How much thought have you given to what you’ll do after you graduate? A university qualification used to be a ticket to a good job, but these days, with more people getting degrees, you need to back it up with a cohesive plan if you want to be successful. At most institutions, the first year of your studies is fairly flexible and allows room for change if you find you’re better suited to taking your studies in an unexpected direction, but by your second year, you should be firming up your longer-term plans and starting to work with not just your degree but your career goals in mind.

Pursue a graduate job

Many large companies have recruitment programmes specially designed for graduates, and you can start applying for these as soon as you get a predicted result. It helps to look for extra-curricular opportunities to get related experience, and for highly sought-after roles such as those at the top of the finance industry, you should be looking for summer internship opportunities. A graduate job scheme usually comes with a good salary and will make your first few years after graduation straightforward.

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Prepare to climb the ladder

If you don’t think you’re likely to get the results you need for a graduate job scheme, or if your chosen career doesn’t work that way, there are other ways to get ahead. Any degree will give you an advantage when it comes to getting promoted, so if you start in a lower level job and work hard, taking on extra duties where you can to broaden your experience, you can quickly get ahead. The key to success in this situation is to network, and if you do it well you can climb the ladder very fast.

Set up as a contractor

If you have a good degree in an area where there’s sufficient demand, especially if you have postgraduate or professional qualifications to back it up with, you could be successful as a contractor. Again, you’ll need to network to do well, so it helps if you can build up a good set of contacts at university and use your alumni society connections. Using an umbrella company keeps the financial side of this simple and lets you concentrate on activities that expand your skill set and get you paid.

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Get into volunteering

Taking a gap year after university can be a good solution if you’re still not sure what’s right for you. What many people don’t realise is that a gap year, in itself, can also be a good way to build career opportunities. Working for a charity can provide you with all sorts of useful skills, and employers like graduates who’ve been toughened up by that sort of experience. It could open up opportunities for a career in a third sector or improve your prospects of getting a good job elsewhere.

If you don’t immediately get onto a path like this after graduating, don’t despair. There are still other options out there, and even people who get their start later in life can end up doing well. Having a good plan and sticking to it is, however, the closest thing you’ll get to a guarantee.

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