The University of Southampton
Careers and Employability ServiceStudents

Job hunting

Students searching for positions at one of our autumn careers fairs
Students searching for positions at one of our autumn careers fairs

Whether you're searching for a graduate job, summer internship or part-time work alongside your studies, this page offers information and advice to support you in building your job hunting strategy.

When you are ready to begin your search, our Where to look for jobs page offers a range of places and methods to try.

Doing your homework

Before searching for a job or submitting an application you should do some research to think about what opportunities you are searching for and what's available. Our web pages Researching Jobs and Sectors and Degree Related Careers – which include subject specific downloads - provide good starting points. The Career Planning pages will help with choices if you are just beginning to think about a career. 

Timing and tactics are important factors in job search, the other sections on this page will help you decide on your approach, and our What to do and when page gives relevant advice for your year of study.

Consider the following as you do your research:

  • What does this occupation or job actually involve?
  • Are there any Insight Days or events you can attend?
  • What kind of career structure and progression opportunities are there?
  • Do the relevant professional organisations have careers information for students and graduates? Sometimes they also run competitions, bursaries or work experience schemes
  • What qualifications and/or training is required or available?
  • Who are the potential employers? Where do they advertise, or do you have to approach them speculatively? Less well-known companies may have receive fewer applications
  • Who could you approach for information or advice?
  • What are the graduate employment trends in that industry?

Graduate Jobs and Internships

What do we mean?

This section explains what a graduate job, graduate scheme, industrial placement year or internship generally involve.

Graduate Jobs

A graduate job is generally understood to mean a role for which a degree is needed. Sometimes this is due to the need for particular subject based skills, but also for higher level transferable or employability skills that are embedded in your studies and extra-curricular experiences, for example critical analysis, communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, etc.

A graduate job may involve a formal, structured, training period, or graduate scheme. Some graduate schemes do not automatically result in a permanent job offer. Some involve professional qualifications, such as accountancy or law and some rotate you across different areas of the business so you can try out different job roles.  Graduate schemes are designed to develop business leaders of the future – hence the competitive application process.

Some graduate career paths will be achieved by starting in a role which does not require a degree, but which facilitates access to higher level jobs, for example through contacts made, or the internal company jobs board.

Placement and Internships

An industrial placement year or year in employment is a 10 – 12 month period of paid employment. These 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.

An internship refers to a period of work experience which is designed to further your professional career. It should be paid and meaningful work and could last up to 6 months, although more often 4 – 12 weeks. An internship will help you understand the sector and job roles available. Internships are most frequently offered to penultimate year students, but graduate internships and short taster experiences for first year students are growing in availability. 

Companies often use work experience 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.

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 companies offer unpaid work experience, but we do not advertise these on MyCareer. GOV.UK provides advice on employment rights for interns.

The Recruitment Cycle

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:

  • Graduate and work experience vacancies start to be advertised from late summer for the following year
  • Closing dates can be early, and may change if enough quality applications are received
  • Start applying early, each stage of the recruitment process requires time for preparation. Employer feedback says early applicants usually do better. As well as completing application forms and interviews, graduate recruitment can involve:
    - Psychometrics tests
    - Assessment centres
  • Plan your applications around your other commitments. December can be a busy time for deadlines so don’t leave applications until the last minute!
  • Some employers will attend careers fairs and give employer presentations to help you find out more about their company and positions.
  • Our employer events, careers fairs and work experience programmes reflect this recruitment cycle.

Missed the early graduate positions? Don’t panic!
Late vacancies for graduate jobs, internships and placement years are probable too. Firms with vacancies in the spring or summer term will re-advertise, using jobs boards such as MyCareer, tutors, and potentially recruitment agencies.

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. 

Developing a Job Searching Strategy

Your research will have identified relevant companies, professional bodies and specialist recruitment sites to match your interests. Consider the following when you start looking as this will influence your strategy:

The shorter the period of time you have to secure employment and the more competitive the area of work you are interested in, the more important it is to use a variety of approaches to job search.

Be organised: 

  • Keep a record of your progress through the recruitment stages using a spreadsheet or notebook
  • Set diary alerts to ensure deadlines are not missed
  • Follow-up when no response is received, and check your junk folder for automated responses to online applications
  • Keep a copy of anything sent to each employer with the job description, this will help with interview preparation
  • Note down interview questions, especially ones you find difficult. This will help you in your preparation for any future interviews

For more tips and advice, visit the Prospects website.

 

Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

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 2016).

Working in an SME could be a great first step into the world of employment for many reasons:

  • 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 - greater speed in decision making and greater exposure to senior managers can help translate your thoughts and recommendations into the day to day business which can help you to feel you are making a genuine difference to the company

Graduate opportunities in SMEs:

Safe Job Hunting

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
  • Report any concerns to one of the organisations above

Meetings/Interviews

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
  • Double check the company and venue are genuine
  • Pick a public place when arranging information interviews, such as a coffee shop
  • When in doubt, walk away

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