Why Is It Important to Start Career Thinking Early?

When students hear the question, ‘so what do you think you’re doing after University?’ they are filled with dread. Whilst it can be easy to keep putting thinking about this question out your mind until you graduate, this isn’t necessarily the best thing to do.

Recent studies have found that 44% of final year students start looking for graduate roles before the Christmas break, with 22% of these starting straight away in October. It turns out, you want to be part of this 22%! This is because it will give you a greater range of roles to be applying for and you can start the whole recruitment process early.

As weird as it might feel just starting your final year and having to think about securing a job that wouldn’t start for 12 months, no time is too soon to start looking and it will hugely benefit you!

Students across all years, not just final year, should be future looking. This includes placements, work experience and graduate schemes, so this blog breaks it down for anyone looking to start thinking about their careers.  

Main Industries

The main industries to remember that start and finish their recruitment process early are consulting and finance.

Some examples of graduate schemes to watch out for because they close before the Christmas break of 2021:

  • Pwc (Graduate Consulting Scheme), closes end of October.
  • Deloitte (Graduate Governance, Risk and Advisory), closes mid November.
  • Carnall Farrar (Analyst Programme), closes end of October.
  • Civil Service (Fast Stream), ranges but generally closes mid October.
  • Kearney (Business Analyst), closes mid November.
  • Accenture (Consulting Graduate Programme), closes mid December.  

As Graham Philpott (Careers Consultant) says, “starting early means that you have the best possible choice of vacancies, it gives you time to hone your application and selection skills, and you can spread the load out more evenly across the year.”


As you now know, a lot of deadlines for top graduate schemes will close before your first term of final year is even over which seems daunting. This is why it’s so important to use the summer break to organise what types of roles you want to be applying for and what deadlines are out there.

A top tip for making sure you are thinking about the recruitment process from an early stage is creating a spreadsheet on Microsoft Word/Excel which has all the information on your current and future applications.

Here is an example of some the columns you could have on your spreadsheet:

You can also then track which graduate schemes you are progressing to the next stage in using the same spreadsheet format, but instead of focusing on what roles you are applying for, you are looking at your progress. You can colour code where you are in the recruitment process and make sure you know what companies you are still waiting to hear from so you don’t lose track.

Here is an example of how you could format this type of spreadsheet. In this example, red boxes show at what stage you are rejected from the job and green boxes show what stage you are waiting to hear back from.

Sarah Rourke (Careers Consultant) has also provided some helpful insights into applying early, “thinking ahead is vital when planning your career. Recruitment for roles often starts way earlier than you think so the earlier you start planning for it the better. And the earlier you start planning, the more easily you can ‘chunk down’ the task into smaller parts. Little and often is the key. Chip away at finding out more about roles you might like, understanding organisations better, and thinking about your competencies and strengths. If you approach the recruitment process this way, you’ll have done a great deal of the work before applications even open.”

Looking Towards the Future?

Whilst it is important and valuable to start looking at graduate schemes early in your final undergraduate year, it is also beneficial to start thinking about it from your first or second year at University, especially if you need work experience or a placement.

Many students panic that they don’t have time to think about their future alongside keeping up with academic work and any extra curricular activities. So, we can appreciate how difficult and intimidating it is to find time to organise your future. Firstly, try and break it down into little, do-able tasks, such as deciding what industries you might like to work in. Then, it is important to research how to get into those industries.

Prospects is a great resource because you can find roles, get careers advice, and most importantly, learn about jobs through their job profiles and sectors section. You can understand whether you need work experience, or how qualifications will help you get positions.

Making sure you are at the best possible place to apply to jobs you want in final year is about gaining academic knowledge and first-hand experience, so you want to be pushing yourself to gaining part-time work, work experience or a placement whilst at University.

Helen Slingsby (Career and Professional Development Coach) says, “recruiters do not expect candidates to know everything and be fully trained before they start a graduate job, but they do need to see potential. They want evidence that a candidate can take direction, show initiative, solve problems and contribute to a team. These attributes need to have been developed over time, hence the importance of starting to think about careers and grad jobs before your final year. The good news, however, is these attributes can be acquired from a vast array of places; your part-time job, through sport, writing a blog; as well as from industry-specific internships and year-long placements. The message is be active, get involved, look for opportunities and give things a go, that way you grow and become the raw talent employers desire.”

But remember the Careers Team are there to support you and help! Just make sure you are using their knowledge and assistance from the second you arrive at University to have the best possible chance at your ideal career pathway.