Joining a well established company, and more so a well established group of colleagues, can be daunting for a graduate. Many may feel they’ve finally found their ‘people’ at university after leaving home, but yet again they have to be flung into a new group of peers with new rules and expectations. As someone who finds it somewhat difficult to be candid with their closest friends, being flung into an office full of professional women (and Alan) was a daunting prospect.
However, so far it has been great. Of course I knew it would be, as I did two weeks work experience with the company last summer. I’ve only been out of uni 6 weeks and my degree is already a blur, but if I remember correctly I stumbled into the careers department for a session called something along the lines of “help me I don’t know what I’m meant to be doing with my life after university and all my friends know what they’re doing and I don’t but I really want to do something great I just don’t know what”. Well... maybe it was something a bit snappier but you get the gist. They suggested that I look into occupational psychology and helped me to organise some relevant work experience, which lead me to Criterion. As you may expect I had to complete a host of psychometric tests and when I arrived the team talked me through my results, explaining I have a tendency to be detail focused; and am most likely to adopt a pragmatic and a perfectionist role within a team. During my work experience I learnt about what the company did, dabbled in some statistics, set a few clients up on Psycruit and delved into the world of social media and blog writing. The team must have liked me and I must have impressed them as on my last day we went for coffee and cake after work and, as a thank you for my time, they gave me some fancy gin - the love of which I believe we bonded over.
When it came to the middle of my third year and I was thinking about my path after uni, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander back to how warm and welcoming everyone at Criterion had been. So, I decided to send a carefully crafted email, expressing how much I had enjoyed working with the team and wondering whether, in the event a position become available or they found a gap in the office dynamic, they might think of me as a potential addition. To my delight, they emailed back explaining that while they weren’t currently advertising a vacancy, they were looking to grow. They asked me to come in for ‘a chat’, which seemed slightly ominous to me as in my student house ‘a chat’ meant either that someone was upset or that I’d been slacking on my washing up. Obviously in this case a chat just meant just that ... a chat with Becca about what I’d like to do within the company, when I finished my course, whether I was looking for a full time position etc. After a few more logistical correspondences that was it! I finished my Psychology degree and handed in my monster of a dissertation on the 17th May, had a celebratory weekend in the midst of the Great Escape and Brighton Fringe, worked my last week at my previous job, went home to see my family for another week and then started at Criterion.
Having the knowledge I’d have a great job as soon as I finished my course did take the pressure off a bit and made me a tiny bit smug to be the first among my friends to land a graduate level position. So, whether you’re just starting university, heading into third year, or have graduated over the summer, I have a few pearls of wisdom to offer, based on my experiences.
Use your careers centre – they can help you work out what you want to do next, organise work experience, set up links with companies and calm any stress you might be feeling about what you’re doing with your life. The careers centre at the University of Sussex even offers their services for 3 years after you graduate so go and find out what yours can provide.
Let your friends inspire you – I can admit I can be quite an envious person, and when it comes to university you meet a whole new cohort of people to be envious of. The friends I’ve made at uni are so intelligent, motivated, hard working ... I was needless to say quite jealous of their achievements, and their ability to make them happen. However, I decided as part of my maturation into adulthood I would try and be less bitter about the success of other people. So, I let my friends’ achievements inspire me and asked them for help to reach my own goals. Instead of just wishing I was like them, I actually tried to be more like them.
Make your own opportunities – be proactive, unless you ask whether there are any opportunities to be had, you won’t find them. The worst that can happen is someone will say no, then you just thank whoever you are contacting for their time, and move on. Contact companies you like the sound of and ask around, as you know a lot more people than you think (lecturers, your parents, your friends, your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, past employers or colleagues, extended family etc.) and one of them might just be working where you want to end up. If you persist, remain polite and friendly and you may find work experience that hasn’t been advertised to everyone and will look much more impressive on your CV than the same old stuff that everyone has done.
So, to my fellow graduates, I wish you all the best in the job search, trying not to fall over during your graduation ceremony and adjusting to life outside of education. To everyone else, if you’re further intrigued as to how I’ve been getting on during my first month or so at Criterion, why not check out my most recent blog post!