Applications / Job market

What’s the best graduate job?

I’ve had several conversations this week with students wanting to find the best job with the best employer. That’s quite a quest! How do you find the best employer in any given sector? Lots come onto campus and give presentations. Many explain why they’re best. Perhaps they pay more than anyone else, or offer the most interesting work, or do the most good in society. Maybe they have the biggest or the most international business but they can’t all be the best. So what does “best” mean?

The best job isn’t defined by any of the above ideas. It’s the one which is right for you! You need to work out what you want and to organise your priorities. What might those priorities be? Here are some of the things which you say matter to you.


Some of you’ll be motivated by a need to work for an organisation which has a reputation for excellence in a particular area. If accountancy is your thing you’ll want the “Big Four”, lawyers might fancy the “Magic Circle”, but perhaps it gets a bit more complicated in other occupational areas. What about a retail career? Tesco might not be riding high right now, but is Aldi as prestigious as John Lewis? Aldi will pay you more, does that equal prestige? Would your mother rather tell her friends that you work for John Lewis? There’s no straightforward answer to which is the most prestigious job.


Surely pay is a clearer measure. Some organisations pay more than others. Most students are keen to earn as much as possible. Aren’t we all? But, if your high paying job involves working long hours without overtime, might your hourly rate actually be less than that of someone who earns less, but works in a post where there’s no expectation of working longer than contracted hours? What about how far your money goes? If you’re on a grad scheme in London your rent will cost a fortune and buying yourself a little flat will probably be a long term aspiration. However, if you decide to stick around in the West Midlands your rent will be more affordable and you might soon be able to buy a property. You could find you have more of the all important disposable income.

International Travel

That sounds fun! You’ve always enjoyed travel so business trips to far flung destinations might be a real pull. Or are they? If a business trip just means exhausting long haul travel, the inside of hotels and offices and no free time to explore, the glamour might start to pall. Perhaps the lower paid job with no travel but generous holiday arrangements will actually give you more chance to travel and see the world.

Intellectual Challenge

This ought to be clear cut. As a graduate you’re going to want to be challenged. But different people enjoy different challenges! While some will want the adrenalin rush associated with making high pressure, complex decisions, where millions of pounds are at stake, others will enjoy trying to work out how to engage the disruptive child in the classroom. There’s no objective way to say which poses the greater overall challenge or even which affords the greater responsibility. Is the loss to a bank of a few million pounds as important as a whole class of children missing out on an hour’s education because someone won’t behave?

Work Life balance

This is all looking rather complicated! Perhaps it is easier to figure out what work life balance means to you. If you’re going to work to live and sport, music, theatre or just spending time with friends or family is what makes you happiest, then you’ll be clear that you need a job which allows you to enjoy free time. If you live to work then you’ll not be bothered by long hours. Just one thing, when you’re thinking through all this don’t just think about now, try to project yourself forward ten years. If your dream is to “settle down” with a partner, should you factor into your planning the thought that your attitude to work might change in the future?

Working environment

Who wouldn’t want to work in the really smart offices with the lovely restaurant and gym? Well, perhaps the person who would like to have the flexibility to work from home, or who wants to be running his or her own business, or who craves the early responsibility which can often come from working for a small or medium sized enterprise. If having a say in the running of a business is important to you, then early responsibility could well make up for a less palatial office. Some people love the buzz of City life, for others it’s anathema, they just want to get back to breathe country air.

So, what does all this mean?

There’s no definitive best job! We can’t set up a competition to find the winner. The best job is the one that’s right for you and for how you want to lead your life when you leave university. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Think through your priorities and consider making an appointment to talk things through with your career advisor. Do the job which is going to make you happy!

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