Graduate recruitment programmes are run by employers who want to secure the best and brightest talent from universities around the world.

Programmes usually focus on exposing graduates to numerous parts of the business (although this is not always the case) and giving them the opportunity to move and grow within the organisation.

The benefits for the employers are significant as many graduates go on to become strong leaders.

It is a two-way street, though.

Just as organisations are finding the best graduates for their staffing programmes, graduates should be identifying the best employer for themselves.

They should apply the same level of rigour to their selection of an employer as they would do to the selection of their qualifications or the level of research they would do as part of their coursework.

Research the employer

So what can graduates to do to ensure they are ready for their new careers?

At a bare minimum, research the employer:

•   What are the company’s achievements in the past 12 to 18 months?

•   Has the company expanded or contracted, have there been any mergers or acquisitions?

•   What is the company’s presence and reputation in the local country, region and internationally?

•   Who are the company’s key competitors?

It is also important to understand the job sector and be able to communicate this with potential employers:

•   What are the trends within the sector?

•   Who are the pacesetters, and what is likely to happen in the next six to 12 months in that sector?

•   What are overall market conditions like in this sector, both locally and regionally?

Start networking

It is never too early to begin networking. If the company has hired graduates previously, get in contact with them and talk to them about their experiences.

There is a wealth of social networking tools which can help facilitate introductions, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Personal and educational networks can be of value too. Talk to family, friends, lecturers and anyone who has connections with the company who might be able to share some insight on the company or sector.

Take up an internship

Regrettably, there is often a gap between the image of a sector and its reality.

The opportunity to work in a high profile, well-remunerated position may be very appealing to new graduates, but there are hidden costs to the role that only an insider can highlight.

However, these activities pale in significance to the insight and value that can be gained through taking up an internship.

Many graduate employers in Singapore provide internships to final year students and have programmes that provide exposure to the work environment.

Typically, students who take up an internship ahead of their graduation are viewed as preferred candidates for graduate programmes, and students who do additional training in the workplace during their studies are viewed favourably.

From the student’s perspective, it is a preview of what to expect in the first years of his career — how companies work, how people work together and the expectations of a professional career.

Be patient

Graduates also need to be patient. It takes time to learn and assimilate in any new environment, and the working environment is going to be markedly different from the education environment.

Graduates will be working with a wide range of people who have different skills and education, are from different generations and operate within an organisation hierarchy. They will need to adapt to this environment if they want to be successful.

Ultimately, being able to cope with the demands of a new job boils down to exposure.

Work experience certainly helps, either through internship or, even more broadly, from generic work experience throughout one’s studies.

Article by Clodagh Bannigan, head of Client Services, Graduate Recruitment, Alexander Mann Solutions.