How to find a great Graduate Training Scheme

How do you get your career off to a flying start after you graduate? This isn’t always easy, the options are many and the competition is fierce.

Today, we have over 20,000 graduate roles advertised on, and as more and more companies launch their own graduate programmes finding the right job after finishing university can be a daunting task.

How do you know whether a graduate scheme is right for you? And with so many different schemes available, how do you choose the right one?

Here are my top tips to help you…

  1.      Location

First and foremost, you need to make sure the scheme you apply to meets your basic needs. This is something you should consider with any job you apply to.

Do you crave variety, the opportunity to relocate, or the chance to work abroad? Are you rooted to a specific region or city? These questions will help you to whittle down the options to find those that suit you best.

  1.      Career progression

Rotation around a company is a common feature of many graduate schemes. This may be between departments, or geographies, but each instance is a great opportunity to challenge yourself and to learn more about the business. If climbing the career ladder is a goal of yours, the more knowledge you can gain of the business and its operations the better. You never know, you could be surprised by the things you enjoy!

Alternatively, if you are dead set on the direction you want your career to take, a graduate programme with a stricter trajectory may be more to your liking. This offers you the chance to immerse yourself in a specific sector from the “off” and to really focus on honing your specialist knowledge, making yourself a valuable asset to the business.

  1.      Qualifications

A good company values and invests in the development of its people, and this extends to the graduate scheme. Your degree may give you a certain set of skills to bring to the table, but studying for another qualification will improve and focus your knowledge further. Doing this alongside your day job will add even more value by helping you to understand the practical implications of what you’re learning in a business. It will also demonstrate to your boss that you are committed to professional development. This will only enhance your career prospects.

  1.      Mentoring

A valuable feature of a graduate programme is the opportunity to meet with a mentor, likely to be a senior colleague. This gives you the opportunity to discuss a range of topics in a private environment, from guidance in your day-to-day work, to expanding your network and learning about broader business opportunities. I like to say, “Find someone to work with who you will learn from”. A mentor is a great way of doing just that.

  1.    Pay

All too often, people make job decisions based solely on pay. Yes, your salary is important, and it’s necessary to sustain your home and life outside of the office. But, make sure your expectations are realistic. It’s unlikely that a third sector role will pay the same as a large, private consultancy firm or bank, and city centre salaries tend to be higher than those further “off the grid”. But you’ll find that the cost of living is higher too.

You should also remember that the advertised starting salary may be a little lower than you hoped for, but there can often be a joining bonus or regular pay rise structure in place to help get you on your way.

  1.      Beyond the business

An important part of your graduate scheme experience will be the company’s culture. You may prefer the idea of a larger corporate environment, or perhaps the more personable feel of a smaller owner-managed company. Sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor can help you get a feel for a company’s culture and make a more informed decision.

You may also feel a particular “pull” towards certain companies who invest in their Corporate Social Responsibility activity. This could be through providing volunteering leave, running fundraising campaigns, promoting sustainable activity, or engaging with their local community. Choosing a company whose values you feel aligned with is a necessary first step.


The REED Graduate Training Scheme launched 21 years ago. Many of our current senior leaders started out in the business this way, and they have added huge value during their time with us. This week I welcomed our latest intake at the Reed Business School. There are lots of great graduate schemes to apply to through Ours is one of them, and you can find out more here. Good luck!