It's amazing just how many international students I meet that either don't know when to start looking and applying for a post graduate job, or simply don't think about it during their studies.
I completely understand it though, you're busy adjusting to life in a different country and on top of that, you have all your studies to deal with, lectures to go to, assignments to hand in, it’s not easy to balance it all.
However if you are serious about finding work with a UK employer, and especially one that will be able to sponsor you, the reality is that you need to make the time in your schedule to search and apply to the right positions.
Don't worry though, by the time you have finished this article you will have a better understanding of the types of recruitment cycles that UK graduate employers have in place, and know how to give yourself enough time to avoid missing the best opportunities.
Understanding the difference
Before you work out the different recruitment cycles of UK employers it’s essential that you understand the differences between the various positions that you can apply for as an international student.
I have broken down the main types of roles that students and graduates can apply for. We will go into the ways that UK employers like to recruit in just a bit.
There are 5 main types of positions:
Summer internships (before graduation)
These are positions where you can work during the summer vacation after you have completed a year of your degree and before you start the next. They can range anything between a few days up to 6 weeks long and are a good option if you want to go onto work for the same company post-graduation
Placements (before graduation)
These are positions where you can work up to 12 months and can be imbedded as a mandatory part of your degree depending on its type. Your university will usually have a pre-established relationship with an employer that has agreed to take on a number of undergraduates in order for them to gain practical industry skills as part of the course. For these you should enquire with your course tutors or the career centre at your university.
Post graduate internships (after graduation)
These are positions where you can work on a temporary contract for a limited amount of time with an employer after you have finished your studies. The position may not have the word “internship” on the vacancy; however you can still be sponsored if you understand the relevant visa routes and the position fulfils the right criteria.
Graduate jobs (after graduation)
These are permanent positions which you can work in with a UK employer after graduation. In this case the employer must be a licensed sponsor in order for you to be eligible for the position.
Graduate schemes (after graduation)
These are different to graduate jobs in the sense that they last for a specified period of time where you can gain practical, on the job skills and training within a specific, or multiple areas of the business. Some even offer a qualification and on average they tend to last 2 or 3 years. Again the employer must be a licensed sponsor in order for you to be eligible for this type of role in the UK.
Now that you have an understanding of the different types of jobs that UK employers offer let’s have a look at the different recruitment cycles so that you know when you should start applying. Here I will be focusing on the cycles of post-graduate opportunities.
The key with post-graduate internships is to apply before you start the final stages of your degree. These types of positions are open all year round but there is not an infinite magic number of placements available. Once they’re filled, that’s it.
Although there is less pressure in regards to when you start completing and submitting applications, my recommendation is that you still start as soon as possible. I wold say to start no later than January if you are in your final year of your course at university. It is not impossible to still find an internship after this time, however it does become more difficult.
The recruitment process does not tend to last as long as graduate schemes so this should be sufficient time for you to apply, go through the recruitment process and receive an offer before you finish your studies.
Internships start at all times of the year but some of the most popular times are August, September and sometimes in January so keep this in mind and time it right as you will need to receive your sponsorship. The tier 5 visa route tends to be a popular choice among international students interested in these types of positions.
Graduate jobs are also open all year around but peaks in vacancies tend to be around September – November and May – July. These are the closest thing in terms of structure to applying for a normal job for an experienced professional.
The recruitment process is one of the shortest and may last a few weeks as oppose to a few months. However that is no excuse to leave the applying to the last minute. These roles are fiercely competitive and you will have to remember to factor in enough time to get your visa switched to a tier 2 general
Taking the peak times into consideration I would advise that you start applying at least 2 months in advance and time it with the end of your studies to give yourself a good chance.
Graduate schemes are the most popular and the most complex of all the various types of positions that you can apply for. Applications are open on a seasonal basis and UK employers are strict with their deadlines. Some companies offer their graduate schemes all year around but these usually are the larger international organisations where the competition is even higher.
The recruitment process lasts a number of months so it is important that you understand, plan and get your timing perfect to be successful.
The typical recruitment cycle for graduate schemes looks something like this:
September – January = Applications open
February = applications are closed and the screening process begins
April – May = Assessment stages
May – July = Offers are sent out / some re openings of positions if unfilled
August – September = Graduate schemes start
As you can see the entire process can last pretty much a whole year so I don’t need to tell you that you need to start submitting applications as soon as possible. Like the other post-graduate roles the employer will need to be a licensed sponsor.
Ok, now I know that was a lot to digest but right now I want you to do something. I want you to comment and let me know what your experiences have been when applying to any of the positions I have mentioned in the UK.
Has it been confusing? Was it easy for you to understand the different types of positions and the differing recruitment cycles before you applied? Was the information easy for you to find, or do you feel that there needs to be more available?
Share your experience and frustrations so that other international students can benefit and learn from it. Don’t forget to share this article with any other international students who may be looking.
STRUGGLING TO FIND WORK IN THE UK WITH SPONSORSHIP?
CONFUSED ABOUT THE WORKING VISAS AND FINDING THE RIGHT VACANCIES?
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