Hannah Langworth explains why your options could be far wider than you think

If you’re not having much luck securing a job for when you leave university, or even any work experience, don’t panic! There are plenty of career opportunities out there for students willing to display some initiative and imagination.

Join a small business

Thanks to the massive campus marketing efforts of the major graduate recruiters, it’s easy to forget smaller employers. They may not offer the same structured training or perks, but you’ll find that many are just as keen to recruit good graduates.

They’ll often be able to offer you roles with more responsibility and breadth than you might find on a big graduate scheme, plus you’re more likely to get to know how the business as a whole operates. Tom, a Cambridge student who undertook a marketing placement through small business recruitment specialists Instant Impact, says: “Working in a small business is a great opportunity to get a real insight into the nature of the day-to-day and strategic challenges that business leaders face.”

Set up your own business

As a student or and recent graduate, you’re well placed to give entrepreneurship a try. Lizzie Fane, founder of Third Year Abroad, an online resource for undergraduates studying or working in a foreign country, says: “As a student, you find that you have time to develop your business with few responsibilities to divide your attention, you can scrape together funding by being clever with your student loan, and your friends have the time and energy to help you get your idea off the ground.”

“There’s also such a huge amount of support available to student entrepreneurs. Aside from the entrepreneurship centre or society at your university, there are also startup competitions across the country with money and business support as the prize.”

And even if your business doesn’t take off, you’ll still have picked up plenty of skills and knowledge that will impress potential employers.

Work as a tutor

You don’t have to want to be a teacher to reap career benefits from giving tutoring a go. Presenting complex information in an easily digestible form is a skill that most roles require, and helping schoolchildren learn is also an ideal way to demonstrate you’re creative and responsible, with leadership potential.

You can work as a tutor through an agency, or by private arrangement. Either way you’re likely to need excellent academic references and up-to-date CRB certification.

Make the most of part-time or temporary work

Employers appreciate the skills and knowledge you can acquire through a casual job. Caroline Lindner, the graduate recruitment and development manager at global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, says: "General work experience shows that students have worked hard and been committed to something, which is incredibly important, and it will have helped them develop really key skills."

It’s therefore worth making sure you’re getting the most out of yours. Look for opportunities to take on more responsibility, lead other people, and share your ideas. And think about how you could use the industry knowledge you’re acquiring to progress on your chosen career path. Wannabe journalists in a clothes shop could find ideas for articles about the fashion business, while a supermarket job will give future strategy consultants interesting perspectives on the grocery industry.

Work abroad

Instead of satisfying your itchy feet by hanging out in beachfront hostels, why not try to get some relevant work experience or even a permanent position in a country you’d like to see?

Australia is currently booming, and many African, Asian and South American economies are growing much faster than the UK’s, so you’re likely to find at least as many opportunities as at home. Journalist Lu-Hai Liang, who moved to China shortly after graduating, says: “There are many niches in China that are developing and need to be filled. Journalism is competitive wherever you go, but the allied industries of PR and marketing are growing exponentially here.”

Make sure you’re in compliance with any working visa requirements, and you’ll be all set to pack your bags!

Hannah Langworth is Editor at The Gateway, the business and careers newspaper for students. You can follow The Gateway on Twitter here.