Final Year Degree Students: When is the best time to look for work?


According to some press reports last year, many students were fixated in applying for a career whilst at university and may be applying for jobs too soon. So when is the best time to look for work?

A research report published by the Department for Education, commissioned by BIS looks at the factors, behaviours and characteristics that determine graduate outcomes.

What leads to a positive outcome that is either further study or employment.

 The three factors which were most important in guiding graduates to a positive outcome, that is employment or further study rather than unemployment, were:

  • Undertaking paid work while at university or in the six months immediately after;
  • Focusing job searches exclusively on graduate level jobs and making most applications while still studying;
  • Having a career plan upon leaving university.


Time constraints can apply, with deadlines approaching and exam preparation taking priority. However, by planning it is possible to set aside some time to finding a job. For example, choosing to temp through a recruitment agency.

Most UK graduate jobs begin the September after graduation. The larger companies can begin their application process a year before this date. September – January can be important for submitting applications and interview and assessments usually begin after February.

Some graduate recruitment agencies suggest a graduate scheme can be a good way to kick start your career, many don’t have a deadline and recruit throughout the year but as they are very popular its best to apply as soon as you can.

Of ‘The Times’ list of top 100 employers, the top twenty are the most competitive and have closer deadlines. However, 55% have a rolling recruitment process through the year, meaning they will accept applications at any time or until the role has been filled. 25% have roles with separate deadlines depending on the job role.

The links below has over 300 such schemes, including ones with deadlines.

You don’t necessarily have to begin a graduate scheme as soon as you leave university, but it’s one way to a rewarding career.

The best advice is for students to manage their time well – try not to stress about their final year and plan for their future career in good time.


Mike Barker – Careers Adviser


Studying whilst Working


A Mini Biography

THE UNIVERSITY OF LIFE – When I was studying A-Levels at college I had intended to carry on to get a degree.  I was predicted good results, visited Oxford and Cambridge universities and interviewed for a place at Durham.  Unfortunately, as with most things in life, it didn’t go quite according to plan.  My results were not as good as expected so I didn’t get an offer from my first choice university.  My friends and tutors encouraged me to take a place through clearing, but by that point I had given up – my pride was hurt, so I decided to buck the trend amongst my peers and get a job.

A CAREER IN RETAIL – I started as a Christmas temp at a record shop, stayed on permanently, and over a number of years, was promoted to supervisor, assistant manager and eventually manager.  I loved my time working in retail, I was passionate about music and film and loved meeting new people every day.  It gave me great experience in marketing, organisation, responsibility and managing staff.  The best part was that I was independent!  I earned enough money to buy my own flat whilst my friends left university with debts and no clearer ideas about careers.  I had no regrets at all about my choice to enter the workplace instead of studying.

A CHANGE OF HEART – Eventually the novelty of retail work wore off so I moved into office admin work.  After fourteen years working at a small, family run company I started to get itchy feet and a wandering mind –  where was I going with my career? I needed a change.  I started to realise that more and more employers were looking for graduate level applicants, and began to regret that I hadn’t gone to university.  So at the grand old age of ‘thirty-something’, I decided to prove something to myself and get a degree.

BACK TO SCHOOL – I couldn’t afford to quit work and study full time, so I decided that part time distance learning was the best fit for me.  I enrolled with the Open University in October 2014, doing a BA Honours Degree in English Language and Literature.  I’ve never looked back.  Although it is sometimes difficult to motivate myself after a full day at work, I stick to a strict timetable, working a couple of hours on weeknights and longer study sessions on a weekend.  The blended tuition means I can work at my own pace at home, but also attend monthly face to face tutorials and workshops – a great opportunity to meet new people and exchange ideas.

Returning to education as a mature student has been a real game changer for me, it has boosted my confidence, given me new skills, broadened my horizons and I’ve made some great new friends over the last couple of years.  Although I will be over forty by the time I graduate, I’m so pleased that I challenged myself and this is my new mantra – It’s never too late!

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford

Kate – Business Support Co-ordinator

Finance Friday!


If you asked me what I ‘wanted to be’ when I grew up, I would have said I didn’t mind as long as I wasn’t working in an office.

I finished sixth form and my first full time job was… working in an office! I applied mainly to gain some much-needed experience, and although the wage at the time was only about £12,000 a year full-time, I felt rich after my first pay check!

The job itself was within Accounts Payable for Local Government – dealing with all the invoices that were sent into the Council. I’d always had an affinity with numbers, but had never considered utilising them within a career.

Initially it was a fixed term contract for four months, but this was extended and I was eventually made permanent. Over the seven years I worked there, I advanced through to a supervisor and then a manager in my final year. I really enjoyed the role, and only left due to relocating to another part of the country.

As an input assistant, the work could be fairly monotonous at times. The main role was inputting invoices onto our financial system (we used SAP), and answering queries from suppliers who were either chasing payment, or had received a payment but didn’t know what it was for.

As supervisor, I oversaw a team of seven input assistants. I took the lead on more complex queries and ensured the team met their input targets. I was also responsible for actioning multi-million-pound payment runs three times a week.

As manager, aside from overseeing the entire team & dealing with complex queries, I was responsible for recruitment & selection, performance management and ensuring the monthly Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) tax return reached HMRC on time.

Being able to work my way up through the department really gave me a solid foundation on which to build my knowledge. I was acutely aware of all the problems and issues that could arise, having dealt with them myself, and I felt that made me a better supervisor and manager.

Working in Finance helped me develop and hone the following skills:

  • Organisational skills
    • I had to be incredibly organised to make sure all payment runs were completed on time. I would often multi-task, dealing with emergency invoices, supplier queries & other calls from colleagues.
  • Working to deadlines
    • The end of the financial year was a non-negotiable deadline. It was incredibly busy as all departments wanted their payments to come out of their old budget. This instilled in me the desire to complete all my work as quickly and accurately as possible.
  • Problem solving
    • Payment runs were never straight forward. They would rarely balance and I would need to find out the reason why before proceeding.
    • Invoices could get stuck on our financial system if managers did not approve them. This involved three-way conversations with the company and the relevant manager to resolve any issues.
  • Telephone handling
    • I answered numerous calls a day, which could range from a simple query to an irate customer wanting to know why they hadn’t been paid. I learnt how to diffuse the situation and take ownership of the problem.

Although I no longer work within Finance, I have considered returning to that profession. I may self-fund my AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualification as Accountancy is an area that really interests me. There are so many different areas and facets to Finance, that there is something out there to suit everyone.

Sophie, Business Support Co-Ordinator

Getting into Higher Education



Have you ever wanted a job that requires some form of Higher Education qualification and/or a degree? A lot of my customers find gaining Higher Education qualifications daunting, especially when they consider taking three or four years out of their life to study full-time at university. Surprisingly though, there are four options available when looking to gain access to Higher Education. Let’s have a look at them now:

Foundation Degree

Foundation Degrees focus on a particular profession. They are a fabulous idea if you want to work whilst also studying for your degree. Even if you’re not in work, the skills you learn during the two years you are studying will help to advance your career. They usually take two years to complete if attending full-time, part-time will obviously take longer. You will normally have the option of studying for a third year and obtaining a full Honours Degree if you wish.

Honours Degree

An Honours Degree is obtained by attending university on a full time basis over three or four years, and is the route the majority of students take. It usually focuses on a particular subject. Sometimes there will be a year of work experience included in the course, so that you can gain experience in the relevant industry.

Higher National Certificate (HNC) / Higher National Diploma (HND)

HNC & HND qualifications are usually gained by attending a local college on a full or part-time basis. They’re a great way of earning a qualification in a vocational subject. A HNC will take one year to complete full-time, or two years part-time. It is the equivalent of studying for the first year at university. A HND takes two years to complete full-time, or three to four years part-time. This is equivalent to two years at university.

If you would like to continue studying to earn a full degree, you will usually be allowed into the second year of a degree if you have an HNC, and the second or third year if you have a HND.

Level 6 Diploma

A Level 6 Diploma is a qualification that is equivalent to a degree, but instead of going to either a college or a university to study, you do this type of qualification at work. An assessor will come to your work place to conduct tutorials and also to complete observations. This type of qualification can take anywhere from one to three years to complete, depending on your previous qualifications.

If you would like any further advice, please contact us on 0800 100 900.

– Marie, Careers Adviser

Degree Apprenticeships

Are you put off studying at university because of the tuition fees?

Do you learn better when you can apply your learning to the workplace?

Would you like to earn a salary whilst studying?

Would you like to work towards a degree level qualification?

Yes? The new Degree Apprenticeship route may be for you!

A Degree Apprenticeship is the new route introduced by the government to combine the vocational elements of an apprenticeship with university study.

Introducing our case study: Sam*

Sam is 18 years old. She has recently gained GCSEs and a BTEC Extended Diploma in IT (Computer Programming and Software Development). She would like to study at degree level but recognises that her strengths lie in learning on-the-job. She also has concerns about funding university study as she has a mortgage and bills to pay for so would prefer to earn a salary. She would like to find out more about the degree apprenticeship route.

Sam: Would I be eligible to study a degree apprenticeship?

Yes. Degree Apprenticeships are targeted at 18-19 year olds who have recently left school. However, they are also available to 16 – 18 year olds, mature students and people, with trade experience, who have already completed a lower level apprenticeship.

Sam: What could I study?

With your current qualifications in IT you may be interested in pursuing the digital industries degree apprenticeship route.

There are 13 degree apprenticeship routes available:

  • Chartered Surveying
  • Electronic Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Aerospace Software Development
  • Defence Systems Engineering
  • Laboratory Science
  • Nuclear
  • Power Systems
  • Public Relations
  • Digital Industries
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Banking Relationship Manager
  • Construction

(Information taken from:

Sam: Where could I study?

Around forty universities across the UK are committed to delivering degree apprenticeships and this is due to increase. Some universities delivering digital industry training include:

  • Aston University
  • Exeter University
  • University of Greenwich
  • University College London (UCL)
  • Loughborough University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University

(Information taken from:

Sam: Will it cost me anything?

No, you won’t pay tuition fees or training costs. You will, however, need to pay for your living costs as you will not receive a student loan but you will receive an apprentice wage to help cover your living costs.

Sam: How can I apply?

You can search and apply for degree apprenticeships directly through the employer. These vacancies are likely to be advertised on their website. You can also use the Find an apprenticeship service here:

Get My First Job website provides further information about degree apprenticeships and has a search by location facility. See website here:

Since you may be interested in the Digital Industries you can apply for a degree apprenticeship to work towards a BSc (Hons) in Digital & Technology Solutions BSc (Hons) degree through the Tech Partnership. This programme is designed by employers from the tech sector and develops candidate’s skills and knowledge to work in a variety of tech roles including:

  • Data Analyst
  • Software Engineer
  • Network Engineer
  • Business Analyst

For more information you can visit the Tech Partnership website here:

If you would like further information about degree apprenticeships and to discuss your options, call the National Careers Service today on 0800 100 900.

The Dreaded R Word – Redundancy

Unfortunately I have been made redundant twice; the last time being about a year ago.

I was working for a Training Provider as a Funding Auditor and had been with the company for just over 5 years. There were so many positives about the job I did. Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed my job as it was both varied and interesting and I was working with a lovely team of people and had a great supportive boss.  I had improved my IT skills and gained a qualification during my employment with the company, and working part-time and only 5 minutes from home was fantastic for my work/life balance.

Then a bombshell was dropped: there were to be redundancies across the company.

Regrettably, my team were affected and our number was being halved.  The only positions available would be full time and I was not in a position to be able to apply due to childcare arrangements.  I had no alternative but to accept the redundancy.  I was devastated, my mind was in free fall. Where could I possibly find another job similar to the one I had?  My last day was so emotional – saying goodbye to my colleagues, I was totally gutted.

I didn’t have time to dwell on it for too long. I needed to find another job as soon as I could and actively set about job hunting.  The first thing I had to do was update my CV, adding on my previous employment details and amending the format.  Then to job search; my most popular go-to sites were Indeed, Total Jobs, the Civil Service Website and the NHS website.  I was looking for part time work within a reasonable distance to home – fortunately I had access to a car which widened my search.

I spent hours completing application forms, and quickly realised that meeting the criteria of the job profile was essential. I needed to provide examples of ‘how’ and ‘when’ to support my answers and display my skills and experience. This meant I would hopefully stand out from the hundreds of other applicants.


I then saw a job advertised on Indeed with the National Careers Service as a Business Support Co-ordinator and everything about the job seemed perfect – the role profile, the hours, the location, and I knew I had to apply.  I spent ages perfecting my application form, to ensure I met the essential criteria with my answers and examples.

A week later I got a call to invite me for interview! I was filled with excitement but also nervousness. I had to do well, I had to sell myself and convince the interviewees that I was the right one for the job, as I knew I was!  As with most interviews these days, I knew the interview was going to be competency based and prepared examples of answers using the STAR technique, which I was familiar with. I also completed research on the company, their values, as well as checking out the website and social media streams.

The interview went well, I kept my nerves in check and when I left the room after about an hour I felt positive, and even more importantly, I knew I wanted the position. I had been told the manager was going on holiday for a week, and no decision would be made until her return so now it was just a case of waiting. I continued looking for other jobs, knowing that if I had been unsuccessful I would be disappointed, however I would grow from the experience.  Just over a week later I got the call offering me the job to start the following week.  I was ecstatic! That was May 2016 and I am still here and loving my job more than ever.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of facing redundancy, require advice on your CV, fancy a career change or need some interview support, then contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900 where our advisers can help you make the next step.

-Jill, Business Support Co-Ordinator




Working Overseas for a Tour Operator


Life Working Overseas

When you think of working overseas images of sunny places, drinking cocktails, white sandy beaches or vibrant cities will spring to mind. Working overseas gives you all that and more. You have the opportunity to experience a new destination, usually with sunny weather and designed to appeal to an array of tourists catering to their every whim.

I worked for fifteen years overseas for a major Tour Operator. My work assignments included Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Egypt.

To work overseas takes a certain individual. Everyone thinks they could do it or rather would like to do it, but after the two-week induction and the work begins, the realisation that this is not a holiday sinks in. The real individuals stand out while the rest simply go home. Working overseas tends to be in holiday destinations, yes, but the work is hard and demanding. Working in scorching temperatures every day, dealing and juggling many issues with tasks that need complete resolution, and needing to achieve rather gruelling targets – these all separate the wannabes from the workers.

So what could you expect? Why is it so hard to retain employees overseas? Firstly, the mind-set, to work overseas you must fully commit to not seeing family, friends, your beloved pet or even having Grannies Sunday roast for several months. It’s rare that you will be allowed to visit home for a weekend, or longer, once you’re overseas due to many factors; work cover, entry visas and customer service levels consistency. If you find that hard, then when family and friends do visit, you have to deal with them leaving after their one or two-week holiday. So you must be fully prepared to leave loved ones and familiarity behind to start a new adventure, being part of a new family of workers overseas and have the attitude to complete your contractual period.

If you have the mentality to succeed the first obstacle, the next may deter. Living overseas is not the same as holidaying overseas. The accommodation is usually basic. Most rooms have the must have’s only; bed, shower and chair! No air-conditioning with the heat can be unbearable and hard to sleep. You rarely live in hotels, and if you do it’s the staff room, again no air-conditioning. Think of the film Dirty Dancing and those basic huts with, if lucky, a ceiling fan moving the heat around like a fan assisted oven! As you are having that thought, also think about the staff dance hall and the amount of fun staff have, as well with the community they create! Staff tend to live together, and a community grows, an overseas family. Different skills from different people, some know how to cook, other can sew, other are great at catching the bugs (which there are many in hot countries!) and some simply know how to work the washing machine. All this together will craft the overseas family. This family that is created will remain in your heart long after your tan fades.

Lastly, if you overcome being away from home, living in basic accommodation, the heat and being independent, the last obstacle is the actual working environment. Unless you are lucky enough to speak the local lingo then there is the language barrier. The working hours vary with job to job, the travel industry is a 24hour operation, so you will need to be prepared to work unsociable hours often into the night and early mornings. You will remember sleep as a distant memory or catch up during the day, think Spain and siestas! You will need to act quickly, professionally and often independently while battling fatigue and often extreme heats. You will need to be able to make robust decisions based on facts that are fair while also considering the personal impact of the customer. You will need to learn new skills, adapt to new processes and be able to self-teach yourself.

If you can do all of the above – then you will love a life overseas and what it gives back to you will be life-changing. You gain confidence, public speaking skills, organisation skills the ability to think quickly and process information to a happy resolution. You will have fun! You will form close relationships based on a mutual experience. You will be with like-minded people that help shift your character, embracing new cultures and people from all walks of life. You live in a beautiful paradise oasis, filled with charm, stunning scenery and eccentrics. You feel amazing, a soft glow to your skin, a selfie taken of you perched high above the clouds. It’s the liveliest environment you will live through, no need for social or digital media when a knock on your riggerty staff door signals a night out, dinner, drinks, seeing a show, a midnight walk through a known ghost town, or even that x-factor has started and you are required to sit around a laptop to watch it streaming live.

Nothing will ever compare, whether you work overseas once or make it a career like I did, it will be the best decision you’ve ever made. It will break you at times, but ultimately it will make you! Mark Twain said that to ‘travel is to broaden your mind’, but to live in a travel destination will broaden much more. Nobody ever wishes that they had worked more, it’s often that they had travelled more. No-one regrets what they did do, rather what they didn’t.

So if you are sitting there reading this and wondering, then wonder no more, take that step, make that leap and you’ll fall into a world that you help create, with remarkable people filled with excitement!

Written by Cat Edwards

Ex Overseas Worker of 15years

Career Changes

I’m sure you will be familiar with the following saying:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius

But what if you’re stuck in a job that you dislike? Perhaps the job is monotonous, possibly it doesn’t challenge you, or maybe it’s got to the point where it’s just too stressful and it’s making you unwell.

I used to have a job where I’d get the familiar Sunday night dread in the pit of my stomach. I would lay awake at night, every night, worrying about whether I had done anything wrong and running through a list of everything I still needed to get done the following day. I realised that my job was taking over my life, and this so-called “work-life balance” that is bandied about everywhere, was non-existent. I had two options:

  • Continue putting up with it
  • Make a change

I’m generally a risk-averse person. I think everything through a million times, looking at the options from every angle. However, I realised that there was no way I could continue in my job role. Although this is a cliché that is used all of the time, life was too short to spend 40 hours a week in a job that I disliked, and probably another 40 hours a week worrying about it. So I quit my job, without having anything else lined up. To the risk-averse me, this was sheer madness.

I realise that I was very fortunate to be in the position where I could quit my job and still be able to live. There are many people out there who are in a job they dislike, but can’t quit because they’re the main or sole breadwinner and their income is relied on to live day-to-day.

So what do you do when your job is sucking all your energy and joy from your life, and you can’t just quit? Or perhaps you have quit, and you don’t know what your next step will be?

1. You need to figure out what it is that you enjoy. There’s no point moving the problem from one similar job to the next i.e. changing the scenery but not the situation.

  • Are you good with numbers?
  • Do you enjoy helping people?
  • Do you love social media?

All of the above likes could be incorporated into a job that you would enjoy.

2. If you’re struggling to find out what your strengths are, or you know what they are but don’t know how they would fit into a job role, complete a Skills Health Check on the National Careers Service website. The link can be found here.

3. Research the job roles that have been suggested to you. You will be able to see the entry requirements, as well as a brief overview of what the job involves.

4. Once you’ve found a job that really interests you, you will need to look at either getting the correct qualifications or job searching. It might not be an instant fix, but if you’re working towards making a change, then it will help to make things more bearable.

5. Ensure your CV & interview skills are honed to perfection. We can help you with that.

6. Work in a job that you love and wonder why it took you so long to make the change!

I now work in a job that I enjoy, but if you’d told me that while I was still in my previous role, I would never have believed you. I promise that it is possible to make a change and improve the situation.

For further advice and guidance regarding the results of your Skills Health Check, Career Changes, or CV & Interview support, please contact us on 0800 100 900. Our qualified advisers can help you make the next step.

-Sophie, Business Support Co-Ordinator


Resolutions vs. Long Term Goals – New Year, New You


The turn of a new year is always a time to look at our lives with fresh eyes, a time to make plans for the future and reflect on the past.  This is why so many people make News Year’s resolutions but why do a whopping 88% of people fail to carry these resolutions beyond February?  Should we be looking at setting long term goals instead?

Among the many reasons people fail are:

  • Wanting a quick fix, treating a marathon like a sprint
  • Not believing in themselves
  • Procrastination – too much thinking and not enough doing
  • Not tracking progress

I’m sure we can all identify with having at least one of these reasons ruining our best laid plans!?!

So, let’s take a look at goal setting. Here at the National Careers Service we help people look at, and set, realistic long term goals. We break that Marathon down into small sprints, or gentle jogs or even a short stroll; whatever it takes for a person to feel in control, have the ability to track progress and, the most important event, make it over the final winning line!

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. – Pablo Picasso

Having a system, or an action plan, or devising a process to achieve the short term goals, will always make the large goal less of a struggle.  Sharing this process with another person is also a way to double the chances of success.

At Career Line headquarters we are great believers in making that goal SMART;

S – Specific

M – Measurable and motivational

A – Achievable

R – Realistic

T – Timely and trackable

So for those of you dreaming of a New You in this New Year, perhaps a new career or new learning goals, I do hope I have whetted your appetite. Remember to dream big, but most of all think about that marathon as something YOU can conquer and achieve!

If you would like to discuss this further and start devising a plan of action please call our friendly team on 0800 100 900, who are more than happy to keep you on track!

-Lisa, Careers Adviser

Merry Christmas


It’s our final blog of the year! Just where has this year gone?!

We’re hibernating over the festive period, with our office closing on Friday 23rd December 2016 at 5pm and reopening on Tuesday 3rd January 2017 at 8am.

The end of the year for many people is a time of reflection and here at Career Line HQ we thought it would be nice to reflect on our year.  Over the past year we have provided information, advice and guidance over the telephone to 981 people, of which 31% have achieved their goal of gaining employment, education or training.  It’s not just about the employment, training or education goals though. Many people have different goals of gaining confidence or knowing how to start their job search, and we have helped many people achieve these goals too.  Here’s a couple of the lovely comments we’ve received from our customers this year:

“Lauren was very personable and extremely helpful in exploring my options with me, making each step very easy and clear. I found the sessions massively useful as they stopped me procrastinating and played a big part in me taking very focused action. Thanks so much, Lauren!”

”  …. Leaving the army after a full career, then stepping into another career that doesn’t feel quite right in the long term, can have an effect on how you feel and to some extent, how to move forward.  I must have tweaked my CV several times and found it hard to navigate it towards other aspects of my skills set and indeed other career paths, whilst I know what you have done is a key part of your role, words do not express my thanks enough.”

This year we also celebrated our 2nd birthday.  The last two years we have seen a big change in careers advice and guidance and a big change in the local labour market.  In these last two years, we’ve grown our team and started our social media campaign resulting not just in a blog but also daily Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts.  We hope to grow this in the year to come.

We have had such a fantastic year and had the absolute pleasure of giving careers advice and guidance to brilliant people.  We will see you back in January, our next blog will be about reflecting and setting goals for the year ahead. We would like to thank you all for your following and support this year.  From everyone at Career Line we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

-Claire & the rest of Career Line