Recently I was reading about Deliberate Practice (a theory by psychologist Anders Ericsson) and how it can help you to move towards success.  Deliberate practice was explained as identifying what elements of a task or activity you need to do better in order to achieve an overall goal, making a deliberate plan for how to do what you need to do, and gathering input from others via instruction or observation. 

I absolutely agree with the notion that just practising something the same way repeatedly does not necessarily make the outcome better.  The article pointed out that continuous improvement comes about when you have defined goals, a clear focus, seek feedback and set challenges.

In the pursuit of continuous improvement, often we look to others and how they go about things.  Some like to say, ‘best practice’, but I have never been a huge supporter of this term.  To me, best practice infers that there is a superior way of doing things above all else.

Personally, I prefer to use the term ‘good practice’.  In my experience I have found there are many ways to do things that still have a positive result and meet the organisation’s program objectives.

“The only best practice in which I have complete confidence is avoiding the label best practice” – Michael Quinn Patton

This is one of the reasons why I wrote the Graduate Talent Maturity Model.  I wanted program managers to see what was possible, but to make their own call on what elements to focus on and what they could do to effect change for the better.

I am pretty sure I have mentioned this a few times, but there are so many factors that impact the right approach for an organisation to take with an early careers program.  For example:

  • Industry (does the company operate within one or more industries)
  • Size (number of employees)
  • Geographical location
  • Types of roles (and disciplines)
  • Legislative environment
  • Financial position.

Below are some examples (within a program) that I consider to be good practice, but how you go about delivering these might be different within your organisation compared to another.

  • Co-operative partnerships with education institutions
  • Authentic and informative attraction campaigns
  • Candidate-focussed recruitment strategy
  • Recruitment insights are used to inform learning design
  • Leaders are capable and have capacity to provide relevant on-the-job learning
  • Capturing feedback and using it
  • Defining success measures and reporting against them.

‘Why’ your organisation has an early career program (whether it be trainees, interns, or graduates) can be different, but it is important that you are able to articulate it.  This is the basis of how you go about executing the program and what measures of success are important to ensure you know you are achieving your goal.

My experience has come from hands-on management of early careers programs over several years for a number of organisations.  I am lucky to have experienced such a broad range of industries and disciplines and have learnt a lot.

However, what helped me the most was hearing from and talking to others working in the early careers space.

It is one of the most open and cooperative professions I know.  Everyone is willing to share ideas, solutions, strategies, and learnings for the benefit of others. 

I will never confess to knowing everything about this profession.  But I know I have a whole network out there that I can ask questions and get answers at any time.

So, when you are out there doing your research and asking questions and gathering insights from peers, remember its relevance to you will vary.  Whether you choose to use it, change it, or disregard it, that is completely up to you. Just use what works best for your program and your organisation.

Best practices are to be learned from, not mimicked” – Tom Peters