Business graduate jobs, schemes and roles explained

‘I want a career in business’ is something many graduates say, but what exactly is a ‘business’ job and how do you get your career started?

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The best business graduate employees are strategic thinkers and unfazed by numbers.

Ways into a business career | About graduate schemes | About typical roles | Are you suited to a business career?

The variety of jobs that can be filed under the category of ‘business’ are almost endless, but essentially they can all be grouped together as performing functions that maintain or improve commercial performance: usually either through contributing to an organisation’s bottom line or making operations more effective or efficient.

Business roles, therefore, can be found across all industry sectors and all over the UK. As a graduate there are, in effect, three ways of getting a business career started:

  1. Join a ‘business’ or ‘commercial’ graduate scheme
  2. Apply for an entry-level business job
  3. Start out in different sector and move into business later on. It is not unusual for graduates to move into a business role, after gaining experience in either a closely related commercial sector (for example, in sales or accountancy) or a job role that is connected to the core function of the business (for example, as an engineer in an engineering firm).

Search for graduate jobs, graduate programmes and graduate schemes in business and management

About commercial graduate schemes

Graduate schemes tend to last one to two years and allow you to experience different roles, departments and streams, with the aim of you choosing a function within the company to specialise in at the end of the scheme. You do not usually need a business-related degree, but having a 2.1 or above and experience within a commercial environment (in retail or sales, for example) will be helpful.

The top ten employers that offer commercial graduate programmes

What areas will I work in as part of a business graduate scheme?

The actual roles and departments will vary according to the employer, but these area are fairly typical:

  • Governance: broadly speaking, governance refers to how an organisation is run. It covers the systems, rules, policies, procedures and processes shaping how a company is directed and controlled. The board of directors is ultimately responsible for governance, but many businesses have a team or department to ensure that governance is applied correctly, to ensure the directors have the information they need, and to identify risks to good governance.
  • Operations: this refers to the core function of the business and roles such as ‘operations management’ crop up particularly in manufacturing and logistics businesses. Operations management are often concerned with making sure that the core function of the business are carried out effectively and efficiently, balancing costs with revenue and maximising profit.
  • Project support and project management: it’s not unusual for graduates on a business scheme to complete a project management or core functional role in order to fully understand the complexities of the business.
  • Marketing, sales, advertising and HR: these are standalone roles and you can join specific graduate schemes in these areas. However, because they all fulfil a business function, many business graduate schemes will include a seat in at least one of these streams.

About specific business job roles

Two of the most typical ‘business’ jobs you will come across in your search are:

Business development executive

This role involves finding new customers and encouraging existing ones to increase their spend, through developing sales campaigns and building customer relationships.

There is a cross over between business development and sales: both involve selling products or services. However, business development is often about thinking of the long term, both in regards to customer relationships and the services provided by the company. Traditional sales roles, meanwhile, are often more focused on closing individual deals and seeing immediate return from relationships. Business development executives would be expected to explore new markets, while traditional salespeople or account managers often work within existing markets.

Professionals often move into a business development executive role after a career in sales, but there are entry-level business development opportunities available, including a few internships with larger companies. Employers sometimes prefer candidates to have a business or management degree but there are routes into business development with degrees in any discipline. Experience of meeting targets – in telesales or in a part-time retail job – is often required.

Business analyst

These roles involve creating data models through researching a company, its competitors, its market and its general commercial backdrop. These models then provide data that helps to make performance-improving decisions on changes and actions within the company, department or organisation.

It is definitely possible to become a business analyst as a new graduate, either through applying for a business analyst graduate scheme or an individual job. Many business analyst are employed by consultancies or professional services firms, which are hired by organisations who want the outside perspective on them, but there are some internal vacancies within companies, too. A business, mathematics or economics degree is often preferred, but not always necessary.

Read our full exaplanation of a business analyst role

Are you suited to a business graduate job?

While a numerical or business-related degree is often preferred, you will impress in your applications and interviews if you show some evidence or ability of:

  • being comfortable with numbers and unfazed by statistics
  • thinking strategically: the ability to think ahead and plan in order to meet business objectives
  • thinking commercially: considering the impact of a decision on the company’s revenue and profitability
  • an analytical approach to problems and situations and the ability to identify key points
  • all aspects of communication, listening and negotiation
  • organisation and time management
  • building relationships
  • meeting targets or goals.

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