3 steps to making the most of the graduate route

It is an exciting time for international students! If you are graduating from this summer, you will be able to apply for the new graduate route, to stay in the UK and work or look for work for two years, or three years if you have a PhD.

The main benefit of this route over the skilled worker route is that you do not need an employer to sponsor you. We expect the government to publish full details on how to apply for the route very soon. In the meantime here are 3 steps you can take now to make the most of this opportunity.

Step One – Clarify your goals

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Do you want to work in the UK for the longer term, say 5 years, perhaps more? Or do you prefer to get some shorter-term experience here, before returning to your home country, or working elsewhere in the world?

Staying short-term

If you only want to work in the UK for a couple of years, you don’t need to worry about sponsorship anymore – you can simply apply for the graduate route!

Bookmark this page on UKCISA’s website to access information on how to apply to the graduate scheme when it is released (we hope soon!).

Staying long-term

If you want to stay in the UK long-term, look for a sponsored job through the skilled worker visa. Register for Student Circus – the UK graduate schemes and jobs on this website are all ones that employers have confirmed they will sponsor

The graduate route gives you more time

  • If you haven’t secured a sponsored job before your student visa expires, you can apply to the graduate route, start working for an employer, and then apply to continue working for them on the skilled worker visa – as long as the necessary criteria are met
  • You also have further chances to apply to sponsored graduate schemes, which tend to open every Autumn (see our international student timeline for getting a job in the UK).

Remember, some employers may not be fully familiar with the graduate route, or the skilled worker visa. For the skilled worker visa, employers need a licence to sponsor, and the job you are applying to needs to fulfil certain criteria to be one they are able to sponsor.  It’s important to educate yourself so that you can explain these rules to employers if necessary. To help with this, watch our 10-minute Intro: Get a job in the UK – your visa options.

Step Two – Identify your value

Pascal-Laurent on Pixabay

As an international student you have a lot to offer UK employers. You have gained subject-specialist knowledge from your degree(s), and important skills from work experience (including volunteering) in your home country, and hopefully the UK. If you haven’t got UK work experience yet, it’s helpful if you can gain some. View our Intro: Finding work experience and internships in the UK and find out about our SME internship scheme.

Most importantly, you will have a global mindset, cultural knowledge and often language skills such as Mandarin or Arabic, that are in high demand. This can help you stand out. Watch our Intro Communicating your value  and reflect on the skills, knowledge and experience you have as an international student who has studied in the UK.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Step Three –  Adopt a targeted job search strategy

Research employers who will value what you have to offer

Consider this story for example: an Indian student taking an MEng in Aerospace Engineering focuses on contacting aerospace employers who see India as an important strategic partner. She discovers that the UK India Business Council has published Advocating Business Success in 2020, which highlights the founding members of a new Aerospace and Defence Industry Group, launched to “support and build on the huge opportunities for collaboration that exist between the defence industries of the UK and India”.  This gives her a target list of employers as well as important commercial context she can reference, to stand out in her applications and at interview.

To find UK employers who are likely to value your home country knowledge, start with finding the membership organisations relevant to you. Search the name of your home country, or wider region, and add “UK” and “business membership” or “Chamber of Commerce” to find their website(s). Then, familiarise yourself with their membership lists and sector reports.

Don’t just limit yourself to well-known, larger employers – in the UK, over 99% of employers are SMEs (small or medium sized enterprises employing fewer than 250 people). SMEs are often able to recruit more flexibly and may give you a greater range of experience and responsibility than a larger employer.

Find advertised jobs – or access the hidden job market

You may find your target employers are advertising roles through Student Circus or on their websites. If they aren’t, consider approaching them speculatively: this can lead to employers hiring you in what is known as “the hidden job market”. Send a cover letter and tailored CV demonstrating the value you believe you can bring, and follow up with a phone call to see if you can arrange an exploratory meeting. Watch our Intro: Effective job searching – networking to find out more about this approach.

If you follow these 3 steps, you will greatly increase your chances of securing high skilled work in the UK, in the career direction you are most inspired to pursue.

Further information and support