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. 

My Volunteering Journey into Public Health

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Whilst studying Biological Sciences at UWE Bristol, Emma Sheeran has used valuable volunteering experiences to shape her career goals

My experience with the Royal Voluntary Service as a Befriender has been invaluable, not only due to the friendship I have formed with my client Gwen, but also by developing my skill set and helping me to focus my goals towards a career centred around improving healthcare services. 

I was drawn to working with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) when I learnt about the history of the organisation, which was previously known as the Women’s Voluntary Service. They are committed to tackling social challenges by supporting hospitals and communities nationally.

How did your volunteering journey begin?

I initially supported as a Home from Hospital volunteer with Gwen, an elderly woman to support her re-adjustment to life following one month in hospital with Pneumonia. I then moved in to a Befriender role so I could continue visiting Gwen, as we had developed a strong bond. We have been seeing each other weekly ever since. 

Gwen lacked confidence to go out alone on shopping trips, or to doctors appointments. My visits ensured she would leave the house at least once a week to get essentials, lift her mood, and exercise.  Her health was a common obstacle to her independence, on one occasion I had to call an ambulance and remain with her in hospital for the day as she became suddenly unwell before making it to the shops.

Especially around the time of her poor health, my support gave her reassurance and encouragement to leave her home. Working with Gwen improved my communication skills, as well as emotional resilience as I learnt not to dwell on or take home concerns about Gwen from our visits.

My experience of the NHS with Gwen, like the consequences of their successes and failures in her particular case, inspired me greatly to commit to pursuing a career in public health. 

Where did your volunteering experience take you next?

The RVS was the first organisation I had volunteered with in Bristol, so taking encouragement from the impact and enjoyment of my work with RVS, I began furthering my volunteer experiences.

I became a mentor for refugees and asylum seekers with Borderlands. I designed and conducted a study into student experiences accessing sexual health services with Healthwatch. And I wrote strategy plans for the African Health Organisation. 

I had a long time ambition to learn Arabic to aid my career in global health; focusing on Middle Eastern regions. Last year I was accepted onto an Arabic course at Tel Aviv University. To fund the course fees and accommodation, I applied for, and was granted, the WRVS Benevolent Trust Youth Bursary. (Volunteering over 50 hours with the RVS meant Emma was eligible to apply for this fund towards her career development.)

This greatly contributed to further opportunities, including a successful application to a Global Health Summer School with IPPNW/Charité in Berlin:  Health Between Ethics and Economisation.

What’s your next steps?

Both by building my skills for the future and experience within my own community through volunteering, my role as a Befriender and the Arabic course work as examples of my commitment to a career in improving health. This has now led to an opportunity extended to a position on the organising team of the next Global Health Summer School: Migration and Health 2019. 

Celebrating UWE Talent Award winners on the stage
Due to her fantastic efforts to develop her career goals Emma was runner up for the ‘Volunteer of the Year Award’ at Celebrating UWE Talent 2019

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 .

Confidence, Coding and Challenges: My NMI Placement

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Rob Barclay, Computer Science student from UWE Bristol, talks about his placement year at NMI

Throughout university, we are constantly told by tutors and professors that a work placement offers the most valuable experience of working in the ‘real world’, along with all the invaluable industry knowledge it brings. I’m happy to say that they couldn’t have been more right!  

I was aware of the close links NMI had with our university via previous students having had both fun and successful placements there, so it was highly recommended as a great place for me to get this valuable ‘real world’ experience. I saw that the company was creating real impact within the payment industry, processing millions of transactions yearly. 

How I went about finding a placement

First and foremost I had to show the company I wanted to work there. I sent in my CV and completed an online ‘code challenge’. The final stages of the process was a phone interview followed by a face to face interview.  

I would say that the best tip for an interview is to be as prepared as possible, this shows that you have a genuine interest in the company and learning new skills. I did loads of research and made sure I could really express why I was so keen to seize the opportunity!  

When I was offered the placement I immediately accepted the offer. Like all new jobs it seemed daunting at first. However, the company couldn’t have been more welcoming.  The team made me feel really relaxed along with a buzz that made me feel I wanted to work there.  From being able to dress casually to free fruit, and breakfast on a Wednesday.

What I did at NMI …

I joined the platform team, a group of 6 people; a team lead, four developers and one tester. All focusing on developing the central processing layer which is the fundamental server powering all our products and services. 

After some initial training, I was assigned my first task. This involved setting up the CI (continuous integration) for one of the company’s new flagship products. This is widely used within the software development industry as a whole is not touched at university. This experience has shown that it is necessary to have for my future career.  

I always felt in control of my workload and whilst the work was challenging, I always knew I was only ever expected to work to the best of my ability and I was able to ask for assistance.

Working life at NMI… 

Being surrounded by industry professionals helped increase my coding skills exponentially and complemented what I learned at university. I felt extremely supported by the team. It was also satisfying to be able to work on other projects where I could take the skills that I had picked up in my lectures and practicals, adapt them to the scope of the problem in front of me and create a solution that will potentially be used by thousands of people. It was an unexpected but great experience to know that I was making such a difference from the get-go. 

I have also had the chance to partake in company-wide presentations, cross-team meetings and representing the company to future candidates at UWE careers fair. All helping me increase my confidence and communication; both vital skills required in any industry.  

By adapting to a full-time job, focussed specifically on the field that I study, has given me a massive confidence boost for my final year, and future jobs to come. As previously mentioned, doing a placement is an invaluable experience and I’ve really enjoyed my time at NMI so far.  

I thoroughly recommend anyone considering doing a placement year to just go for it! 


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