Most students find the journey to graduation quite exacting. Debts are mounting and the pressure of exams can often seem draining and above all that, after you finish, you don’t even know if you are going to get a job and even if you do, will it be with a good employer, or a very bad employer? You don’t want your first step on the career ladder to be a disaster, so there are some things to consider before you sign up with any company.
When looking for a job you may see that many organisations or newspapers, even internet providers compile various lists detailing the best companies to work for, where graduates can get the best deals and so on. Yet how can graduates really know which is a good company to work for and which is a bad company?
Well the first thing to bear in mind is that some of the ‘lists’ that you see may be compiled by bodies that have a vested interest in promoting a particular company. So they may not be unbiased! Also, many of the companies that appeared in various ‘Good Company Guides’ were associated with the financial sector and as a result of the recession, many have simply disappeared. So they may have appeared in 2008 guides, but have not changed into bad employers: they have simply ceased trading!
Even those such as KPMG (although an international firm, it was listed in the UK Sunday Times’ famous list of ‘Best Companies to Work for 2008’) may have been a model company in 2008 but after the financial crises that followed some employees found that the work environment changed. Firms that had been able to offer graduates really secure employment now find that they are simply unable to do this, because they simply do not know what the future will bring. So whenever you come across a new survey/report or list purporting to tell graduates which are the best company to work for, treat it with caution: what was true today may not be true tomorrow!
Graduates also need to be aware that all this uncertainty has made competition in the employment field very fierce and they may find that every position attracts a whole host of candidates. It may be worth racking up some experience before approaching companies that you perceive as being good. Or you may even want to think about whether or not the company is financially secure and can offer security.
One of the traditionally renowned ‘best’ companies for graduates to work for was the Britannia Building Society based in England. The Britannia was a Building Society and looked financially well placed to withstand the financial crises of late 2008 and early 2009. It was ranked as one of the top 5 UK companies to work for in 2008, according to the Sunday Times newspaper: but early in 2009 it announced that it was to merge with another financial institution and rumours are now rife about job cuts and redundancy.
The moral of the tale is never to assume that because a company is desirable one year that this will still be the case next year. Times move on, personnel change and cultures/environments change. So there are no hard and fast ‘good’ companies.
However, according to the not for profit organisation, the ‘Great Place to Work Institute UK’ the most desirable company to work for in the UK in the year 2008 was…. Google! UK based, but not UK owned, nor it would seem, with a UK approach to work.
Less corporate or globalised companies making it onto the same Institute’s list include Asthma UK, proving that UK companies can be a desirable place to work. But the first two on the list are both international companies, not UK based, or UK owned companies.
So what makes a good company to work for? Well there are no hard and fast rules. If you are a person who thrives in a large, corporate environment then you are going to feel pretty unfulfilled working in a small office where all power rests in the hands of the Managing Director. But others may relish the opportunity to work in a small and almost intimate work setting.
There are, however, some general rules that companies apply in order to set them apart from the rest. Companies like the Britannia or the Co-Operative ‘Group’ etc have long since adopted ethical stances on issues such as treating workers fairly, ensuring they adopt positive community profiles etc. They view workers as valuable assets. The happier workers are the more likely they are to stay and they will play fair when it comes to time off sick or medical appointments etc. Graduates generally find that an environment where their input is valued and appreciated and they are given the opportunity to positively influence things can make a huge difference to work.
Studies into what constitutes a good company to work for in the UK also state that if employees (graduates particularly) have small freedoms then a company be seen as good, so if employees can move their desks, adjust lighting, influence decision making etc, then they will say they work for a good company.
Many companies, particularly the larger, international companies are keen to ensure that they are perceived as a good company and have made significant steps towards achieving a good balance between financial survival and ensuring employees are kept happy. This mainly relies on working practices that are based on people not necessarily working harder, but certainly working smarter and perhaps having greater freedom to work from home, or come into the office when they feel like working etc. However, some UK firms have still to adopt this approach, but hopefully the benefits will be seen and this kind of philosophy will start to permeate throughout the workplace as a whole, dependent on the economy picking up again.
So the whole picture is not as it was even 6 months ago, but there are good companies out there and you can find them if you research companies prior to interview and ensure that you ask relevant and appropriate questions at interview: but remember these are difficult times and competition will be fierce!
Internships are short-term work placements (often between 4-10 weeks during the summer) which tend to centre on a student’s academic background. This experience can be both full / part time.
Advantages of internships:
- Allows you to determine if an industry / profession is your preferred career option.
- Experience gained from internships can provide a much-needed “foot-in-the-door”.
- Gain experience of different working cultures.
- Acquire useful networking contacts.
- Expand / develop your transferable skills (such as communication skills).
- Increase your confidence and discover your strengths / weaknesses.
- Increase your chances of employment following graduation due to your experience.
Disadvantages of internships:
- Internships often have a lot of competition for places and require you to make applications months before – good planning is essential.