Final year students and graduates
Careers help for graduates
Finishing university can be a very exciting time for many students and marks the start of a new stage in your life. However, this isn’t the end. Your relationship with Solent, and the support we provide, doesn’t all stop when you finish your course. It’s only just beginning. You will always be a part of us.
"Solent Futures is great for someone in their final year as they provide ongoing support in finding a graduate job perfect for you (during your busiest period) and ensure your employability skills are perfected before you enter the world of work."
Ilyana, final year student 2021
This information has been put together by Solent University and is designed to help you on your transition from being a student to a graduate. We will explain what happens next, what you need to do and how we will continue to help you to be work-ready, world-ready and future-ready.
Is there anything you’d like to see added? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know where to look
Most graduate jobs are advertised via online job boards such as Solent Futures Online or company recruitment web pages. Some professions have specialist sites. Jobs are also increasingly advertised on social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
National graduate schemes
It’s never too early to start your job search in your final year as some national graduate schemes have deadlines as early as October. Many (but not all) of these require a minimum of a 2:1 to apply. Some also have a UCAS points minimum requirement.
Work in other regions
Check regional graduate job sites and other university careers services for employment and internships:
- East Anglia - https://uk.jobted.com/jobs-essex
- Midlands - www.graduateadvantage.co.uk
- North East - www.graduatesyorkshire.co.uk
- South West - www.gradsouthwest.com
Using recruitment agencies
Many graduates find work through recruitment agencies. You should approach them in a professional manner, as if you were approaching a company directly for work.
A few points to keep in mind:
- Use the Recruitment and Employment Confederation to identify reliable agencies
- You should not be charged by the agency for finding you work. However, some agencies will charge for training
- Specify what companies you don’t want them to contact, eg, your current employer
- Make sure the agencies you contact are appropriate for your skill level.
To work in most countries in Europe you will not need a work permit and you may have the same rights as their nationals. For other countries you will need to check their individual requirements. To find out more about working abroad and for sources of job opportunities, take a look at:
- Prospects - Working abroad
- Target Jobs - Working abroad
- LinkedIn Jobs (use the location search)
Erasmus+ work placement programme
Depending on the availability of funding and provided you fulfil the eligibility requirements, you may be entitled to some funding under the EU-funded Erasmus+ work placement programme. To be eligible, the placement must be either a credited part of your degree, or a graduate internship. Eligible students can receive 470-520 Euros a month while working abroad in Europe. Please contact email@example.com do discuss the possibility of Erasmus+ funding to support you on your graduate internship.
Make speculative applications
- Use the job sectors section in Prospects, and information on professional association sites to find out about what is going on in your particular area of work.
- Are you considering both private and public sector employers?
- Consider using social media to investigate employers and find 'hidden' opportunities.
- Focus your efforts on the organisations that interest you the most. Ten quality speculative applications will generally yield better results than making 100 general, unfocussed applications.
Apprenticeships offer you the opportunity to work and earn while working towards recognised qualifications. Search for opportunities on the GOV.UK apprenticeships pages.
Finally the Office for Students (OfS) has produced a Graduate Employment and Skills Guide for 2021 graduates at the start of their career journey.
Postgraduate study opportunities including teaching
A postgraduate degree refers to a range of qualifications that require an undergraduate degree to gain entry, these include courses such as Master's and PhDs. A postgraduate course is more than just a qualification.
“Studying a postgraduate course improved my confidence and gave me a professional mindset.”
Solent University offers over 40 postgraduate courses, so we’re bound to have something for you to progress onto. You can find out more about postgraduate study and the courses available at Solent on the website.
As a graduate of the University and a member of our alumni community, you are eligible for up to a 50% discount in tuition fees on a postgraduate course, depending on your degree classification. Click here for more information on discounts offered by Solent.
We also offer a variety of professional and part-time courses accredited by recognised industry bodies such as CIM, CISCO and PRINCE2. These can be studied as a stepping-stone to enter a new industry, or to boost your knowledge to progress in your career. More information is available on the website.
Loans are available for both taught and research master’s programmes (MA, MSc, MBA, MREs, LLM and MPhil) and cover all subject areas. Eligible postgraduate students can take out a loan from Student Finance England to help them pay for their accommodation and tuition fees during their studies. More information can be found on the gov.uk site.
Postgraduate loans are not available for postgraduate certificates or postgraduate diplomas. You cannot apply for a loan if you already have gained a qualification at master's (or higher) level. You then repay your Postgraduate Loan at the same time as any other student loans you may have.
The repayment plan that applies to postgraduate loans compared to undergraduate loans differs slightly. You start repaying the loan when your annual income is over £21,000 and pay back 6% of your income over the minimum threshold.
Further information can be found on the Student Loan Repayment page.
Get into teaching
Many Solent final year students and graduates move into a career in teaching. The Get into Teaching website is a good place to start. It tells you what it is like to teach, details the support you can get while training, and what salary you could expect to earn.
The Teaching and Education section of the TARGET jobs website has been broken down into bite-sized, easy-to-digest articles covering all aspects of the application process. There is also a link to current job vacancies.
Starting your own business
The Enterprise Team in Solent Futures provides inspiration, information, advice and guidance to enterprising Solent students and graduates. We recognise that, in many subject areas, freelancing or starting a business are important and rewarding career paths.
If you have business start up ideas, or if you have plans to work freelance, take a look at our pages providing information about the enterprise services and support available, including opportunities to pitch for funding from Solent University (up to three years after graduation).
Careers advice - for life!
Solent Futures has a commitment to continue to support students when they finish their studies and after graduation. The services offered by the team include one-to-one advice and guidance, continued access to Solent Futures Online, and access to a large employer network through our jobs board.
If you would like advice on your career options and opportunities, or just need some help with CV writing or interview techniques, there are a number of tools that you may find useful, including Solent’s CV and application guide.
You may have used Solent Futures Online when you were a student. Solent Futures Online is the careers and jobs website designed specifically for Solent's students and graduates. Why not use Solent Futures Online to:
- Sign up for job alerts and apply for graduate positions
- Take self-assessments for career development
- Use CV 360
- Use Interview 360 If you do not have access to this platform already, please click here to complete a form to get access as a graduate.
Not sure what sector to apply to? You could try the Prospects career planner quiz to match your skills to a number of careers, or why not take this strengths quiz on Solent Futures Online to give you some ideas.
Stay in touch
You can contact the team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Why not join our LinkedIn group to stay in touch and get updates about upcoming Solent Futures events.
Final year students need to update their details before they leave university to get continued access to Solent Futures Online - do this today!
Advice for international graduates
Wondering what your next steps are after graduating?
There are many options available to you after graduation, more than you may think.
The best place to start is the UK Council for International Student Affairs where you will find jargon free explanation of visa after study available to you.
We have created an information page for international students and graduates and you can also get in touch with the International Support Team here at Solent University. The international team can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
Share your success - Graduate Outcomes
We want to celebrate your achievements and in 15 months we will ask about your successes as part of the Graduate Outcomes Survey.
We want to know what you are doing since leaving. Freelancing, running your own business, postgraduate study or your first job, we will want to know. Shout about your success and tell us what you are most proud of since finishing your course.
The Graduate Outcomes survey is a national survey capturing information about the activities and perspectives of students 15 months after they finish their studies. As well as celebrating your successes and helping our current students understand their future careers, the survey is also of national significance as it allows policy makers, charities, journalists, researchers and others to understand the higher education sector and the state of the graduate labour market.
Training and development
We’ve put together some top resources you can use to develop your skills online. Continuing personal and professional development demonstrates enthusiasm and positive action to potential employers.
- Solent Futures Online for courses on Microsoft: Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Outlook; presenting and project management
- Grammar and punctuation
- OpenLearn - free online courses from the Open University
- FutureLearn - free online courses from a variety of providers/universities
- LinkedIn Learning - thousands of short courses, currently offering one-month trial
- Coursera - free online courses from a variety of universities and employers
- Udemy - type 'free' into the search bar to generate list of any free courses on offer
- For more websites offering online courses, check out the website My World of Work.
Your alumni community
When you graduate, you become part of the Solent alumni community. Our alumni community is made up of over 75,000 talented individuals just like you.
Alum, alumna, alumnus, alumni and alumnae. Are you confused?
The words used for people who graduate or are a former student of an educational institution come from Latin. There's a few of them thanks to Latin grammar, just to make things a little harder to understand. Here's a quick guide to help you:
- Alumnus - A single former male student.
- Alumna - A single former female student.
- Alumni - A group of former students.
- Alumnae - A group of former female students.
- Alum - An informal term for a single former student.
As a part of our global alumni community, you can take advantage of a range of benefits, including:
- Up to a 50% reduction on postgraduate tuition fees
- Free library access
- Career advice and business support services for life
- Exclusive events
- Alumni newsletter
- Free alumni ID card.
You can find out more on our website.
Stay connected, stay Solent for life
Moved house, new job, or changed your email address? Let us know any changes to your contact details online.
Join your online community and network now.
- Like our page on Facebook
- Follow us on Instagram
- Follow us on Twitter
- Join our alumni group on LinkedIn
You may decide you would like to take some time out to travel and undertake work experience in the UK or abroad. You may just want to have some fun. Whatever you do, make sure you develop skills, abilities and experiences that will enhance your career prospects.
Future employers will expect you to have made good use of your time out. Even if you ‘just travel’ during your gap year, you will develop maturity and independence, increase your self-awareness, and potentially discover new career options too.
Here are some tips and ideas to consider during your time out:
- Consider registering with an employment agency to do temp work.
- Gain voluntary work experience in the UK or abroad.
- Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is a popular option. See below for a bit more info about this.
- Don’t get taken advantage of. Research any gap year provider carefully.
- Consider the basics – what, where and when, as well as how much and why.
- A gap year does not have to be abroad and isn’t always a whole year.
- Plan your time carefully to ensure you make the most of it.
- If you are considering working overseas, make sure you check out any visa requirements or work restrictions first.
- Check out the range of gap year ideas and suggestions on prospects.ac.uk.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
With a TEFL qualification you could find work with a language school in the UK or teach English abroad. Some organisations offer exchange teaching programmes. Opportunities can be found in Japan, China, the Far East, Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe, as well as Spain, Italy and Germany. A lot of people use TEFL to fund their gap year travel.
If you are keen to find paid work while you travel, a good starting point for identifying vacancies is the working abroad section on prospects.ac.uk. These articles include information about each country’s job market, and tips on finding work experience, as well as advice about visa and immigration issues.
If you are interested in working your way across the world have a look at www.workaway.info which matches volunteers to hosts.
How to understand the world of work
There are a range of different contract types and employer responsibilities that come with each type of contract.
Freelancers, consultants and contractors
- You are self-employed or are part of other companies
- You will need to look after your own tax and NICs
You may not be entitled to the same rights as workers, eg, minimum wage. Employment law doesn’t cover self-employed people in most cases because they are their own boss. However, if a person is self-employed:
- they still have protection for their health and safety and, in some cases, protection against discrimination;
- their rights and responsibilities are set out by the terms of the contract they have with their client.
Find out more about how Solent supports graduates who work as freelancers or plan to start their own business.
Negotiating salary - the first offer is not always the only offer
Many graduate jobs are advertised without a specific salary. Find out what the range is for the type of role you are going for – through friends, LinkedIn contacts, or other similar jobs being advertised. If you are offered a job you will usually be given the specific salary at the same time.
Do you think the offer doesn’t match the sector, or take into account your skills and experience? Commercial employers often have some scope for improving a salary offer. Be polite and explain why you think the offer should be improved (and not just, I want more money!). Remember that future raises are usually based on your starting salary. You should also consider other aspects of compensation – a shorter commute could compensate for a lower salary, for example.
Solent Futures Online has e-learning resources about negotiating salary.
Understanding your payslip
Check your payslip each month – it is easy to forget if you receive it electronically, but it is vital that you do. If there is a mistake in your favour you might have to make up the money at a later time.
Other Items that are likely to appear on your payslip can include your personal information, the date, court orders and child maintenance, sick pay, maternity/paternity and adoption pay, other deductions, a summary of your year to date, net pay and lastly any important messages that your employer wants to deliver.
Tax and National Insurance information
General information you need to know
Tax rates undergo regular changes, often yearly, so information is not consistently relevant or reliable. There are two main taxes that are directly applicable to all workers. These are Income Tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs).
How do you pay Income Tax and National Insurance?
The way you pay your Income Tax and National Insurance contributions is largely dependent on whether you’re employed or self-employed.
If you are employed by a business, company or organization, it is likely that your Income Tax and National Insurance contributions will be deducted from salary or wages before it is paid to them, through the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) system.
If you are self-employed then it is likely you will pay your Income Tax and National Insurance through self-assessment:
- If you are personally filling in your self-assessment tax returns, you can watch videos and webinars or contact HMRC for general enquiries.
- Self-assessment can be completed with the help of an accredited accountant.
- Help can be found on Gov.uk
Tax documents to be aware of
What is a P60?
Your P60 shows the tax you’ve paid on your salary in the tax year (6 April to 5 April). You get a separate P60 for each of your jobs.
You need your P60 to prove how much tax you’ve paid on your salary, for example:
- to claim back overpaid tax
- to apply for tax credits
- as proof of your income if you apply for a loan or a mortgage.
What is a P45?
You get a P45 from your employer when you stop working for them.
Your P45 shows how much tax you’ve paid on your salary so far in the tax year (6 April to 5 April).
A P45 has four parts (Part 1, Part 1A, Part 2 and Part 3).
- Your employer sends details for Part 1 to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and gives you the other parts.
- You give Part 2 and 3 to your new employer (or to Jobcentre Plus if you’re not working).
- Keep Part 1A for your own records.
Further information can be found on these websites:
- Self-employed tax and NICs information
- Self-assessment information
- Income Tax information
- National Insurance information
Once you reach your State Pension age you can start to claim your pension. However, you don’t have to retire or claim your State Pension at State Pension age, you can wait until you’re ready. You can check what your State Pension age will be, and in which year you’ll reach that qualifying age, on the Gov.uk website.
What you receive is dependent on your National Insurance record – this is how much National Insurance you have contributed over the years.
State pension is relevant to graduates as you will likely get a job where you’re earning enough money to start paying NI, which will then contribute to your state pension.
All employers are lawfully required to enrol all eligible employees into a workplace pension scheme as of 2018. Contributing to a workplace pension scheme will give you additional income on top of your state pension when you retire.
It doesn’t matter what kind of contract you’re on, if you meet the following criteria you should be automatically enrolled into your employer’s pension scheme:
- Aged between 22 years old and state pension age
- Earn more than £10,000 per year (If you earn less than £10,000, you can still request your employer to enrol you)
- Work in the UK.
More information can be found on gov.uk website.
Managing your money
Learn to budget
- Set a budget and stick to it.
- Budgeting will help you to clear your student overdraft and prevent overspending. It can also be a useful tool for saving money as well!
There are many useful budgeting tools that can be found on the internet and are free to use. Some examples include:
Why not try a free to use budgeting app, some examples are:
- YNAB (You Need A Budget)
- Wally Lite – Personal Finance
Minimum wage and the living wage
You are entitled to the National Minimum Wage which is published on the Gov.uk website.
Work experience and internships
You won’t get the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage if you’re:
- A volunteer or doing voluntary work
- On a government or European programme
- Work shadowing
Not entitled to the minimum wage
The following types of workers are not entitled to the minimum wage:
- Self-employed people running their own business
- Company directors
- Volunteers or voluntary workers
- Workers on a government employment programme, such as the Work Programme
- Members of the armed forces
- Notify your car insurer that you are no longer a student, and of any other changes. For instance, you must notify your car insurance provider if you use your car for commuting to work.
- You may be able to use a railcard to discount your train travel.
- Some employers offer interest free loans for annual travel cards or to purchase bicycles.
Graduate bank accounts
What will happen to your student account when you graduate?
Most student accounts will mature into graduate accounts on their own. However, many have criteria to achieve in order to qualify for their graduate account.
If you don’t meet the criteria, your student account will be converted to a standard current account upon completion of your course. If you cannot meet the criteria for a graduate account speak to your bank about your options.
What to think about when looking for and opening a graduate account
- Don’t be loyal to the bank you held your student account with.
- Get the best 0% overdraft possible.
- Graduate accounts aren’t just for new graduates.
- Never go over your overdraft limit.
- If you’re likely to be in credit, choose a bank offering good interest rates.
Examples of good graduate bank accounts can be found on the Money Saving Expert website.
All things money
You may have seen Martin Lewis on telly. His MoneySavingExpert website covers everything from budget planning to going on holiday. It is impartial and worth a look.
Student loan repayment information
You don’t start repayments until the April after graduation and once you start earning over £26,575 per year. After 30 years any outstanding student debt is written off.
How do you repay your loan if you’re employed?
Your student loan repayments are deducted from your pay by your employer.
How do you repay your loan if you’re self-employed?
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will work out how much you pay from your tax return.
You pay at the same time as you pay your tax.
How do you repay your loan if you work abroad?
The rules are the same if you work for a UK employer abroad. If you work for an overseas employer, your repayments are based on either:
If you go abroad for more than three months, you must complete an overseas income assessment form to:
- Estimate your income for the next 12 months.
- Provide your bank details so you can pay by Direct Debit.
- The Student Loans Company will work out whether you have to repay and how much.
- You’ll have to complete the income assessment form every year you’re abroad.
How does the interest work?
The Interest added depends on what you earn. Student loan interest rates are based on the RPI of inflation (the rate at which prices rise). Whilst studying, until the April following graduation, you’re charged RPI + 3%. After that it depends on your annual earnings:
|Your annual income||Interest rate|
|£26,575 or less||RPI (currently 2.4%)|
|£26,576 to £47,835||RPI (currently 2.4%), plus up to 3%|
|Over £47,835||RPI (currently 2.4%), plus 3%|
The interest rate changes every September. You will be charged interest from the day your first payment is made until your loan is repaid in full. Interest is added to the total amount you owe, every month. This is based on the RPI rate of inflation in the year up to the previous March. The interest rate doesn’t change what you repay each year. The interest is paid off with your standard payments or if you choose to overpay your student loan to clear it quicker.
Will overpaying actually make any difference?
For overpayments to have any impact you need to repay enough to lower the amount you repay within the 30 year period.
It is essentially throwing away money unless you pay a large enough sum to make a noticeable difference. Only overpay if you are:
- A high earner, likely to clear the loan and interest, in less than 30 years.
- Someone overpaying a very large lump sum, which will radically reduce the amount owed, so you can clear it within the 30 years or even clear it entirely straightaway.
Extra information can be found at:
Other support and benefits
If you are not moving straight into work when you finish your studies then you may need to apply for benefits while you think through your options and next steps. Graduates may start claiming state benefits after they finish their final term of study in their final year.
Some of the main benefits are listed below:
- Universal Credit (UC) - can be claimed by those on low income or out of work.
- Child Benefit - if you’re responsible for one or more children under 16 (or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training).
- Tax credits - HMRC looks at your income from the previous tax year how many hours you work and whether you’re part of a couple.
Full information on state benefits can be found on the gov.uk website.
Your local welfare rights unit or Citizens Advice office should be able to give you information about any benefits you may be entitled to receive.
- The Southampton City Council welfare rights and money advice service can help with a range of issues and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Information on a range of benefits and tax credits can be found on the Citizens Advice website or the Gov.uk website.
Financial help if you’re disabled
There is a wide range of disability-related financial support, including benefits, tax credits, payments, grants and concessions.
The main disability and sickness benefits are:
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Attendance Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance.
More information is available here.
Useful information to know if you’re disabled
The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from disability-related discrimination, harassment and victimisation. It also restricts the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health.
The law aims to protect a person with a disability from being discriminated against in the selection process. At the same time it aims to protect and provide reasonable assistance to those who choose to disclose.
- Once a disability has been disclosed, it should be kept confidential by the employer unless the employee has made it clear they are happy for the information to be shared or unless the disability is obvious.
- You must disclose a disability or health condition when it might pose a risk at work to yourself or others.
- You may also need to disclose if you require reasonable adjustments. Employers can’t be held liable for not making reasonable adjustments if the candidate/employee doesn’t disclose their disability.
- Timing of disclosure is important. Disclosing a disability prior to interview stage can be useful information for the interview itself. Disabilities can be disclosed at job offer stage too so employers can consider reasonable adjustments. However, disclosing a disability once in the post can be too late. If you were to suffer discrimination at this stage, you may not have a legal case as your employed can rightly claim they were not informed of your disability.
Reasonable adjustments are changes to the work environment that allow people with disabilities to work safely and productively.
Employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren’t substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs. A few examples of reasonable adjustments can be having access to assistive technology, physical adaptations to the working area, adjusting working patterns or adjusting the premises. These can be discussed and agreed directly with your employer. Some of these adjustments can costs (although some are free) but they are a worthwhile investment as it will mean the employee requiring the adjustment will be more proficient.
Law forbids employers from making disabled workers pay for any reasonable adjustments. The employer may be able to use an existing equipment or training budget. In any event the returns made by increasing productivity and reducing days lost to sickness often far exceed the initial costs incurred.
Access to Work scheme
If the help you need at work is not covered by your employer making reasonable adjustments, you may be able to get help from Access to Work.
Looking for work if you’re disabled
When you’re looking for work, look on adverts and application forms for the Disability Confident symbol.
This symbol means:
- The employer is committed to employing disabled people.
- You’ll be guaranteed an interview if you meet the basic conditions for the job
Mental health support services
Transitioning from student life to the world of work can be challenging. This short YouTube video discusses some of the issues graduates have encountered.
If you’re experiencing mental health problems or need support, there are many places you can go to for help:
Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
The Samaritans provides confidential, non-judgmental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face.
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday)
Web site: www.mind.org.uk/help/advice_lines
Mind provides confidential mental health information services. Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental distress, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind has around 140 local Minds providing local mental health services.
Telephone: 0808 808 4994 (11am-11pm, free to call)
Crisis Text Helpline: Text THEMIX to 85258
The Mix provides judgement-free information and support to young people aged 13-25 on a range of issues including mental health problems. Young people can access the The Mix’s support via phone, peer to peer and counselling services.
Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line
Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am - 4pm Monday to Friday)
This advice line provides expert advice and information to people with mental health problems and those who care for them, as well as giving help to health professionals, employers and staff. Rethink also runs Rethink services and groups across England and Northern Ireland.
The NHS has produced a series of self help guides which cover a range of mental health issues.
The information on this page is based on the information available at the time of writing. However, such information is subject to change, often with very little notice. While care has been taken to ensure that all information is correct, Solent University does not accept responsibility for errors, omissions or inaccuracies. We are not responsible for the content of external websites and do not endorse any content or individual bodies.