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Finding a job in the UK: A timeline for international students

Trying to find a job in the UK can be daunting as an international student. Aside from visa requirements and sponsorship, knowing how and when to apply for a role is your first hurdle. That’s where we come in with our handy guide to finding a role in the UK. From volunteering to paid graduate roles, we’ve found the best time of year to apply for these roles and what they can offer you in return. So, what jobs can you apply for?


Some courses will have a compulsory or optional work placement. Yours may be allocated by the university, if not, this is a good opportunity to find a company you would like a trial at yourself. Visit your university’s careers team and ask for their advice, they will have details for available placements and how to secure a role.

When should you apply?

These roles can be applied for all year round.


An internship while studying or after graduation can be used to gain further knowledge and hands on experience in a company before starting your career. Research companies you would like to work for and speak to your university’s careers team for advice. Don’t forget that most institutions also provide free advice to alumni, so make the most of their careers knowledge while you can. Internships can last from a few weeks to months depending on the company and often take place during the summer, which works well around university commitments. These roles are perfect to start networking in your industry and show your talent early on, in some cases internships can lead to full time employment after graduation.

When should you apply?

For a summer internship, apply during the Autumn term for the following academic year. Other short internship roles may be found at other times in the year.

Work experience and volunteering

This section covers any other work you do which gives you experience. This may be unpaid, but don’t write off the benefits of such roles. They can give you crucial commercial awareness and industry expertise. Again, research is key to finding a role that can give you as much value as the effort you’re putting in. As long as volunteering doesn’t distract from your studies, it can help you understand your industry and discover where your talents lie.

When should you apply?

A proactive approach is generally needed for work experience, where you would contact the employer directly. In terms of volunteering, some companies may have set recruitment times for volunteers but the best way to find out about these opportunities is to check the website and make contact for further information as many roles are advertised throughout the year.

The hidden job market

This covers roles that are not advertised via the usual avenues, for example smaller companies or media roles. For this market, you need to be socially savvy and a practical networker to remove the hidden aspect. Build relationships with people in the industry through your LinkedIn account, careers events and other networking opportunities. The key here is to be bold when showcasing your own skills and make contact with employers directly. Some smaller companies prefer not to advertise, but by finding these opportunities yourself you will have less competition which is good news in our books! These roles can also be found by recommendations (which is why networking is key) and we suggest signing up for job alerts so the vacancies come right to you! Practice your elevator pitch to make the best impression on these companies.

When should you apply?

Due to the nature of these roles, anytime. You might be contacting a team because you have heard they are hiring or even before a role is created, but it means that with a great CV they can get in touch with you when the right job comes up.

Ad hoc graduate jobs

These are graduate jobs that are advertised in a less formal manner than a traditional graduate scheme. Some of these roles may be useful as a precursor role, so applying as an assistant to get experience before applying to a Graduate scheme or similar the following year.

When should you apply?

These roles are posted throughout the year so start looking throughout your final year of study.

Graduate schemes

Graduate schemes are structured and combine working and training. What sets these roles apart from a graduate job, is that the training period can last for a year or longer and will usually lead to a permanent positon. Some schemes will give you experience from a few departments before you settle in your career role, but a number of these roles let you get stuck into your new career right away. You will need to complete an online application rather than a CV, followed by additional testing at an assessment centre before the formal interviews. It can be a long process, but the outcome in rewarding!

When should you apply?

Start researching companies and roles anytime. It’s never too early to start looking at which companies provide the best schemes and can sponsor an international student. This is where networking can be key to finding a new role. The general rule of thumb is to start applying for schemes from September to start working the following September, but check each company as some run on a January intake.

International student checklist

  • Try to find some work experience or an internship to stand out from the crowd and impress your employer. Check if there are any working restrictions on your visa, a Tier 4 student visa can usually work up to 20 hours during term time but this can be different for certain courses.
  • Stay organised, finding suitable companies and schemes can take time but by being ahead of the game you can ensure you apply in good time
  • Ensure you get confirmation of a graduate job before your visa expires.


These tips are for working within the UK, so don’t forget that global roles will have their own timeline to follow. For our free global jobs board and more careers advice register with GradLink today! 

By Jen Garmston Published: November 14, 2017


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