Applications / Work experience

What you need to know about first year “insight” schemes

An ever increasing number of employers are offering a widening range of opportunities aimed specifically at first year students. Many such schemes are now open for application. It can be scary to have to start to engage with the process leading towards graduate recruitment so early in your university career.  It’s made worse by a number of persistent rumours circulating on campus and it seemed a good time to try to debunk some of those.

Myth 1

If you don’t get a first year “experience” with your chosen employer you’re doomed!

I see students who feel under enormous pressure to succeed in an application to an employer for some sort of first year engagement with them. Obviously employers are doing a bit of early talent spotting and they’re upfront about that:

“We are always looking to attract exceptional people at the earliest possible stage. Linklaters

This doesn’t mean however that the recruitment process is well underway by the end of the first year and that if you didn’t get a first year scheme you’ve missed out. This becomes clear when you look at what a few more employers are saying about these schemes:

“Our First Year Insight programme is brand new … for 2015 designed to let you find out more about KPMG.”

“Competition for places on the most prestigious graduate schemes is intense so it’s never too early to start considering your options. Allen & Overy

Part of this is about them giving you the chance to start finding out whether the sort of career you’ve been considering is really for you. They don’t want to waste money on training you, if actually this isn’t what you want. Keep calm! Review how far you’ve got with your own career decision making. If you think you might want to go to work for them, then why not put in a (good) application. But, if you don’t have a clue what you might want for the future then don’t worry. Take your time to think and go for an internship in the summer of your second year. A first year scheme is only one of a number of ways of getting yourself noticed. You can often do this really successfully at events on campus. If you’re the one who goes along with well researched questions, then it’s more than likely that the recruiters will be taking a note of your name.

Myth 2

You need to apply to as many schemes as possible.

No, definitely not! I’ve met students who are making ten or more applications and are allowing the time spent doing these to impact adversely their academic studies. I’ve also been told by students that the only way to approach this is to apply to as many schemes as possible, and that this makes having a generic CV and cover letter the only way to proceed. If you’re panicking like this, then stop! Here’s some advice from Jake Schogger, one of our finalists, he’s learnt to find his way round the application process and has landed himself a great graduate job after a variety of internships:

“If you get two or three rejections for being too generic, odds are you’d get another fifty if you applied. This is why you see so many people getting either nothing or a substantial number of offers. By all means apply to 5 or 6 but only if you can truly spare a great deal of time to spend on them.”

If you’re still not convinced here’s what Jake’s future employers have to say on the subject:

“Attend a couple of workshops, one here and one at another firm…” Freshfields.

That all seems pretty clear!

Myth 3

Everyone else has got a scheme.

No, they haven’t! One of the curses of social media is that we all hear very quickly about someone’s success. Delighted wall posts and messages of congratulation are de rigeur. It’s easy to forget that those who haven’t made a successful application, (or any application) don’t announce that on Facebook. Those who have secured schemes will be in the minority. Don’t let everyone panic you! Do what’s right for you. Your career decision making may not have reached a stage whereby applying for a first year scheme is right for you. That’s fine!

So remember…

Your first year is just the start of your University and career journey, you don’t have to engage with potential employers just yet. Of course, you’re not doing yourself any harm if you do get to spend time in the workplace of your current top favourite employer, but it isn’t essential. For many areas of work you won’t have an option to do a structured paid insight programme. Don’t worry if there’s nothing on offer. Try to research alternatives so that you build your own “insight” into the career area which interests you – a blog post on how to go about this will be coming soon!

And finally, don’t neglect your studies in an attempt to get an elusive first year scheme!

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