Here's everything you should know before starting a graduate scheme

Lara Billington
Content Marketing Executive

Starting a graduate scheme this Autumn? 

Whilst they aren't for everyone, graduate schemes are a brilliant way to kick-start your career, which is why they're highly competitive and sought-after. Now you've done the hard part of securing a place on a programme, it's almost time to show them what you're made of.  

If you're feeling apprehensive or worried as you anticipate your start date and need some advice on how to get off on the right foot come Autumn, we've collated some tips with the help of some graduates who're already on grad schemes, to ensure you make the most of this great opportunity. 




1. Start as you mean to go on 

You're likely to be spending at least a year at the organisation (or maybe even three), so giving off a good first impression is important. Demonstrate your professionalism from the start by showing up on time everyday, bringing positivity and enthusiasm to the workplace and looking smart. Smile too - it's the most simple and easy way to appear approachable to others.

Don't forget though, whilst it's important to prove yourself and remind your managers why they hired you, try not to get too bogged down in impressing everyone and being the best; remember that you're there to learn, and you won't be expected to know everything straight away. 


2. Make an effort to get involved 

Use the first few weeks to do and learn as much as possible. If you're invited to visit other departments, go for drinks after work or join in a meeting, say yes. And don't be afraid to voice your opinion and ideas when the opportunity arises - showing interest and engagement will impress your team. 

Also ask about what out-of-work opportunities there are to get involved with - your company might have sports teams, charity days or volunteering opportunities available that you can get stuck into. These offer an easy way to get to know your colleagues, have fun and ensure you're maintaining a good work-life balance. Speaking of... 


3. Maintain a good work-life balance 

Graduate schemes are hard work. You'll be absorbing new information everyday, the hours might be long and sometimes you're studying for qualifications alongside your work. Whilst you might feel pressure to prove yourself in the first few months, make sure you balance work with down time too.

One graduate we spoke to says "I ended up working myself so hard in the first couple of months, staying late and trying to impress that I burnt out eventually. Finding that balance between work and relaxing is so important, and you end up enjoying yourself much more because of it." 


4. Remember that the people are just as important as the work 

Being a newbie is never easy but you're lucky to be joining the company with a group of graduates in the same position as you. Talk to others, find out things you have in common and build friendships with them; chances are they're feeling the same way you do. 

Also get to know colleagues who've been at the company longer than you. Find a mentor who can help support you, expand your knowledge of the business and who can answer any questions you might have. 

Getting to know people, networking and building friendships will not only benefit you professionally, but can help your personal well-being too, particularly if you're moving to a new city for the job and don't know many people. 


5. If you're stuck, just ask 

You've heard it before, but don't sit around twiddling your thumbs because you don't know how to do something, or worse, doing it and getting it wrong. Remember that everyone you're working with was in your position at some point and 10 times out of 10, they'd prefer it if you asked when you don't understand something. Plus, you'll learn so much more and pick up new skills more quickly if you're inquisitive and ask questions. 


6.  Mistakes will happen but don't dwell on them

From the new surroundings, to the new faces, to the vast amounts of new information thrown at you, your first few weeks at a grad scheme can be overwhelming and mistakes are bound to to be made. No one wants to make a blunder in their first few days at a new job, but if something does go wrong don't let it stress you out.

Even the most experienced people don't get it right all the time and the likelihood is that everyone will have forgotten about it by the next day. The only thing that comes from making mistakes (besides temporary embarrassment), is a lesson to be learned. Saying that, don't get caught bad-mouthing the boss three days in - that's a mistake you probably can't go back on.


7. Never stop learning 

You're in a great position to learn from the best, expand your knowledge and lay the groundwork for a successful career on a graduate scheme. As a graduate we spoke to says "there are so many industry experts all around you and everyone can offer a different piece of advice or teach you something new." 

The beauty of many graduate schemes is that you'll often move departments throughout the programme to help you gain insight into range of areas in the company. Use this to your advantage - listen, ask questions and be curious, because everything you learn will come in handy at some point during your career. 


Are you a student interested in applying for graduate schemes? Check out the wide range of opportunities on our website.