Why it’s Ok to Say No to Grad Schemes


Let’s face it: life for grads is tough.

The number of industries out there is massive. And the competition for each job is daunting. The toughest part for me wasn’t the actual job applications, it was knowing WHAT to apply for and HOW to find alternative jobs to apply to.
I was swept along in the ‘career talks’ from my university, and felt obliged to apply for grad schemes. So, I was a sheep and followed my English Literature mates into the world of advertising. But it wasn’t my dream, and from day 1 – I knew I didn’t love it.
It cost me 5 years of stress – and the need for a sabbatical (at the age of 26!) – to find a whole load of other options out there.

You don’t need to follow the herd into a corporate job, if you don’t want to.

Before I go into ways you can work for yourself, I’m not rubbishing corporate jobs! There are obviously a lot of pros from working in big corporations (reputation, CV building, salary, benefits, training, a helping hand in a job etc.) – but they aren’t for everyone.


And now I work for myself…

  • I have a better work-life balance
  • I have control of my hours and my finances (which means I now get paid for working overtime!)
  • I’m learning more than ever before


So if the thought of working in a big corporation fills you with dread, here are a few alternative jobs that you can do instead…


1. Freelance remotely

If you’re looking to kickstart a creative career, or earn some extra money on the side – check out freelancer websites like Upwork, Freelancer & Fiverr.
Start small to build your profile – and your rates and confidence will grow as you gain experience.
As an English Literature graduate, I pitched myself as a virtual assistant, transcriber, copywriter and social media manager. My rates were low to start with, but after a few jobs (and good reviews), they increased from £5 to £25 per hour.
Plus – rates increase if you’re an ‘expert’ in something, so it can be useful to find a few courses to teach yourself specific skills. If you’re naturally good at something – make the most of the ‘University of Google’, and teach yourself. For example, if you have lots of followers on Instagram, you could teach yourself social media marketing.



2. Set up your own brand

If you’re entrepreneurial in spirit, it can be frustrating going into a big corporation at the bottom and doing a lot of admin.
Setting up your own brand will require a lot of hard work, dedication, and proactivity – but if you’re an independent cookie, you’ll find it super rewarding. And at least you won’t get bogged down by any office hierarchies.
You’ll need to have a good idea (some ideas might require some money to get started) – and then just go for it!
Here are some useful courses to help get your business going:

  • Google Squared – focusing on the fundamentals of PPC, SEO and online advertising
  • Google Adwords Qualification – about how AdWords can achieve advertising goals.
  • The Prince’s Trust offer a young entrepreneurial scheme where you’ll get a mentor, to help you develop your business plan and possibly secure funding.



3. Be a blogger

It amazes me how much money you can make in the blogging industry! If you’ve got a passion, and like writing, give it a go. It’s a good idea to pick a niche, so there’s not as much competition for content.
Once you’ve built your community who trust your opinions, then you can start to make money from your blog in your sleep. Here are three ways:

  • Run ads on your site (through Google Adsense or Mediavine)
  • Affiliate marketing: if you promote a product on your blog, you can earn commission from every sale made. For example, brands like Amazon, ASOS, hostelworld, and booking.com (plus loads more) have affiliate programs you can join.
  • Sell a product. For example, if you have a food blog, you could write & sell a recipe eBook. Or if you’re a travel blogger, you could sell a course teaching people how to take the best photos with an iPhone.

But remember – blogs don’t become profitable overnight. It takes time for Google to recognise your site, and for you to build your community. And you need to understand SEO, so you get as much organic traffic as possible.



4. Take a ‘gap year’ – or even a ‘gap-few-months’

It’s OK to not know what to do! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to work – so try not to feel pressurised to make a choice immediately. Some time away might help you work it out – and you could even learn a new language.
Plus – it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can work for free with companies like Workaway (where you trade skills for accommodation). Or you can use the freelancer sites I mentioned earlier  (Upwork, Freelancer & Fiverr) to earn a little cash along the way.



Whichever route you go down, it doesn’t have to be for life. The internet has revolutionised the world of work. There’s never been such easy access to learn new skills, and find new jobs.

The world (of work) is your oyster – so get out there and make the most of it!



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Harriet Simonis

SEO & Content Marketing Consultant | Travel Blogger

A 20-something British chica travelling the world, writing content for small businesses.

Check out her blog Hats Off and follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook!