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Choosing the right graduate employer

What to start thinking about when you're picking a graduate employer. It’s one of life’s big choices so you need to be rational, thoughtful and well prepared.

To get the best start to your graduate career you need to think about the kind of place where you will fit in. Even within a single career area, employers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they offer a diverse range of working environments, training options and opportunities for career development. With so many organisations to explore it’s worth sparing some time to reflect on what you want and to think about the attributes that will be vital in your future graduate employer.

Be curious and think about what's important for you

Think about the key things you would want to compare and contrast when you mull over employers. Here are some points to get you started:

  • Size Do you dream of being part of a gigantic multinational corporation, a valued employee in a company of around 150 people, or an essential cog in a small business? Find out if there are both small and large firms in the career sector that interests you and think about the benefits each size of employer  potentially offers?
  • Company culture Graduate jobs don’t all require a suit and a briefcase, and different employers have their own ways of doing things, even if they are in the same business sector. Explore different the work ethics, methodologies and values of different firms. Try to get a feel for whether employers are more formal and hierarchical in structure, or laid back and dress down on Fridays.
  • Location If you want to keep up an active social life or you can’t live without popping out to the high street for a lunchtime sandwich, then working in the sticks might not be right for you. But if you’re a country mouse, do you really want to work in a major city? Think also about how your career choice might define the regional area and location of where you might work.
  • Commuting Depending on the location of where you are happy to work, you’ll also have to consider where you’ll live… and then think about how far you are really prepared to commute. If you have no car, find out if there are good public transport links to where an employer is based.
  • Work/life balance When choosing employers, think also about the nature of the work you want to do. With some careers longer hours are par for the course, but employees are usually rewarded financially in return. Look into the flexible working opportunities offered.
  • Training To progress in certain careers, training is essential. Assess what training is offered and how it is typically provided – will you be trained in house, on the job, or have opportunities to attend external courses. If your career choice involves sitting professional exams, find out what study leave might be available.
  • Career paths You don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end job with no prospects of promotion. Find out what opportunities are available with the employers that interest you and see if you can find out how graduates in a company typically move up the career ladder.
  • Travel Some employers offer the chance to travel – six-month assignments abroad, or lots of national or international business trips. If you love travelling, see whether this is a possibility. If you don’t want to live out of a suitcase and you really aren’t prepared to be mobile, this might also dictate your career and employer choice.
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