Career Future Stress Student-made

Getting over the graduate scheme pressure: what to do if they aren’t for you

There’s no doubting that starting your third year at university brings a whole lot of pressure. Everything seems to matter more because you know your time is limited. For me, starting third year marked the start of the career pressure. I’d always had thoughts in the back of my mind about future jobs and careers, but it suddenly hit me that in less than a year I’ll (hopefully) be employed and working full-time. And, of course, that means finding a job in time for graduation.

For me, the career-related pressure is all about graduate schemes. I feel so obliged to apply. I’m getting good grades, I study at a university with an amazing reputation, why shouldn’t I use all of this to my advantage and apply for a graduate scheme with a top company? The simple answer is – there’s nothing that really appeals to me. A lot of what I’m seeing isn’t in the industry I want to work in, or it requires relocating (and I don’t want to leave the North West)!

Sometimes I have to take a step back and remind myself – it isn’t all about the company and the salary. For some it might be, but the most important thing for me is to find something I love doing. I think for us, as Russell Group students, there’s definitely a pressure to apply for graduate schemes. But most often, the most intense pressure comes from ourselves. As well, graduate scheme applications open early, and so securing one months before graduation must feel safe and comfortable. There’s no panic towards the end of the academic year about your next step. I think that definitely adds to the pressure for me. But why should we feel like we have to apply for these schemes because of the top companies and big salaries if it really just doesn’t excite us? We shouldn’t be compromising our long-term happiness.

University can often feel packed with pressure – you’re constantly comparing everybody else’s progress to your own. If you have friends or course mates applying for graduate schemes, or even getting accepted onto them already, it’s easy to feel panicked and pressured. I’ve come to realise that you have to remember to do what’s best for you. I always tell myself that everybody’s university experience is different, and really, it’s no different when it comes to careers. Remember – it’s you that will have to get up and go out to work every morning, and so whatever you decide to call your “work” only matters to you.

There’s so much out there to consider too – it’s not all about graduate schemes. They’re probably the most advertised career pathway post-graduation, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only career pathway, or even the best career pathway for you. If doing a Master’s isn’t for you, then there are entry-level jobs, internships, gap years, or even self-employment (if this is something you’re interested in, check out the University’s Enterprise Club). The choice out there can often feel overwhelming too, and that’s why it’s important to do your research.

Making time to look at what’s out there has definitely worked for me. Because you’re being productive and doing something about it, the pressure won’t be as intense. Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed we put things off, but when it comes to jobs it’s better to be organised and tackle the pressure head on. There are plenty of opportunities out there that don’t involve graduate schemes. Knowing about these opportunities and the choices available certainly minimises the pressure and leads to the realisation that it isn’t all about graduate schemes! Some vacancies that start around the time of graduation will only be advertised later into the academic year too, so be sure to keep looking throughout the year.

Make use of all of the resources available to you – job sites, job fairs and other events, CareersLink, LinkedIn, your own contacts, and the University’s career service to get informed about the opportunities available. If you really are feeling the pressure and you don’t know what to do when your time at the University comes to an end, go and see someone from the Careers Service who will be happy to offer advice. Be patient and be persistent, you’ll find something that’s right for you.

If I am feeling the pressure, I can guarantee that others are too. Whilst all of our University experiences are different, there’s a lot that unites us students, and pressure is definitely one of those things. Just remember you are not alone in feeling pressured and overwhelmed. Remember to do what’s right for you, be pro-active in your research for jobs, and don’t give up searching. Be sure to chat to friends too – most of us will be feeling the career pressure, so let’s share it, talk about it, and help each other get through it!

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