It can feel like you need to have the rest of your life planned out from the moment you graduate and if you don’t then you’re destined for failure. The good news is, this simply isn’t the case. The first steps you take after graduating are just that, the first steps. All you need to do is focus on what’s next and not get bogged down with ‘the future’.

Although scary, it’s actually quite exciting. You have so many amazing opportunities to choose from, the world really is your oyster.

However, when there are so many amazing options open to you, it can be difficult to decide which path will be the right one for you.

If you’re struggling for direction, then we’ve outlined seven possible routes to take after leaving university.

Man and woman interviewing a smiling man

Graduate Scheme

When you’re fresh out of university, this is often the go-to option for many graduates that want to get straight into the world of work. It provides you with structure, as well as a guaranteed income and the chance to obtain very valuable experience.

But what is a graduate scheme? A graduate scheme is a training programme run by a business in order to help shape and develop their potential future leaders. Usually lasting between one and two years, graduate schemes are run across a wide range of industries.

As a graduate trainee, you’ll be given the chance to gain some hands-on experience, learning a great range of skills along the way whilst developing a deeper understanding of your chosen industry and profession.

Graduate schemes are a great way to test the water of your chosen career path to learn whether it’s definitely the correct route for you. Some of the biggest companies leading the way in their industry offer a range of graduate programmes, and so they can be extremely competitive.

Who can apply? Most graduate schemes are only open to those that graduated within the last three years and many won’t accept applicants who have achieved a 2:2 or under, so unfortunately if you didn’t achieve a 2:1 or higher, it may not be realistic that you will secure a place on one of these schemes. Some, however, do offer positions to those who achieved under a 2:1, so be sure to do your initial research to see whether applying would be worthwhile.

How can you know if a graduate scheme is the right choice for you? Go for a graduate scheme if you are sure on the industry you want to enter and like to have a clear structure. As graduate schemes are set on a specific time frame, with a set plan, it can be a more comfortable way of easing yourself into work.

If structure isn’t something you crave, and you’re not sure of the industry you want to pursue, then a graduate scheme may not be the right route for you. You could be better off developing a deeper understanding of industries you might like to explore, and a great way to do this is to talk to the university’s careers advice service.

Young man and woman looking at a laptop

Entry-Level Job

An entry-level position may be suited to you if you’re a hands-on individual who likes to learn on the job. Entry-level roles tend to have a less rigid structure with regards to your training. However, this isn’t to say that you won’t be able to learn and progress just as much as you would in a graduate scheme.

An entry-level position may be right for you if you already know the area of expertise that you want to begin working in.

Another positive is that an entry-level position can be more secure than a graduate scheme if you land a permanent role and can also offer you the opportunity to gain valuable professional skills with a more flexible and tailored approach to training.

Check out the Salford University job portal for exclusive job vacancies you may be interested in – this is frequently updated so be sure to look regularly!

Stacks of books

Postgraduate Study

If you’re interested in furthering your education before entering the working world, then postgraduate study can be an excellent way to enhance your skill set and potentially heighten your career prospects.

This option may be of particular interest if you’re looking to work in a field that places a high value on candidates that have more formal skills and qualifications.

Alternatively, studying a postgraduate degree that may not be entirely related to your undergraduate course can nicely supplement your knowledge and expand your potential career options and earning potential.

If you’re interested in learning more about postgraduate study, why not come along to one of our open days? They’re held regularly and give you a great insight into what postgraduate study can do for your career, and into life as a student in Salford.

For more information about postgraduate study at Salford University, including loyalty discounts for alumni, click here.

Woman writing in a travel journal

Travelling – The Gap Year

You may fear that taking a year out in between your studies and pursuing your career could damage your chances of securing a good job due to gaps in your CV. However, taking time to travel exemplifies a lot of qualities that employers find incredibly valuable.

According to a survey report conducted by Hostelworld, 82% of employers believe that travelling can actually make you a better candidate amongst those who have gone straight into full-time work.

Travelling shows a lot of reputable skills that employers seek, from independence and planning and organising, to time management, budgeting and problem solving. You can simply take these skills and apply them to your job search when you return from your travels.

Taking a gap year offers lots of opportunities for personal growth that will transfer well to your professional life. Of the people surveyed in the Hostelworld report, 38% thought travelling boosted their confidence, 37% believed it increased people skills and 35% said it helps you to adapt to new situations well.

Work-life balance is becoming ever more talked-about and employers understand the need to fulfill personal ambitions as well as professional ones. As long as you use your opportunity as a valuable learning experience then you can rest assured that you won’t be seen as a less trustworthy or reliable candidate for simply pursuing other avenues, and in fact it might even stand you in better stead.

Man sitting at a computer

Freelancing/Self-Employment

There are lots of benefits to working for yourself, and if you’re a creative thinker with lots of ideas, then starting up on your own could be a good choice. Perhaps you haven’t found your dream job, but feel you could shape it for yourself, or maybe you’ve got a great idea for a business or want to take your final year project one step further.

From independence and control, to the flexibility it gives you, the benefits of being self-employed are vast and wide. However, it is important to recognise that you really do need to be a self-starter for a chance to be successful here.

It may sound like the dream to work for yourself and call all the shots, but there are some drawbacks. You may find that the lines between your work-life balance get very blurred and you will have a huge amount of responsibilities to ensure the smooth running of your business.

Self-employment and freelancing also doesn’t offer you stability or a steady income, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to know where their next paycheck is coming from, then this probably isn’t the best path for you.

However if monetary worries aren’t high in your mind and you have the drive to succeed, then go for it. And, even if you don’t happen to succeed, then you will have gained a lot of experience and learned a lot along the way – it could even stand you in good stead with future employers who will recognise your independence and drive.

We offer support to Salford University graduates aspiring to start their own business. For more information click here.

Work visa application and passport

Moving Abroad / Working Holidays

Now that your studies are over, it could be a good time to consider a big move before you settle into a career.

A working holiday is the ideal way to take a gap year while still gaining valuable experience to help you when it comes to starting your career. Working holidays can be done in a variety of countries that offer a ‘working holiday visa’. These include; Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Republic of China, Singapore, Thailand, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Uruguay, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand.

The cost of a working holiday visa can vary depending on the location and the length of time you plan to spend there (usually one year). A working holiday also allows you to earn a living while still having the opportunity to have the full ‘gap year’ experience.

Working in another country enables you to immerse yourself into the culture and society and gain more of an insight into real-life in that country, as opposed to just getting the tourist experience. You may also be able to travel in your spare time, stress-free in the knowledge that you’re earning enough to keep you going.

If you’re struggling to decide between going straight into work or taking a gap year to travel, this option allows you to combine the two and get the best of both worlds. Working holiday job opportunities are vast, from fruit picking to teaching English, along with a host of other professional roles and you’re sure to gain a wealth of experience along the way to impress your future employers, wherever you might end up.

We offer a great support service at Salford University for graduates looking to make the move abroad. For more information click here.

Young woman studying

Volunteeriung / An Internship

Job hunting can be a tiresome task when a lot of entry-level roles still require you to have at least some work experience. You need a job to get experience and you need experience to get a job, so what can you do now?

Volunteering in a role that is relevant to your field of interest demonstrates that you’re committed and passionate about securing a job within this industry. The financial sacrifice may pay off in the long run as you are showing you are dedicated and willing to get into your chosen profession by any and all means.

We offer support and guidance for Salford University graduates interested in volunteering opportunities. For more information click here.

Alternatively, an internship can help you to learn new and build further upon skills that will help you during the interview process for permanent paid positions, as you will have a working knowledge of the field and be able to talk competently about what you know.

An internship is also a way to get your foot in the door of the industry you’re interested in. It may not be your dream to be making the teas and coffees in your first position out of university, but many internships are very hands-on and whatever task you might be given, you are still within the kind of environment you desire to work in – so become a sponge and absorb all of the information that you can.

Again, we offer some great support and guidance for Salford University graduates looking to go into a funded internship. For more information, head here.

So what next?

Even if none of these routes appeal to you right now, then don’t panic. There is no pressure to have it all instantly figured out. Now that you’ve graduated, take this time to reflect on your experiences and the skills you have gained at university and build on these. You have lots of time to make these decisions and there is no single path that is the right one, so just choose what’s right for you.

Do your research, get in tune with yourself and the things you want from the next few years and use this to determine the route you will take following on from your studies.