If you’re taking the first step into your career, where do you start?
It’s that time of year, when companies like Deloitte get invited to speak to lots of University’s, and organise events to publicise their Graduate and career entry schemes. In the last month I’ve been lucky enough to speak to students at the University of Salford and the University of York; and we’ve got events at Manchester Metropolitan University and a few other places coming up soon.
Each of these event’s has been in a different format, I’ve sat on panel events; been to career fairs; and hosted student visits; but one message has come across loud and clear from all the students I’ve spoken too: The desire for companies to be authentic.
Since getting involved in our education outreach activities, probably the most common question I’ve been asked is “How do you tell a good company from a bad one? How do you know if the company is the right one for you?” I’ve worked at some absolutely amazing places, and some of those have absolutely been the right ones for me, and some haven’t. Sadly there is no easy trick to knowing which company is the right one for you, and which isn’t. But the one thing I’ve learnt is, you have to be yourself. You should never force yourself to ‘fit’ in with a company that doesn’t suit you. That way lies misery and depression.
I spent the first 7+ years of my career thinking I needed to fit myself into a box I didn’t fit in, because no one else looked or sounded like me (at least in leadership), I burned myself out trying to become like everyone else; ironically enough, when i stopped trying to be like everyone else, that was when my career really took off; but it was an exhausting journey that I wouldn’t necessarily wish on anyone else.
Thankfully, while most of the students I talk to have been from a fairly common spread of subjects (Business, Digital/Tech and the Humanities) very few of them have particularly cared about the role they would get within Deloitte if they were successful in applying for our Graduate or Career Entry Schemes; instead their questions have been about our culture; work life balance, Diversity and Inclusion, our staff networks etc. which gives me hope that most Students now a days are at least a bit more cognisant than I was on the importance of finding a company culture that reflects themselves.
Sadly, many students have mentioned how they don’t see themselves reflected in the companies that are trying to attract them; but they feel the need to apply anyway; because that company is ‘known’, and the pressure to secure a good graduate job is so high, and the competition is so fierce, they feel they can’t be ‘picky’, but they’re also worried they won’t ‘fit’ within whatever company hires them; and there are still so many horror stories out there about bad graduate schemes, where grads are pushed to the point of burn out; where they are expected to be a corporate drone for lack of a better term; where anyone who stands out for looking or sounding different is pressured to fit in or drop out.
The amount of students I have had come speak to me at the event, or connect afterwards and take the time to thank me for specifically being open about about a Queer, Neurodivergent person who grew up in a council house, has been frankly humbling. The number of the students Deloitte hosted from Salford a few weeks ago who mentioned how pleased they were to talk to a group of people who looked and sounded like them was honestly surprising.
Having been on a graduate scheme myself (The Civil Service Fast Stream, many many years ago) I know there can be some highs, and some lows; to being a grad. but Deloitte (at least in the North where my efforts are focused) has really thought long and hard about it’s graduate offer; and made a concerted effort to move away from the traditional consultancy/big 4 graduate scheme offer that could be known for taking up graduates and chewing them up and burning them out.
Our Graduate community is booming, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure their experience is a positive one; there’s the obvious things; like making sure our grads have mentors/ buddy’s; making sure they’re fully supported on the projects they’re working on etc. But we’ve also recognised that a good graduate experience is more than the roles you do; it’s also the community and culture you are part of.
One of the main things we’re doing is running regular social/networking events, with everything from breakfast events, coffee catch ups, birthday clubs, social and sports clubs and evening socials/meet ups; and these aren’t just for our graduates to attend, but opportunities for them to meet and build their networks across the firm with folks at all levels doing a whole host of roles. We’re also constantly looking for opportunities to involve our graduates in wider firm initiatives outside of their project work; be that running events, supporting our communities of practice, getting involved in bid writing or supporting our charity initiatives. We’re doing our best to make them feel supported, without making them feel ‘other’ (which is certainly something I experienced a lot on my graduate programme when it always felt obvious who was a grad) to be honest, a lot of the time the only way I know who is one of our graduates is when they tell me their age!
So, what ever companies you apply for, whether you decide to apply for a graduate scheme or not; my one piece of advice is to ask about the culture, what are their values? How will they support you? What does their community look like? Only accept the company that most suits you.
And hey, if this post has whetted you’re appetite to find out more about a career in Deloitte, you can find some more info here!