Choosing a career sector
Postgraduate study and research can serve different needs from career training to the development of original and exciting ideas through research and collaborative work.
If you are studying a postgraduate course because it is of interest to you but not related to a specific job then you need to consider what you might do at the end of it – right at the beginning of the course. And it's still essential to plan for your next move if you are studying for a vocational postgraduate degree of a vocational nature, such as quantity surveying.
Graduate scheme application dates
If you are thinking of applying for one of the big employer graduate schemes, check the application dates at the start of the final year of your postgraduate course (or as you start if it is a one-year course). The majority of graduate training schemes have application deadlines between November and December for programmes starting the following September/October. You need to do your employer research and be ready to apply during the first term of your final year.
Graduate schemes in career areas such as engineering, accountancy, human resources, law, construction, management and property often provide training accredited by a relevant professional association and a structure that will support you in qualifying to practise professionally.
Resources to help postgrads find a job
Your university careers service should be your first port of call when job seeking. It will be packed with information on a wide variety of potential careers and companies. Make sure you attend careers fairs in areas of potential interest and talks by companies you would consider working for. Your university website will probably have profiles of alumni who have experience of working in the field you are considering; you may be able to contact them to gain more direct information – and even get wind of not-yet-advertised jobs.
Resources outside of the university sphere include the internet, specialist jobsites like targetjobs.co.uk/graduate-jobs, newspapers, trade magazines and as wide a network of friends and acquaintances as you can tap into. Leave no stone unturned – you never know what tasty morsel might be lurking underneath!
If you are disabled, then you might find the not-for-profit organisation EmployAbility of help. It assists people with all disabilities into employment and has links with employers, universities and other disability charities. It also offers student workshops to help you get to grips with the nitty gritty of the whole job-seeking process.
Use your postgrad degree to your advantage
Whatever your postgraduate degree you need to be able to convince any employer that you have the sort of life skills that will be useful to them. Try to put yourself in their shoes. If you've had work experience in a commercial business (pub, shop or office) and been involved with cashing-up at the end of the day then you have basic knowledge of accounting. You will also have had to deal with all sorts of people – including the ones who complained. How did you deal with this? Could you have done it better? What did you learn from the experience? That data entry job may have been boring but producing the spreadsheets, doing the analysis and contributing to the report at the end will have been valuable experience. List these transferable skills on your CV and use them at interview to give you the edge.
It's also a good idea to get involved with societies at your university or take responsibilities on your course: could you be the postgraduate student representative for your course? Such positions are a great way to build up your skills.