General management and business roles can be found in across all kinds of organisations and business sectors. For example, project management, quality assurance and business roles are common in manufacturing companies and engineering firms of all kinds and so it is worthwhile scanning our relevant sector and industry briefings for the areas that interest you most. The ideas listed below are not intended to be comprehensive, but instead aim to provide some ideas to consider which lie outside the most visible sectors and businesses that come 'on campus' at Oxford and where there are many high quality and attractive graduate management programmes.
Although the Civil Service Fast Stream is suspended for the 2022-23 academic year, there are many routes and opportunities for graduates who want to work in the public sector. These are often general management programmes offering substantial early levels of responsibility, and often include either professional memberships or sponsorship to take a relevant MA or MSc.
See our briefing for Government and Public Services for fuller details of programmes like:
- the NHS Management Scheme, preparing graduates to work as a health service manager in finance, health informatics, HR or general management;
- the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP), for graduates who want to work in local government;
- the Unlocked Graduates (Prison Service), Police Now (Metropolitan Police); Think Ahead and Frontline Programmes (Social Services).
Graduates interested in the military can apply to join The Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force at officer level – the management role within military.
Retail banking and insurance
Retail banking (also known as high street banking) is a good choice for those with managerial plans who would thrive in a fast-paced financial environment. Large retail banks, building societies and supermarkets offering financial services often run graduate schemes and many do not require a background in finance or a related degree programme.
The insurance sector is known for providing generalist graduate programmes, where typically you will be experiencing three or four rotations in different departments (e.g. risk management, underwriting and brokerage), gaining a broad understanding of the sector over a two-year period. At the end of the programme, you will then be able to specialise.
Retail and FMCG sector
This function and sector is experiencing increasing growth, especially online retailers and supermarkets in the current global climate. Going into this sector does not mean you will be shelf-stacking. Rather, you would be helping to manage budgets, international operations, secure supply chains, overseeing pricing and stock control and leading a team.
The Retail sector includes big brand name supermarkets, from Tesco to Aldi and Lidl, to stalwarts of the high street retailing, and specialist retailers. There are also big online players including Amazon and Ocado. Roles beyond managing stores and whole districts include purchasing, merchandising, operations and logistics, as well as core services like HR, marketing, finance, estates and general management.
FMCG - Fast Moving Consumer Goods - refers to the companies that put the brands on the shelf, whether it is food giants like Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mars, Unilever or Kraft-Heinz or other brand sectors, led by hugely successful firms such as Procter and Gamble (PnG); L'Oreal; Reckitt Benkiser or GSK Consumer Healthcare.
Logistics and operations
As a graduate you will be involved in managing a multi-disciplinary team that will range from IT and stock control to distribution. Most opportunities are through a general management trainee scheme and then onto a management role in your preferred area (examples of these specialised areas may be in property, warehouse, distribution, etc.).
Hospitality and leisure
The hospitality and leisure industry is all about the consumer, so if you want a customer-facing management role that requires the ability to think quickly and decisively, then this sector may be for you. Many large hotel groups and hospitality focused companies run general graduate trainee schemes such as:
- Hilton Hotels and Resorts
- Marriott International (hotels)
- Merlin Entertainments (attractions such as Alton Towers and SEA LIFE)
- Whitbread (includes Costa Coffee and Premier Inn).
If you are considering hospitality and leisure you may also be thinking about management in the events sector. Event management companies that recruit graduates include Clarion Events; London Business Conferences; and Reed Exhibitions. Follow the link for for more information on careers in event management.
If you are interested in this sector, getting experience through summer jobs or even helping out in the College bar is a start, or take your student activities up a notch by helping to run the college or getting involved in the leadership of a college ball. Consider other hospitality options for your vacations (such as virtual escape rooms, wine tasting and even careers fairs) or a summer job in a resort, a cruise ship or pop-up food stall at a local festival or event. Approach organisations you like directly for experience or putting together a research project on a particular area of the market to understand what drives the business.
Building your career over time
Looking further ahead, if your aim is to goal is to reach the top of an organisation, for example as a managing director or other member of the C-suite (ie. Board level, which includes CEO; Chief Finance Officer; Chief Operating Officer etc), there are many possible paths.
Most large companies will look for someone with experience in more than one management discipline. This is reflected in the use of different job rotations for new graduates, and you should also anticipate times later in your career where you may need or want to move laterally to broaden your expertise and knowledge rather than always expecting your development to involve 'upward promotion'.
Some companies make a virtue of growing their talent and aim to fill senior positions exclusively by internal promotion, so be sure to tune yourself in to the organisation's (or sector's) ethos and culture. That said, many graduates will find that well-timed moves between companies can accelerate progression and career growth, and it is not uncommon for graduates to purposefully move companies after 2 or 3 years ' experience.
Where to find vacancies
Large international companies offering high-quality graduate management schemes will generally have a high profile nationally during late summer and Michaelmas term, but they may not actively target Oxford for 'on campus recruitment'. Start researching your ideas and potential target companies early, preferably before the Oxford academic year starts as deadlines can be as early as October and November. Use companies' career pages, follow them on social media and register for alerts and updates to make sure you here about events and information sessions and opportunities as they are published.
The careers fairs at Oxford are a major opportunity to meet a diverse range of companies, their recruiters and recent graduate recruits in order to compare and contrast opportunities. In particular, make time to attend the Oxford Careers Fair at the very beginning of Michaelmas term each year.
In addition to using the vacancies lists on Oxford's CareerConnect, use the national graduate careers websites as a primary source of job vacancies. Websites like Targetjobs; Milkround, Prospects and Gradcracker carry 1000s of opportunities and sites like The Times Top 100 and the UK 300 can help you quickly understand the range and variety of the largest companies that recruit to graduate programmes. See the links listed below in the External Resources section.