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How to get a graduate job in management

How to get a graduate job in management

If you’re a highly organised graduate with great interpersonal skills, you might be considering a career in management. Here's everything you need to know about how to get onto that trainee management scheme.
Getting relevant work experience will put you on the right track for getting hired.

What is management?

Management roughly divides into two categories: people management and project management. If you choose to work with people, you’ll be running an organisation, team of employees or section of a business. You could be in charge of recruitment, logistics, scheduling, finances, policy or any combination of those things.

Project management involves planning projects from start to finish. You will be organising resources and people while sticking to a budget and schedule. That being said, there is often overlap. In people management it is still likely you’ll be working on one overall project, while in project management, you’ll be overseeing the work of your team members on that particular project.

Broadly speaking, senior managers are in charge of large departments, big budgets and difficult decisions, while junior managers look after the smaller details, departments or aspects and report to senior managers.

What are the routes into a management career?

There are two main routes into a management career: you could start out in a role in a specific sector you’re interested in and work your way up, or you can join a management graduate scheme. The route you choose depends on your interests and preferences: do you want to jump right into management or become a specialist first?

If you opt for a graduate scheme, you won’t be in charge from day one, but you will get early responsibility, possibly by starting out managing a small team or section of the business and learning the ropes. Certain industries are more open to graduates walking straight into management roles than others.

It’s mainly large employers that set up management graduate schemes. For those openings you can search by sector, by role or by employer. Not every management job appears on the TARGETjobs managerial sector, so if you have a liking for a particular field, for example the financial sector, sign up for newsletters and alerts for that. If you would like to work for a specific company, look at the employer hubs to see what’s there. Keep an eye on the ‘more jobs like this one’ box as you’re browsing.

Don’t allow your preference to work for a set organisation or within a specific industry limit your prospects. A company you’ve never heard of could offer more opportunities than the one you’ve set your heart on working for. Beyond that, a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) could give you a greater day-to-day range of experience than working in a specific department in a large company, and you may progress up the career ladder with greater speed.

What is the application process like for management graduate schemes?

Most management graduate schemes are offered by the biggest employers, so they attract a lot of competition and the process tends to be extended. The stages differ across employers and roles, but many application processes involve:

  • An online application form – this could include basic personal details, extended answer questions and/or the option to upload a CV and covering letter. Read our advice on answering management scheme application questions and how to write a CV for a graduate management role.
  • Aptitude tests – these will be online tests, usually with a time limit, to gauge your numerical or verbal reasoning skills.
  • Telephone or video interview – some employers have a telephone or video interview at this stage. They will be shorter than the face-to-face interview and will usually involve a few questions about your motivations, experience and skills.
  • Assessment centre – much of the assessment centre will be based on assessing your management skills. Sometimes this will involve job-related scenarios, such as a role play involving people management. In other cases, such as the McDonald’s On Job Evaluation, you will be invited to go into the company and run through various tasks.
  • Final interview – this may be incorporated as one of the parts of the assessment centre or it may be on a separate day afterwards. It will be face-to-face with one or more assessors and it will be more in-depth than the telephone interview. Read more on management job interviews and tips for graduates.

What skills and qualifications do graduate managers need?

Graduate schemes often require a 2.1, but not always. Equally, a relevant undergradaute or postgraduate degree is beneficial but not essential. More important is having the right skills. Above all, having great interpersonal skills is vital, although this is often overlooked by graduates. This includes being diplomatic, able to motivate others and a great listener as well as having emotional intelligence. Without a doubt, managers need to be highly organised with excellent time management, and commercial awareness is certainly sought after by recruiters.

How can graduates build the skills managers need?

As with any graduate role, getting work experience that’s related to the sector you’re interested in will put you on the right track for getting hired. Many employers offer formal internships – some will have a clear management focus while others will offer a general insight into the sector.

However, you don’t need to do a management internship to get a job – there are other ways you can build your skills. Try taking up a new position of responsibility in your sports team or student society, or do some volunteer work leading team and managing a fundraising project. You could also offer to take on a new responsibility in your part-time job.

What is it really like to be a graduate manager?

Typical duties differ depending on the sector you choose to work in: a retail manager may spend a lot of time on the shop floor, talking with staff and customers, while a project manager in construction may travel between the construction site and an office, dealing with budgets and schedules.

Training schemes also vary widely from employer to employer. Some will focus on on-the-job-training while others will include formal training sessions. The level of responsibility also depends on the organisation, although there is usually a high level of responsibility from early on in the programmes. With some organisations, you’ll also have the opportunity to gain formal qualifications or get involved in corporate social responsibility projects.

It can be a highly pressured career and, as a trainee, you may need to relocate and work unsociable hours. However, progression can be quick and starting salaries generous. Bear in mind that completing the graduate scheme doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a job afterwards but you may get support with your application.