From gap years, internships and 9 to 5 jobs - what options are out there for graduates?

Alex Munn, a recent graduate of University of Suffolk and owner of Project 21 - alongside one of the

Alex Munn, a recent graduate of University of Suffolk and owner of Project 21 - alongside one of the charity's ambassadors Freddie. Picture: ALEX MUNN - Credit: Archant

Graduating from university is a huge achievement, but far too often it is dampened by the fears of ‘what happens next’.

Alex Munn, a recent graduate of University of Suffolk and owner of Project 21 - alongside one of the

Alex Munn, a recent graduate of University of Suffolk and owner of Project 21 - alongside one of the charity's ambassadors Freddie. Picture: ALEX MUNN - Credit: Archant

We spoke with career advisors, an intern who landed her dream job and a graduate turned entrepreneur to discuss the different routes available to those who will come to the end of their university careers this summer.

Setting up your own business

Alex Munn graduated from the University of Suffolk in 2018 with a BA (Hons) in Special Educational Needs and Disability Studies and has since gone on to set up her own charity, called Project 21.

Project 21 runs different events, activities and clubs for people with Down’s Syndrome in Suffolk because she felt there wasn’t anything catering for the needs and wants of young people with the condition.

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Speaking of her new career path, Alex said: “My degree really challenged my passion and made me realise that there was an employment possibility in what I enjoyed.

“Originally I wanted to become a teacher, but by the end of the three years I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

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Alex, who is 25 and grew up in Ipswich, first started working as a support worker for young disabled people in Suffolk in 2012, progressing to become a Team Leader for a large children’s service provider, before starting her degree in 2015.

She also had a number of different jobs alongside her work with disabled people, including being a flight attendant, a lifeguard and a cover teacher.

She said: “I think it’s good to dip your toes into different things as then you can discover your likes and dislikes and you might find a better path than what you had initially thought would be your future.”

Alex studied for two days a week and in her final year decided to set up her own charity, which has become a huge success.

Alex added: “When I first started the charity my main challenge was time. I had just bought a house so I was doing a part time job to work to fund my life, while also working for my passion, in order to make the charity happen and start my career.”

Alex advises students to make the most of the support available to them and not to worry about their CV too much. She continued: “As long as you are working hard in what you’re doing that is the main thing.”

Graduate schemes

There are hundreds of different graduate schemes available, but they are not without fierce competition.

Graduates are advised to do lots of research and to apply for graduate schemes during their final year.

There is lots of help from careers advisors on how to apply, what makes a good CV and how to stand out.

Doing an internship - but not one that’s unpaid

Tamara Massey, who lives in Raydon, Essex, studied international fashion management at London College of Fashion.

She realised quite quickly that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go into fashion - despite enjoying her degree. She then applied for an internship at HSBC and to her surprise landed the summer internship.

She completed the internship in her first summer of university, and was then asked back for the second consecutive summer and completed the penultimate year of the internship.

From doing this she received two offers - one was to enrol on a HSBC graduate scheme, another was a full-time analyst role in a team she had previously interned in.

Tamara said: “I went for the full-time role as in essence it meant getting on the career ladder and it gave me enhanced responsibility.

“Before I started I did an insight week at a private bank and now I work for HSBC as an associate relationship manager in corporate coverage.

“I am loving it - working is so much better than being a student and I couldn’t be happier - my advice is to do internships whilst you can, you never know what doors you might open, or the people you may meet.”

Furthering your studies

Esther Crang, from Toppesfield in Essex, spent three years studying law at the University of Nottingham. She then went onto landing a training contract at a law firm in London.

She said: “I applied early in my second year as the contracts are really competitive. I also attended lots of networking events with the firms I was hoping to apply for.”

After graduating Esther studied a legal practice course in London, but commuted from Essex.

She added: “I found it much easier to commute and I really enjoyed moving back home. Doing this allowed me to save money and now I am going travelling for six months before I start work in the law firm.”

Taking a ‘structured’ gap year

There is often a stigma surrounding post-graduate ‘gap years’ and many new graduates often jump straight into work after finishing their studies.

However career advisors Amy Carpenter and Annabelle Richardson say a ‘structured’ gap year where personal development is at the core, is certainly not something to be frowned upon.

They said: “A structured gap year involving some employment, volunteering and personal development is another route which graduates can take ensuring that they make the most of their time.

“You can finish your studies, take some online courses, and build your confidence and maturity in this year. It’s always a benefit to find out your likes and dislikes before jumping into a job.

“Graduates can attend talks and really think about what area they want to go into.”

Support after your studies

Remember that you are not alone - make use of the careers advisors at your university during your studies and even once you graduate.

Students at the University of Suffolk can receive support for up to three years after they leave.

Amy Carpenter, who now works as a careers advisor at the university but is also a graduate, said: “We can help graduates or current students with mock interviews, how to sell themselves, how to develop their confidence, and how to develop their portfolio and showcase what skills they have attained just from doing a degree.

“They can pop in for a chat or book in a time with us to discuss their options.”

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