Graduate jobs: one option among several

graduate jobs are hard to come by in today’s economic climate, with NEETs (those not in education, employment or training) bearing the brunt of unemployment. Employers have cut back on vacancies as well as the scope of any graduate scheme they might run, reflecting the harsh realities of the cuts they are having to make to stay afloat. Many companies are still running an internship programme, which can be a fantastic way to move into a job. However, internships must be considered with caution, since they differ widely in quality and purpose.

In the worst case, an internship is just an employer’s way of finding cheap labour. Under the pretence of teaching you about a given industry, they can essentially exploit their interns. The change in the law that requires employers to pay interns at least the minimum wage has reduced this problem slightly, since they still have to get value for money out of those who come to work for them. However, there is still the problem of widely differing expectations. Plenty of interns arrive in their new place of work, only to find that their employer has taken the prospect far less seriously than they have. In these cases, an internship is little more than a way of marking time.

In the best cases, though, internships can be fantastic learning experiences. They will often lead to a job in the relevant industry or the company itself, and it is worth ensuring at the outset if this is a possibility. This fact alone will often enable you to distinguish those who want to prepare you for working in the sector, and those who are just looking for cheap workers. Larger employers with well-organised schemes are usually safe bets. However, smaller employers can be goldmines, since they offer great scope for getting to know the whole of an organisation. If you are uncertain, read any reviews you can find or ask previous interns. Feedback is often available on university careers sites.

An internship is one way into graduate jobs, and may be an option in a climate where the graduate scheme market is more limited than it was a few years ago. Nevertheless, you should not give up on these. Start early, and cast your net wide to maximise your opportunities. You can always turn down offers you get if you decide you don’t really want them. What you don’t want is to find yourself in the position of so many other NEETs: finishing university, with no job or internship lined up, and no immediate prospect of finding something you really want to do.

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