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The University of Southampton
Careers and Employability ServiceStudents

Discover...your career

You know what you want to do. You have a career in mind and you're ready to find that perfect opportunity. However, before searching for a job or submitting an application you should do some research to think about the opportunities you are searching for and what's available.

Student planning in Careers Centre
Planning is vital in securing the job you want

This webpage, alongside our Degree-related careers page will give you a starting point in exploring the job market.

Plan ahead:

Ask yourself these questions before you start

For more tips and advice, visit the Prospects website. If you are making lots of applications and not being successful, or need help to get started, come to the Careers Drop-in Service.

What is a Graduate job?

This is generally understood to mean a role for which a degree is needed. They may sometimes require particular subject based skills, but can be for higher level transferable or employability skills, embedded in your studies and extra-curricular experiences. They are designed to develop business leaders of the future – hence the competitive application process. Often they include the following features:

  • A formal, structured training period, or graduate scheme. Some graduate schemes do not automatically result in a permanent job offer.
  •  Rotation across different areas of the business so you can try out different job roles.

What are Internships?

An internship refers to a period of work experience which is designed to further your career and help you understand the sector and roles available.They can be very useful as they are often used as a way of trying out potential graduate recruits. Some companies only recruit from internships or industrial placement year students, whilst many offer fast track applications to their graduate jobs for suitable candidates.

Student intern working in lab
The University of Southampton offers the Excel Internship Programme

While they can be a great opportunity there are some areas to be aware of:

  • They usually last 4-12 weeks but can be up to 6 months. You will need to factor this into your academic timetable.
  • Make sure the internship is paid and meaningful work.  You may find internships which only offer expenses and/or subsistence. If the organisation is flexible about hours or days worked, you may be able to do other paid work at the same time.
  • Some internships are unpaid but these will not be advertised through us on MyCareer. GOV.UK provides advice on employment rights for interns.
  • Internships are most frequently offered to penultimate year students, but graduate internships and short taster experiences for first year students are growing in availability.
  • You can apply for our UoS internships in any year of your studies

 

Student working on placement
The University of Southampton offers the Year in Employment programme

What is a placement?

An industrial placement year or Year in Employment is a 10 – 12 month period of paid employment. They offer lots of opportunity for significant experience and project work and may be built into your programme of study or be an option you can negotiate with your faculty. You will be a regular member of staff, have paid holiday, and usually opportunities for training and development.

Don't focus your graduate job search just on the big employers and household names. The definition of an SME is a company with fewer than 250 employees. SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population in the private sector and employ around 60% of the workforce (National Statistics, Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions 2018).

Why work in an SME?

  • Greater Responsibility - your role is likely to be more varied than in a large organisation giving you greater opportunities to learn and develop. You may be expected to take on responsibility for certain areas of work at an earlier stage than within a larger organisation
  • Team Working - generally being part of a smaller team gives a greater sense of team working and job satisfaction. Being an individual and recognised for your contributions to a team can be far more rewarding than being one of many thousands in a large corporation
  • Contribution - you can feel you are making a genuine difference to the company as decision making is faster and you are in closer contact with senior managers.

Graduate opportunities in SMEs:

  • Science Parks and Enterprise Zones are often centres for local start-up and entrepreneurial SMEs e.g. the University of Southampton Science Park
  • MyCareer – many smaller and regional organisations target Southampton students through our Jobs Board and work experience programmes
  • Step.org.uk – Step specialises in placing enterprising students and graduates with smaller employers, usually on a placement, project driven basis
  • Recruitment agencies and the UK Jobcentre Plus: Find A Job can also be a source of vacancies with smaller organisations

An important part of job hunting is knowing the key times that your chosen employer is recruiting.

Larger employers with graduate schemes have well defined recruitment cycles:

 

The Recruitment Cycle

SMEs
Small and medium-sized enterprises with less than 250 staff may follow a similar cycle, but are more likely to have a shorter lead-in time, often advertising during the spring and summer terms with starting dates only 1 or 2 months ahead.

Take care when applying for jobs, responding to alerts and even when attending interviews.

No jobs board or employment agency should charge you, the job seeker, for their services. Scams are a particular concern with online job postings, for example fraudsters may post fake jobs, even impersonating reputable, well-known companies. Have a look at the tips below to help you stay safe:

  • Do not part with any money to secure a job
  • If invited for interview, find out if and how much you will be reimbursed for any travel expenses before making arrangements
  • Beware of sharing personal data with jobs boards, or recruitment organisations until you are confident they are legitimate
  • Do not include unnecessary personal data on CVs that you plan to upload to a jobsite e.g. date of birth, National Insurance or Passport numbers, home address, or referee details
  • Watch out for fake jobs with high charge telephone numbers which you are asked to call for further information
  • Check out a recruitment agency by making sure they are a member of the REC (the Recruitment and Employment Confederation), APSCo (Association of Professional Staffing Companies), or TEAM (The Employment Agencies Movement)
  • Check out jobs boards by using the Saferjobs website
  • Read any contract carefully before signing, and seek advice if you are unsure

Take care when attending informal meetings, or even interviews if the arrangements seem unusual and the organisation is unfamiliar. Make sure someone knows where you are going, and what the timings are, also double check the company and venue are genuine. When arranging information interviews, pick a public place such as a coffee shop. When in doubt, walk away!

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