Planning Your Graduate Career
What to do when you return from your gap year
Coming back from a gap year? Expecting to be looking for work? This career planner will help you understand annual graduate recruitment trends, and how to make the most of them. This is not a guide to everything you could be doing throughout the year, it's just intended to highlight some of your options. Always keep a close eye on jobsites, attend career events, take advantage of networking opportunities and have an up-to-date CV you're proud of in your pocket at all times.
Returning home in January
You'll need to act fast to secure a place on a graduate scheme as companies will have application deadlines in early January. Often companies will stop taking applications when they receive a certain number regardless of the deadline, so be sure you apply well before the deadline if you can.
If you get home to find the job you want has a deadline the next day, get in touch with the employer to check they are still accepting applications before you do an all-nighter to prepare yours. If you're unsure who to contact, try calling the mainline number and ask for the HR department, they should be able to help.
Returning home in February
If you're returning home from a gap year in February and want to think ahead to Easter, now is the perfect time to plan an internship. Many employers will start advertising their Easter internships now and a successful placement could lead to a starting role come summer - or sooner!
For those who had applications onto graduate schemes accepted - either before travelling or after - get ready for interviews and assessment centres. Don't forget to prepare for common psychometric testing: get online to practise.
Returning home in March
Assessments are often ongoing for graduate schemes so the big employers will be busy deciding who they want for September. If your applications to graduate schemes weren't successful, or you missed the deadlines of the ones you had singled out before Christmas, don't be disheartened. Graduate vacancies will be available in the coming months.
If you need some fresh job hunting ideas or are stuck for where to look, consider talking to your careers service for advice on next steps.
Returning home in April / May
Another good time to be getting home if you're keen on an internship as employers will often start advertising for summer placements. Owing to the impending exam season, graduate recruitment can be quite quiet at this time, though this is a crucial time for lining up temporary work for the summer.
Returning home in June / July / August
The summer offers numerous graduate recruitment fairs around the country where employers actively recruiting graduates will be keen to speak to you. Go prepared with CVs smart dress - you could be effectively interviewed by every company representative you speak to.
Returning home in September
Another time to act fast: graduate schemes open to applications in October and some will have deadlines in December so get researching and filling out the forms. Some employers will expect a lot of information in the application process, and you'll be judged on whether you get to the next stage purely on your responses. Be sure to take your time when filling them out.
Returning home in October
A peak time for graduate recruitment: employers will be touring university campuses giving presentations and exhibiting at careers fairs. Most presentations will only be open to university students, however you will be able to get along to the fairs happening across the country.
If you are applying for popular areas such as accountancy, banking and business management, or looking to join a major firm, check the closing dates for graduate schemes as some close as early as December. Some companies will organise first interviews on campus and at regional sites so be prepared for these.
Returning home in November
Get those applications for the initial graduate scheme deadlines finished and sent - many are heavily oversubscribed so getting an application in early can be vital!
Returning home in December
December is traditionally a quiet period for all businesses when it comes to hiring new staff as they plan for the year ahead, but that doesn't mean you can't plan too. If you're keen to join a particular company but they have no advertised jobs there's no harm in making a speculative approach to them. The vacation can be a good time to draft up a letter and tailor a CV for these companies to send to their HR departments. Don't expect a reply, but there is always a chance you will get a positive outcome, especially if the person who opens your letter has some festive spirit.
If you're wondering when to take a gap year, then read the article How to Make Your Gap Year Work for You. It's packed full of useful advice and information on things to consider when taking a gap year.
And if you're thinking about working on your gap year then read our article to working in Australia - it's packed full of information and inspiration on working Down Under...
Also, this is a cracking article - getting a job after travelling - read it, use it, get a job...
About the Author: Mike Barnard
Mike Barnard is the Product Manager of Milkround, the UK's most widely-used graduate recruitment website (according to The UK Graduate Career Surveys 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012 by High Fliers Research). He has appeared on BBC, ITV and LBC Radio talking about the student & graduate jobs market and is a regular contributor to graduate publication The Gateway. A graduate himself, Mike has been a commentator on graduate recruitment since 2007, giving talks at universities & other events. Milkround has a database of more than 700,000 students & graduates.