It can sometimes feel like your university career is about nothing more than choosing which graduate scheme you should apply for at the end.

It’s true that graduate schemes can be great (we run one, maybe we’re biased?) but the truth is they’re not right for everyone. And, to be frank, there aren’t enough spaces on schemes to go around — especially not in the charity sector.

So, what are the advantages that graduate schemes offer? Are they the only way to get ahead in the third sector?

At Worthwhile, we talk about being ‘Opportunity Sticky’. This means being able to find and secure great roles throughout your career. We think there a couple of things that set you up to be ‘sticky’ when you’re starting out:

  • Stretching roles early in your career
  • High quality training
  • Support through good management and mentoring
  • A wide professional network

This combination offers you three things: a high chance of promising opportunities coming your way, the experience to secure the roles you want, and the skills and support to thrive once you’re on the job.

Graduate schemes aim to offer these things by default. You’re usually guaranteed a challenging role alongside a structured training programme. Managers with candidates going through graduate schemes are supported to provide great management, plus schemes often offer coaching and mentoring to supplement this. Not only that, the cohort of peers you move through the scheme with, plus any alumni of the scheme, become a ready made network when you finish. All providing you a fantastic baseline for becoming ‘opportunity sticky’.

A Worthwhile training session

Graduate schemes have their downside though. Most notably, your salary will be less than if you did the same job not on a graduate scheme. There is a cost to guaranteeing you interesting roles, providing training, mentoring and coaching. While employers will cover some of that cost themselves, there will be an impact on your pay packet. If you can find a role that offers most of these things and can secure the rest through your own networks, you might decide a graduate scheme isn’t the best option for you.

This is why at Worthwhile we offer two routes into roles. We have a full graduate scheme path that promises an interesting job alongside 17 days of training throughout the year as a part of a cohort. Plus, we also offer a straightforward recruitment only path matching up great graduates to great organisations, often paid a slightly higher salary. There is no one answer for whether a graduate scheme is the right option. But with full information, and having thought through your alternatives, you can figure out the best next step for you.

Find out more about starting your career with Worthwhile.

This blog was adapted from one originally published at