderland, and for three years after graduation.

If you are feeling entrepreneurial and have an idea, skill or hobby you'd like to turn into a business, come to us with your idea and we can offer expert advice, support, and even preliminary funding. Even if you don't have a business qualification or experience we can provide you with a specialist adviser, office space, a place on a business planning course and more, in order to help grow your idea from concept to creation.

Find out more about the support you can access from The Enterprise Place...

Internships and Work Experience


Internships are work experience programmes offered by employers to students and graduates who are looking to gain relevant skills and experience in a particular field. Interns work either part-time or full-time at a company, usually on a fixed, short-term basis, and opportunities should always be paid. Find out more...

Work Experience and Career-Related Opportunities

Often the first step on the road to employment, not only does work experience allow you to develop skills and experience that will enhance your CV, it lets you build your professional network and relationships with employers. Whilst most work experience opportunities are temporary they can often lead to full-time and permanent graduate employment.

Career-Related Opportunities are unique opportunities available to Sunderland students and recent graduates. They are often short-term, paid projects that can enable you to develop relevant skills, knowledge and experience while getting first-hand experience of life in a real working environment. Find out more...

Freelance Work

Similar to starting your own business, freelancing involves working for yourself, and more and more students and graduates are turning to self-employment as a short-term option as they look for full-time and permanent employment.

Careers in the arts, creative, media and sports sectors, for example, will often require you to work freelance, with opportunities often found by offering your services to an organisation on a freelance basis rather than applying for advertised vacancies. Short-term, freelance contracts can open doors to a variety of career opportunities, and with the growth of social media and other online channels enabling networking and virtual, online working, there has never been a better time to set up and work on a freelance basis.

You might choose to work freelance so that you can enjoy a more independent style of working, along with the freedom to make your own decisions, manage your time and work in a way that suits you, and many now combine freelance work with part-time, salaried contracts as they look to build a portfolio of work.  Whatever your motivation for working freelance you should see this stage of your career as an opportunity to develop valuable skills for your CV, and as a way to build your professional network.

Many successful businesses start with an idea, and working freelance can be a great way to discover if your venture has a good chance of success and whether or not you could make a living from it. Remember, Sunderland students and graduates can get advice and support with starting a business by talking to our team at The Enterprise Place.


How we can help

You might be thinking "I have no idea what I want to do and I don't know where to start" and that is where we can help. We offer a complete service that incorporates:

  • Helping you decide what you want to do next, whether it is further study, employment, or something else,
  • Supporting you with finding the right opportunity for you,
  • Providing advice on creating an outstanding CV, covering letter or in completing application forms,
  • Tailored Interview Coaching so you perform your best on the big day.

Find out more: Take a look at the information and resources in our or .

Make your applications

Whether you are sending off a CV or application form, your applications are a critical part of job-hunting success. Employers will use your applications to decide whether you will be invited for interview, so make sure you read the information and resources available on our  pages before you apply.

Remember, we offer where you can receive advice on your CVs, Covering Letters and LinkedIn profile.

Graduate Recruitment and
Placement Fair

Talk to a Careers Advisor 1-2-1
about your graduate job search

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