Graduate Job vs. Graduate Scheme

This is a busy time for final year students. Your course has started back with a vengeance; there’s that new society role you said you’d do; you’ve committed to another year with your sports team; and it’s crunch time for applying to graduate schemes that start in summer 2017.

So, what is a graduate scheme, and how is it different from a graduate job? A graduate scheme is usually a structured position within an organisation or business. Graduate schemes exist in private, public or third sector organisations across virtually all sectors. It’s likely that if you have spoken to an employer at our Careers Fairs, then they have been talking about their graduate scheme. These schemes are typically well advertised, competitive, and take on large numbers of new grads each year.

Graduate schemes usually have a set length, anything from six months to three years or more. They can involve professional training and with many you will come out with a professional qualification, for example in social work or accountancy. Many graduate schemes also involve working on rotation, meaning you spend time in different parts of the organisation to get a feel for what you like best. One thing to consider is that you may not be guaranteed a job at the end of the graduate scheme – but do well, and this could be a fantastic springboard to an amazing career!

The difference between graduate schemes and graduate jobs can be quite subtle but is important to recognise. Graduate jobs are still aimed at motivated, high-calibre graduates and often include training and support, but are less structured than graduate schemes. They may be with smaller companies or organisations that take on smaller numbers of grads, but they are found across just as many sectors and include a huge variety of types of work and job roles.

You may have to work harder to find out about graduate jobs as they can be less well advertised, so company websites and networking will be important. However, recruitment for graduate jobs may happen later in the year, closer to graduation or all year round, so there is less competition in autumn term than for graduate schemes.

Knowing the difference between graduate jobs and graduate schemes may help you decide what’s right for you when you graduate. But if you’re still unsure, come and talk to us at the Careers Service.

Kickstart your career network

‘Networking’ is something you’ll hear about constantly when you looking for internships, work experience and graduate jobs. For some, talking to strangers about their job comes naturally. Many others see the word ‘networking’ and instantly switch off and go back to their job search. If you’ve made it to here in the blog post, well done!

The thing is, networking doesn’t have to be a scary switch off word. It is a useful tool to help you understand the roles you are applying for, get some insider knowledge for an application or even as a way to find experience.

The Careers Network is our tool for helping you get over the biggest hurdle: where to begin. The Network contains hundreds of case studies and contactable Bristol alumni from a wide range of backgrounds. This is a great place to start as the alumni on there are ready and willing to answer any questions you may have.

What next?

So you’ve found somebody doing a job you want to find out more about. What next? Send them a message!

The message doesn’t need to be long or complex. The most important thing is you ask meaningful questions that will help you understand their career path, role or employer better. Start with a short introduction explaining who you are, ask your questions and finish off by thanking them for their time. If you are a bit stuck on the questions, use these examples to get thinking:

  • I have an interview with X, do you have any pointers that would help me stand out?
  • I am looking to work in X when I graduate. Do you have any suggestions about how to approach companies for work experience?
  • Could you tell me a little bit more about how you found your current job?
  • I’m due to graduate with the same degree as you but am a bit uncertain what to do when I graduate. Was there anything in particular from your course that inspired you to pursue a career in X?

Remember: our alumni are working people. If they do not get back to you immediately, don’t panic! If you have not received a reply after a week consider sending another message, or let us know so we can contact them on your behalf.

If you would like further tips on networking, have a look at our talk to alumni page. If you’re still feeling stuck but want to be proactive, come in and speak to one of our advisers about networking techniques and other ways of searching for alumni.

Why attend a careers fair?

We’ve got eight days of fairs coming up this term but what’s all the fuss about? Here’s why attending a careers fair is an invaluable use of time.

B.Uni Undergrad Prospectus Day 3


Whether you have a clear idea of what career you’d like to have, or have no idea at all, careers fairs are great for picking up a lot of information in one place. You can discover less well-known employers and understand more about what popular companies do. You get to speak to the experts, get a feel for the work culture and ask questions that might not be on their FAQs list.


Aside from the useful material you can gain from one-to-one conversations, there are also a number of free publications given out at our fairs which you can use to make informed decisions about which companies to pursue and how to approach them, and to check statistics and facts.


Meeting employers face-to-face is the best way of making an impression. With around 300 companies on campus this term, there are plenty to choose from. You can pick up industry contacts and get to know the decision-makers. Who you know is often just as important as what you know in the world of work, so it’s best to make the most of every opportunity to meet employers.

Job Prospects

Companies come to the careers fairs because they are looking to hire Bristol students. They often have work experience and internships on offer, as well as graduate jobs. Although you won’t get a job directly from attending a fair, the conversations you make and the impression you leave may very well be the starting point for your future career.

Click here for the fair dates and to register your interest on mycareer.

Get ahead of the game! Be prepared to meet employers!

This autumn, we’ll welcome hundreds of employers on to campus, for fairs, promotion events and presentations. Stand out from the crowd by following our top tips:

Wills Memorial Building.

Wills Memorial Building.

  1. Find what fairs and events are happening and when – check out our events listings on mycareer and use the ‘type of event’ drop down to filter results, including careers fairs and employer presentations.
  2. Come to one of our short talks about how to prepare to find out more about why you should go to fairs and for insider tips about how to make the most of talking to employers.
  3. Check out the list of employers attending each fair (on the event listing on mycareer) and find out who they are and what they do before going along – use our researching employers page to get started. Go beyond their website and look at news, social media (including LinkedIn) and job review and case study websites such as TARGETJobs Inside Buzz, Glassdoor, WikiJob and TheJobCrowd.
  4. Go that step further by using our gaining commercial awareness page and think about what the organisation is there to do, who are their customers and how the business is organised – this will also help with applications and at interview.
  5. Prepare an introduction about yourself and some questions to ask the employer. Do ask about changes in the sector, what sort of activities are involved in the graduate schemes on offer and the culture of the organisation. Don’t ask about salary or time off.

    Students and employers at a careers fair in the Great Hall of the Wills Building

    Students and employers at a careers fair in the Great Hall of the Wills Building

After a fair or an employer presentation, follow up with an employer to thank them if you had any longer discussions. You should also collate your notes and put them in to action by noting down deadlines and preparing your applications.



For more in-depth information, our previous blog post on careers fairs goes into detail about the fairs themselves and you should come along to one of our short talks on preparing for fairs and events.

Converting to Law

The University’s MA in Law programme offers a wide choice of career paths – both inside and outside the legal sector. William Bartoli-Edwards, a Bristol Music graduate has posted a blog about this innovative postgraduate programme.

Why the MA in Law?

As a first year Law MA student who also completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol, the MA course has lived up to my hopes and expectations. My initial decision to enrol on the course was taken because I felt that, despite having taken steps forward in my academic development during my BA, I had not quite satisfied my academic curiosity and development. Therefore, looking for a course that gave me more academic challenges, but also complemented my initial degree, was a focus which quickly led to the Law MA as the ideal outcome.

When comparing the course to the GDL the Law MA seemed to suit my needs better; the GDL was more of a practical solution to being able to practise law, rather than an academic endeavour. Similarly, Bristol stood out in comparison to those other universities offering an accelerated LLB course. The MA provides a basis to support many more opportunities for further study and professional development outside the field of law, as well as offering the opportunity to preview an LLM, with the optional module in the second year being chosen from either the LLM options or a Master’s level research project.

Diverse range of options

For me, personally, because my undergraduate degree was in Music, Bristol, being a media and creative centre, lent itself well to support my continuing professional development, leading to a University Internship Scheme with Aardman Animations. This is also an example of how diverse law is as a subject. Not only does it enhance all of the sought after skills, such as critical analysis, but it is likely to complement most interests or sectors since specialist knowledge as well as practical knowledge often go hand in hand. Therefore, for example, a specialism in contentious music litigation is now a possibility for me.

Alternatives to Law careers

Nevertheless, a non-law focused career is equally possible. For me, with a passion for music and the music industry, there are a variety of jobs and possibilities which the transferable skills from law complement in the commercial music environment. In an industry such as music, ‘career paths’ are less common, or at least less clear, compared to many other professional areas. This is where the skills of the MA will be increasingly valuable. The critical thinking and the ability to analyse any situation you are dealing with means carving out your own, specialist, career path becomes much less worrisome.

Finally, the department itself is one full of enthusiasm and energy. The professors are extremely willing to help whenever and with whatever you need. From my experiences of other courses, within and outside of the University of Bristol, this course offers a great deal of personal development that is hard to find elsewhere.

Thanks William!

To find out more about a career in the Legal sector check out the Careers Service website –

Taking stock: don’t underestimate your skills and knowledge!

Either newly graduated or looking towards a new academic year with us in September? The summer vacation is a good time to take stock of the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired so far at the University of Bristol. Being able to accurately articulate your competences is necessary for part-time work, internship and graduate role applications or simply as a confidence booster.

But are we always the best judge of our own abilities? Although reliable self-assessment is a useful skill, it can be challenging and is influenced by a range of factors. It can be affected by having unrealistically high expectations of yourself or a tendency to compare yourself to who you believe is your most successful peer. One study found that medical students with the highest grades tended to underestimate their own performance; whereas those with lower grades overestimated their abilities (Edwards 2003).

Interestingly the Dunning-Kruger effect was observed in situations where those who were most competent at a task were more likely to underestimate their performance, and those with lower competence were more likely to overestimate it. More information effect

Johari Window developed by Luft and Ingham (Luft 1969) is a model which illustrates that there are differences between what we believe about ourselves and what others think.Johari window

When we ask for feedback we are attempting to reduce what is in the ‘blind’ square and shift our awareness more towards the ‘open’ square. Whereas with job applications the aim is to move what is in the ‘hidden’ square towards the ‘open’ square – by the way abilities are articulated to employers. More information

Some ways to improve accuracy of self-assessment

  • Seek out sources of informed feedback from Tutors, peers etc.
  • Define who/what you are measuring yourself against
  • Build a realistic picture of what most of your peers are really doing/achieving
  • Remember your self-assessment relates to your aspirations e.g. are you aiming for a first?

You are likely to be doing better than you think! The University of Bristol selects high achievers, both academically and in extracurricular activities. This makes our students popular with a range of employers but might mean some students underestimate their strengths. So when communicating your skills and achievements to employers, be accurate and honest – but without excessive modesty. It’s important not to undersell how great you are!


Edwards RK, Kellner KR, Sistrom CL, Magyari EJ. Medical student self-assessment of performance on an obstetric and gynaecology clerkship. Am J Obstet Gynaecol 2003;188:1078-82

Luft, J.1969: Of Human Interaction. Palo Alto, CA: National Press. p 177

Why should I do the Bristol PLUS Award?

The Bristol PLUS Award provides a framework to help you develop employability skills through extracurricular activities and learn how to articulate them to employers in the recruitment process. Perhaps you already work part time, have volunteered or attended some extracurricular talks. So what are the benefits of the scheme in addition to just undertaking this activity alone? Don’t let us convince you, let these recent PLUS award students explain the benefits.

To get a graduate job…

“I learned about the importance of preparation; knowing the company and the role is crucial during an interview. I also learned about the importance of presenting a good first impression. I have gained a place on a graduate scheme thanks to the Bristol PLUS Award and the skills I have learned through the completion of the award.” – 3rd year Geography BSc.

To gain transferable skills to complement your degree…

“The Bristol PLUS award has given me an excellent introduction into the unfamiliar world of employability. Much of what I learned I have found personally to be equally as useful as my degree in regards to finding employment post-graduation.” – 3rd year Physics (MSci)

To aid your career planning…

“Throughout the Bristol PLUS Award, I have developed a newfound sense of confidence about leaving university and entering the world, no longer as a student. I feel a considerable amount of support from the Careers Service and their role in enabling students to be prepared for the future.” – 2nd year Biology (BSc)

To rise to a challenge and become more confident…

“As a university student it is easy to become trapped in the university bubble, but I think the PLUS award helped me venture outside of this…If I had the chance to do it again I would have liked to have attended even more talks at the Careers Service as they were very beneficial. From the PLUS Award I will take the lesson of going the extra mile in order to make myself the most appealing candidate for future employers.” – 2nd year History BA

Just for fun!

“I thoroughly enjoyed the PLUS Award. It is structured very well and has allowed me to develop personally, socially and academically and given me the confidence and potential to thrive in my future years at University.” – 1st year Law and German (LLB)

So what are you waiting for?

Registration for the Award re-opens in September and closes in February. Check the website for more details. You may have already completed activities this summer to help you get ahead. What else will you discover by taking on the Award?

Thinking about life after graduation? Our graduates can help!

Have you ever wondered what University of Bristol students go on to do after they leave university? Are you looking for inspiration? Take a look at our Case Studies – real life accounts providing a fascinating insight into the world of graduate employment. In our profiles, Philip details his experiences as a graduate trainee at The Guardian, Ciara describes her role as a Consultant at EY, Elinam talks about entering further study, and Gowrishanker outlines his experiences of setting up his own business.

Hear from the graduates themselves about how having a degree from Bristol helped them to get where they are now. Did they start out with a clear career path in mind? Was the degree subject helpful in getting the job? Did they decide to pursue further study to improve their chances of finding the right job? How are they practising and developing the knowledge and skills they acquired whilst studying? How did a degree from the University of Bristol help to open doors to the career they were looking for?

Perhaps you feel as though you no longer want to follow the path that your degree naturally leads you to? Many of our case studies show how there are various alternative career paths out there where the skills and experience you have gained from studying for your degree can be put to good use: Greg, a Mechanical Engineering graduate who works as a Patent Attorney, Hannah, the Experimental Psychology graduate working as a Business Consultant for IBM, and Rosie, a Politics graduate working in the charity sector.  

All of our graduates give excellent hints and tips for students that are exploring their career options – start thinking about your next steps early, make use of the careers service, never stop learning and “Network! Network! Network!”

Join our Careers Network to access more case studies and get in touch with Bristol alumni.

Making the Most of Your Summer

Exams are almost over and it’s nearly time for a well-deserved summer break. Travelling, volunteering abroad and summer placements are popular ways to build your skills and experience during the long stretch of time between June and September, but don’t worry if you haven’t got one of them lined up as there are plenty of things that you can do to make the most of your summer.

Four things that you can do to make the most of your summer

  1. Volunteer in the UK – Volunteering is a fantastic way to help others and give something back to the community. Not only that, it can also help you to gain valuable experience, especially if you are thinking of going into an industry such as media, charity, heritage or other areas where it’s more difficult to secure paid work. If you’re not sure about what you might want to do after university, volunteering can also be a good short-term way of finding out what an industry is like to help you narrow down your choices.
  2. Work Shadow – Similar to volunteering, work shadowing is a great way to gain exposure to an industry that you think might interest you, but in this case it’s likely to be far more short-term and hands off, maybe only a week at a time. Lots of companies are happy to allow someone in just to observe, and it has the added benefit of helping you meet a wider variety of people and build up your crucial professional network!
  3. Read – Reading is a fantastic way to spend your spare time; whether you’re on the beach, in a park, or listening to the rain outside your window you can settle down and get stuck into a good book. Think about using part of your holiday to dig into some of your more interesting course material, read through articles to build your commercial awareness, or just to relax and get stuck into a novel that you’ve been meaning to get around to!
  4. Work on a Personal Project – Is there a project that you’ve not managed to find the time for? Now that your lectures, assignments and exams are out of the way, pour some of your energy and time into something that really interests you. You could aim to write a blog post or an online article on a topic that you’re passionate about, try to build an app that you had an idea for, or even start writing up a plan for your own business idea.

If you need any help with your career planning, don’t forget that the Careers Service is still open as normal for the next few weeks and then for slightly reduced hours over the summer months:

21 June 2016 – 16 September, 1.30 pm – 4.45pm Monday to Friday
(Careers Service closed Monday 20th June)

Spring Recruitment Fair  

Spring Recruitment Fair. Info Web 1jpgThe fair in numbers

On the 27 to 28 April we held this year’s Spring Recruitment Fair, which was at the Careers Service (Tyndall Avenue) for the first time. Despite the cold, two marquees stood on the pavement outside, opening up the fair to passers-by.

40 different employers were present across the two days: Amazon, EY, Teach First, PWC, Aldi, Think Ahead, RBS and Severn Trent, to name just a few. They were offering various positions from graduate schemes, to internships and summer work.

Although it was revision season, over 400 students flocked in to
meet these recruiters, with many leaving positive comments, such as that they liked seeing a wide range of employers and that they felt the fair was helpful and informative with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.  

Not just a fair

Other events were held in association with the fair: leading employers gave a talk on how to prepare for
the fair. On day two you could spot the Careers Advisers (wrapped in scarves and gloves!), along with some of the attending employers, in the marquee for speed interviewing sessions. They offered students the chance to practise their answers to some common interview questions under time pressure, gave feedback and then recommended relevant resources to help them improve their skills.

It was also a good opportunity to pick up some of the free publications available at the Careers Service, browse resources, book appointments and get advice on what to do next to prepare for life after university.







Employers love Bristol students

“Meeting prospective graduates face to face is the best way to get our company known.

(Local Employer)

“The calibre of students was very high and we met some great candidates.”

(Recruitment Agency Attendee)

Employers come to our fairs because they are interested in you! As one employer commented, recruitment fairs are a “good opportunity for students. Companies come to you and want to hire you. Make good use of that”.







How to prepare for next time

Employer tips:

  • Remember to do some research beforehand; look up the companies attending and what kind of roles they offer.
  • Think about how to approach the employers you are interested in to make them interested in you! One employer found they had “lots of people saying ‘I don’t know you’ or ‘what is your company’, as opposed to ‘I’d love to learn more about your company’”.
  • Don’t ask about pay or visa sponsorship – if they like you then they may be open to negotiation. Find out the essentials beforehand and target the employers relevant to you.







Dates for your diary!

We have more careers fairs in the Autumn Term, all taking place in the Wills Memorial Building:

  • Investment Banking and Management Consultancy Evening – 3 October
  • Autumn Fair – 11 and 12 October
  • Engineering and IT Fair – 18 and 19 October
  • Science Fair – 26 October
  • Law Fair – 1 and 2 November

Keep an eye on the events pages for these and other events all year round.