6 min read

If you are looking to work in the UK after you graduate, how can you increase your chances of success? The reality is that most international students return home after their course. But there is action you can take to increase your chances of finding work in the UK.

Finding work in the UK

Start looking early

The biggest mistake you can make is applying too late for jobs. Many graduate jobs will have an application deadline in December/January for jobs due to start in September. This means you need to be applying for jobs in the autumn of your final year, and if you are doing a master's course, just after you have started the course.

Find roles that meet your skills and interests

It is important you find jobs that are appropriate for your stage of career. As a new graduate/postgraduate it is worth looking at specialist graduate jobsites. These will have roles suitable for new graduates and won't look for lots of relevant experience. These websites include our jobs board, Prospects and Targetjobs.

In addition, look at specialist jobsites for the roles/sectors that interest you. Find these on the Prospects job profiles and on our career guides. Check each role to see if you meet the requirements for the job. If you don't, you are unlikely to get through the first sift!

Find roles that meet your particular background

It is worth identifying roles and organisations that link directly with your background. If you know that a company can directly use your language or cultural experience this will become an asset rather than a barrier. Think about multi-national companies, companies exporting internationally and foreign owned companies in the UK.

You can sometimes find directories of companies with an interest in your country at the relevant Chamber of Commerce, such as:

Be creative in your jobsearch

Did you know that 70% of jobs are not advertised and that employers receive on average 39 applications for each vacancy advertised? It is important to be creative with your jobsearch to find jobs that other people may not be applying for!

Research companies that link with your skills and background and send a speculative application. This will involve researching companies of interest and sending a targeted CV and cover letter to find out if they have relevant opportunities.

Use networking skills to meet employers, perhaps through events at University or through membership of a professional body. Use social networking, in particular LinkedIn to research companies, follow companies and develop your network of contacts, for example, through alumni of the University of Portsmouth.

Some students who have been successful in gaining sponsorship have 'grown' their links with a company, through part-time work or through a placement or internship. If the employer knows your potential, they may be more likely to offer sponsorship.

Market yourself well

Applications for graduate jobs are competitive for all students. Did you know that graduate applicants need to do an average of 19 applications to receive one interview? This shows how important a good CV and cover letter is to get through the first sift. Your CV or application needs to be targeted to show that you meet the requirements of the job. Look at our CV and application advice and get feedback from colleagues in the Careers and Employability team to help you ace your application.

The graduate selection process will involve interviews, psychometric tests and assessment centres, and you need to do your best at each stage, proving you meet the requirements for the job and are the best candidate. Read our information and get help from our team throughout the process.

Understand the visa options

If you are looking for Tier 2 sponsorship, you need to be employed by an employer who is on, or who is willing to be on the Government's Register of Tier 2 Sponsors. Check whether the companies you are applying for are on the Register. This does not mean they will sponsor you, but it could mean they are able to if they wish to. Try and check companies' policies regarding employing international applicants before you apply – this may not be easy to do.

Student Circus is a website that identifies roles that are open to those providing Tier 2 Sponsorship. You will not be able to access details on the vacancies, but you can access these at the companies' own websites. You could also try doing a search on Indeed for the role that interests you with the words Tier 2. On the jobs listed on Targetjobs it may say whether applications are accepted from students needing a work permit in 'The Facts' section for the job.

If you are on a Tier 4 visa as a student and you are looking to work after you graduate for more than 3 months you are likely to need permission to work in the UK through another visa.

It is really important that you understand the different visa options and the requirements for each. For example, for the Tier 2 General visa, the role will usually need to meet both salary and skill level requirements. Employers may be familiar with employing international applicants but they may not be aware of the slight flexibilities that exist for students transferring from Tier 4 to Tier 2 visas.

Your preference may be for gaining employment through Tier 2 employer sponsorship, but other visa options may suit you, for example, the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange or Youth Mobility visa routes. Look at the UKCISA information on visa options so you can start to understand the visas that would be most appropriate for your situation.

Be resilient

The reality of graduate jobsearch for all students is that you are ignored and rejected on a regular basis! It is important to be resilient and expect this, but celebrate each success, for example, getting invited to interview. Get feedback from employers after interviews if you are not successful so you can continue to develop your skills and increase your chances of success.

Have a plan B and C

Identify a range of options you may be happy to consider. Your main goal may be to get Tier 2 sponsorship and a graduate job but having other plans in place will help you feel more confident as you go through the year. Your plan B, or C could be:

  • Gaining work at home – look at our Working Globally pages to explore good jobsites and careers information for work outside the UK.
  • Gaining work in another country that interests you. The Working Globally pages will help with this and use the country profiles on GoinGlobal and Targetjobs to research visa rules in other countries.
  • Finding temporary work in the UK after your course on your student visa. This will still give you useful experience of working in a UK business environment.