What Happens After Graduation?

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Opus Talent Solutions share their insights on how to get your first graduate role

You’re finally a graduate. You’ve completed your studies and, as someone’s bound to tell you, the world’s your oyster. Yet oysters can be tricky to get into, even if you’ve done your research and come to the table prepared. 

Finding your first graduate role can be challenging. Whether you have a highly specific career path in mind, or you’re simply overwhelmed by the options available, it’s not unusual to feel a little lost at this stage. 

Fortunately, once you find your feet, the prospect of searching for your first ‘proper job’ will quickly become a lot less intimidating. Ultimately, you need to play to your strengths, be proactive in your search, and be prepared to acknowledge and challenge your weaknesses. 

Focus on what makes you uniquely suitable for the role in question – don’t be afraid to talk yourself up!

Your degree will form a huge part of your CV, so it’s important to highlight the key elements of your studies that will showcase your skills, particularly those that may not be immediately apparent.  For example, a mathematics degree may demonstrate your ability to handle complex problems with abstract reasoning, while pharmacology might imply attention to detail and a methodical approach. 

You probably have a limited work history, likely in unrelated areas to your studies, but if you can write a few lines that show development in each role, i.e. “I learnt how to X, Y and Z, and took on extra responsibility for 1, 2, 3”, you’ll be setting yourself apart from the competition. 

Honesty about your ability and achievements demonstrates that you’re capable, forthright, and confident in your strengths; all attractive attributes as far as employers are concerned. 

From my experience of talking to thousands of grads, I’d say 90% of them never once visited their university careers office… why?! 

Trained professionals are sat, waiting for someone to knock on the door, so they’ll be super keen to impart their wisdom and point you in the right direction. Make the most of them while you still can!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to toggle-on “open to new opportunities” on your LinkedIn account. You can find this under the privacy tab of your account settings. To make it easier for recruiters to find you.

Seek out your ideal opportunities and directly approach organisations – even if they’re not currently advertising for graduates. 

Critically, you should not expect a graduate role to simply fall into your lap. No matter how talented you are, employers also want to know that you are passionate, driven, and independent. Show your initiative by actively pursuing internships and placements.

Your ideal role may not exist at the time you go looking for it. However, this does not mean you can’t create it. By taking control of your search, and being open to a range of options, you give yourself a far greater chance of getting your foot in the door. 

Then you can begin to accrue industry experience, build trust with your employer, and crucially begin to carve out a niche within the organisation. Over time, this may enable you to develop your role into one that is more in line with your ambitions, or use it as a stepping stone to the next stage of your career. 

The confidence, professionalism and sense of achievement you feel after completing a placement is incredible. It gave me an insight into opportunities and inspired me to reach my highest potential.
Eleanor Jayne Elizabeth, OPUS placement student.

The fundamental thing to remember is to tailor your communications to each individual company, showing you’ve done your homework, have a clear understanding of their business, and are serious about making a good impression. 

Foster Connections 

Not every application can be a success. However, every attempt is a learning experience, and a chance to add to your professional network on LinkedIn. 

For example, if you’re turned down due to a lack of available opportunities, or your role is only temporary, encourage these connections to get in touch if something suitable comes up in the future. Similarly, you might ask them to recommend you should they hear of someone else looking for a graduate with your skillset. 

Don’t be afraid to give something new a shot

Remember, this is just the first stage of your career, so don’t lose hope if the perfect role doesn’t immediately materialise. In the meantime, everything you do will increase your experience, enabling you to develop new skills and expand your portfolio.   A varied background demonstrates your versatility, and willingness to adapt. Plus, you may even discover a new calling along the way. 


Why not check out the international graduate scheme offered by Opus Talent Solutions? The two-year intensive training program provides opportunities in London, Bristol, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, and Sydney. 

So, you’re studying towards a career in construction…

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UWE Student, David Slade, talks about his placement experience at Midas Group

Whether you’ve found it to be a weighty decision or you’ve always known that it’s for you, there’s no better way to refine and gain confidence in your short term career plan than securing a promising work placement with a reputable company. 

David talks about the experience he’s gained so far at the Midas Group, one the UK’s largest independent construction and property services companies. 

Midas staff and students sitting around a table doing a training exercise.
Midas training session, photo by Neil Phillips

“My time at Midas has been a great experience where I feel I have learnt a vast amount. I’ve found it really beneficial to have worked at different stages within a project that I may not have had exposure to elsewhere. I’ve also been lucky enough to work for different companies within the group, including Midas Construction and Mi-space.”

“I recently visited the site of a new Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Bristol and I got to see the scale of a large project with more than 200 people on site. I am currently working for Mi-space, where I have been able to gain insight into the residential and property services side of the business. This included a recent visit to our award-winning Primrose Park project in Plymouth, where I learnt a great deal and got a glimpse into the future of housing schemes in terms of sustainability.”

“I look forward to learning more in my role at Midas.” 

Joe Exley, University of Plymouth student, is also completing a work placement year with Midas: “For me, this first-hand experience has been invaluable. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to continuing my placement and applying what I’ve learned so far in the workplace and in my final year of uni.”

Midas placement student learning the role, photo by Neil Phillips
Midas placement student learning the role, photo by Neil Phillips

“I’ve visited five sites and completed a lot of practical training so far, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet colleagues in health and safety, operations and HR.  I’ve gained good insight into how Midas operates as a company.”

Many students who complete a placement year with Midas have gone on to be offered a graduate trainee position upon completion of their degree, providing the confidence to return to university with the security of a job offer with a company they work well with. 

Midas is always looking for graduates to join its growing business in fields such as Quantity Surveying, Site Management, Estimating, Planning and Design Management.  Look out for work placement opportunities on the Midas website.


If you are inspired by David’s experience come find out about your placement options .

Placement Life at the Green Party

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By UWE Bristol Geography Student, Monique Taratula-Lyons

I debated about doing a placement for most of my first year of university. When I began my second year, I was determined to find one. There is a mix of reasons why. I wanted to throw myself into a new experience to give myself time to research ideas for my future.

My first day…

The first day of my placement at the Brighton & Hove Green Party was very special as I meet Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP in the UK. When I met her, I felt very honoured and excited. I supported her and the Young Green society at Sussex university fresher’s fair. It turned out to be a very memorable first day.  
 
Not such a typical day…

The most unexpected event that has occurred was the sudden rush of organising for the General Election. We only had five weeks to prepare so there was a lot of work to be done. I mainly helped out with a Crowdfunder campaign, in which we raised over £18,000, and organising volunteers for polling day. Both of these tasks were integral to ensuring that the general election went smoothly on the day. The importance of the task was exciting, but also required patience as they were time consuming and therefore required a lot of focus. 
 
My learning curves…

Pretty early on in my placement I was given the responsibility of drafting and sending our monthly update email to tell our members and supporters what we had been up to. This was a great responsibility and an opportunity to represent the party in the best light. I did research for the content, chose the layout and selected the pictures. I made sure to have my draft email reviewed by colleagues and took on board any advice or comments they had. Once the email was approved it was sent to roughly nine thousand people! I was definitely out of my comfort zone in doing this task but ended up really enjoying it in the end as it taught me to have confidence in my writing and research.   

I would say the biggest challenge is answering the office phone. It sounds like such an easy task, but I am not used to speaking on the phone in a professional context and the phone typically rings when I am not expecting it. I have not had previous experience of this kind of work, but with each new call I am overcoming my fear and increasing in confidence each time. 

Finding my placement..

At first, I felt overwhelmed about applying for placements; I was not sure if I would be able to find one or not and was uncertain in which sector that I wanted to gain experience in. I decided to try researching and applying for a variety of roles before I decided whether to commit to a placement year. I started my search by speaking to lecturers, doing research online and emailing any companies that worked in areas that interest me and hoped for a reply. In January I received a reply from The Brighton & Hove Green Party asking questions about what sort of placement I was looking for. This for me was a turning point. However, the whole process of actually confirming my placement didn’t happen until summer as it was important to ensure that the role the party offered me would fit with the requirements of a placement year.   

I sent over my CV and offered to send over any university work I had done. I also had two telephone interviews. I was asked a few questions about what skills I could bring, my passions and also a general conversation of what the placement may look like. Before my placement began, I popped into the office to say hello and ask any questions. 

My advice would be

It is worth trying and exploring placements as an option. Just send out a few emails; you never know what could happen. If you really want a placement, don’t give up. Speak to lecturers, ask about what past students have done and if you can speak to them. Remember not put too much pressure on yourself as trying to balance assignments with placement searches isn’t easy. Most importantly, you aren’t alone in the search so never be afraid to ask. 

There have been many times which I felt daunted by the prospect of doing a placement but now I am very glad that I went for it; sometimes it is important to take a different path to enjoy the reward of that experience. 


If you are inspired by Monique’s experience come find out about your placement options .

51 Months Later – back in the life with Zircon…

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By Juan Acosta Fisco, Graduate and Software Engineer at Zircon Software

My name is Juan and I am a software engineer at Zircon Software. The title of this post is related to my previous blog post for Zircon (Ten Months in the Life …, available on the company website). As one might expect, a lot has changed in that time, not least my academic progression from undergraduate to graduate and making my way back to Zircon. The focus of this post will be to compare my perspective from back then with the one I hold now. 

As a placement student at Zircon, you spend a lot of time learning. Concretely in my case I learned the languages Python, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and SQL; got to grips with object oriented programming and threading; and acquired skills in web development and database management.

As a graduate, the training-working balance is shifted somewhat towards the latter, but I am pleased to report that I am still learning, having now also added Java & C# to my repertoire as well as developing experience with messaging patterns and Xamarin Forms. Furthermore, Zircon takes a proactive approach in ensuring you are continually improving your skillset, building in time for training and suggesting development routes. 

The cohesive and supportive work environment at Zircon continues. Some faces have changed, due to the period of time I was away to finish up my degree. However many are still here and the office culture that has proved so conducive to Zircon’s success prevails, curated and maintained by all those privileged to form a part of it. 

In my previous post I touched on Zircon’s tangible ambition and hunger for success, well it seems like once you have a taste for it nothing else will do. Zircon has roughly doubled in terms of staff numbers and turnover since then, and continues to aim higher. Regular in-house communication and coordination ensures that we are all striving for, and ultimately achieving, this common goal. 

Coming back in a graduate capacity has offered up fresh new challenges which I didn’t experience as a placement student. I work much more closely with clients, auditors and project managers to deliver high quality software. I have had excellent guidance in navigating these new challenges and have not just acquired new professional skills, useful in any context, but have also become a more complete software engineer. 

As a placement student I discussed the excitement and motivation that comes with the opportunity to work on a product to be deployed and used regularly in the real world, by real users, for a real application. Upon graduating I wanted to return as Zircon is always keen on acquiring new customers and breaking into new markets. I have also had a chance to do something I didn’t predict; revisit a past project. 

The product I worked on as a placement student is live and stable, with continuing enhancements as new requirements come in. The opportunity to revisit this work was very gratifying, like catching up with an old friend. As I come to the end of this post, I feel like this is perhaps the best and closest metaphor to how I feel about my experience here as a graduate versus a placement student, a feature enhancement. 

How Nursing Changed my Life

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By Emma Powell, UWE Bristol Alumni. Emma is now District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead at Sirona care and health.

Nursing.  What can I say?  It is not easy, not glamorous but it is very, very rewarding.  A cliché maybe but true nonetheless!  I feel very proud that I have some fantastic experiences to reflect back on, some not so fantastic but they in turn proved to be important learning curves, not just in nursing but in life.  And I knew from the beginning of my training I wanted to be a community nurse.

Back in 2004, I began my Adult Nursing degree as a mature student and I was terrified.  I was the mother of three with a husband who worked shifts and I also have Crohn’s Disease; as I stood in the reception of Glenside Campus at the UWE Bristol, I asked myself – more than once – what on earth was I doing?  I had loved my Access to Health college course but university … well, that was completely different.  It made nursing real.

And so began my nursing career, something I had aspired to since I was 14 years old. It was a completely different world. I cannot express enough how it will change you as a person and how you view the world, life and people. I remember being told this in a lecture early in the course and it has never left me.  My first year was a raw mixture of shock, horror, speechless wonderment and gratitude. I was tired, excited, happy, sad and enjoyed every placement I had – there is always something you can take from your experiences.  I’ve helped to clear all kinds of bodily fluids, comforted, cajoled, supported and listened.

As the course progressed, I knew from my first community placement, that that is what I wanted to do.  I found my niche, as they say.  I discovered I could communicate well and adapt to whatever scenario I found myself in; I had a particular passion for End of Life Care and feel very privileged to have some fantastic reflections in that discipline.  Nurse training gives you experiences and opportunities available in no other career and working as a registered nurse is a privilege and honour.  The bad days are there, I won’t dress it up – times when you want to just walk away and scream, both in nurse training and working.  I nearly left my course at the end of the second year; I was tired, fed up, drained, poor and for the millionth time, wondered why I was doing it.  A tutor told me this feeling was common, and after all the support from my family I knew I had to finish!

Two student nurses in a hospital setting are practising their skills on a dummy.
A simulation exercise with students at Glenside Campus.

I was lucky enough to get my first job in trauma and orthopaedics.  Although I knew I was a community nurse at heart, typical of many students, I wanted to work on the ward to develop myself with confidence.  Three years later I began community nursing and although I had confidence, there were so many different skill sets to learn.  You never stop learning with nursing – even now, with a career as a District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead with Sirona care & health – there is always something to learn.

Which leads me to Sirona care & health’s Taking It Personally which is at the heart of our organisation.  There are very good support systems for staff, whether you are struggling or doing something well, everything is recognised. There are policies in place within Sirona to support those times when life throws curveballs. I am also an author under the pen name of Louise Wyatt and was able to adjust my hours when my first book was published.  My History of Nursing book has been supported by Sirona in their newsletters and communications; in fact, all employees who have another skill or achievement outside of work are supported.  There are wellbeing, Continuing Personal Development and personal support systems – community nursing is hard and becoming more acute with a wide range of skills needed – and Sirona will support you all the way.

Taking It Personally for people in your care?  Well, you are in a person’s home and you need to respect that; all you have to do is imagine it is the home of someone you love.  That alone will guide your practice, even those visits that can leave you pressurised and emotionally challenged.  The clinical, communication and personal skills that Sirona will help you to develop will prepare you for the future and allow you to thrive, both within yourself and for modern, highly skilled community nursing.

Three students in a simulation hospital ward care for a patient.
UWE Bristol students practising Community Nursing skills.