Recently, I arrived at a career crossroad. After the birth of child number two and a move from my beloved Melbourne to South East Asia, I have had the opportunity to reflect on my career to date and re-evaluate not just my next step, but my longer-term career trajectory.
This post is not about how to successfully navigate a career crossroad – I am not an expert in that! This post is about why, every time I have reached a career crossroad thus far, I have chosen to continue my path as a leader and specialist in the graduate talent field. And I haven’t once regretted it!
So here it is (in no particular order) – my top 6 reasons why I continue my career in the graduate talent field (and why you may too!).
1. Using life experiences to guide young people towards informed career decisions. I graduated in Tasmania, Australia in the early 2000s. I studied a degree that was unique and with few clear career outcomes. I spent more time than any of my friends reading publications on graduate programs and career guides and applying for graduate roles. But I was lost and ultimately unsuccessful. In the end, I just started ‘working’ – it was in call centres and then a hotel chain, but it didn’t matter was it was. These roles laid the foundation for what I would now call a successful, and extremely rewarding career. But I had to accept I wouldn’t waltz into my dream role. Early on, I also made (on reflection) several career mistakes – leaving great roles too soon for something ‘better’ or accepting a role without doing due research.
Working in a field where I have been able to directly use my own professional experiences to assist young people make informed and wise decisions about starting their career, has been extremely fulfilling. While I may not spend much time on campus anymore, supporting a team to have such an important impact on an individual’s life is beyond rewarding and is a reason to jump out of bed each day. I also love supporting my team’s passion for being a graduate talent professional and helping to ensure the industry has a long line of future leaders.
2. Learning how business works and using that knowledge to add value. While I may not be an accountant or hold an MBA, I get a fire in my belly when immersed in a commercial environment, building an understanding of the drivers that contribute to business success. Being able to apply that understanding into a graduate context – how emerging talent can play a key role in an organisation’s workforce and overall business strategy – is an exciting challenge to face. And being a professional in a specialised Centre of Excellence, you have the opportunity to guide your business towards great graduate talent outcomes and be seen as a valued expert.
Despite what some may think, understanding business and having a natural curiosity of business is fundamental to be successful in the graduate talent field. Asking the right questions, of the right people, at the right time, gives you powerful insight and knowledge to build talent strategies which are truly impactful, innovative and future focused. It also builds your credibility as a valuable business partner, which then opens further doors and leads to more conversations which will further enhance the impact you can have.
3. A love of people. Not in a freaky, stalkerish way. And not in the way that you assume you love people when you choose to enter a career in Human Resources. To be in the graduate talent industry, you need to love people in a way that makes meeting new people, connecting with existing networks, reaching out to a new stakeholder, or finally building credibly with a long-time client, one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of the role. I love connecting people with other people. I love the process of identifying how best to build a relationship with a person and then going on that journey. I love talking to students, to careers advisers, to colleagues and team members and to senior stakeholders right throughout a business.
I have been very lucky that the graduate industry in Australia has allowed me to embrace my enjoyment of professional relationships – not only have my employers been supportive of the value of graduate talent teams, but the industry is one full of buzzing, energetic, engaging people. And the diversity of roles and backgrounds people have in the industry is truly incredible. It would take a lot for me to give that up!
4. Diversity within a role. Those in the graduate industry are lucky to be exposed to so many facets of not just Human Resources but also of brand, sales, marketing, strategy, project management, and general commercial management.
I have led small and large teams, managed and participated within a wide range of projects, developed strategic and large-scale operational plans and processes, and designed and delivered reporting mechanisms. I have owned and managed small and large budgets, developed and contributed to brand and recruitment marketing strategies, owned and contributed to social media handles, been responsible for tenders and appointing (and managing) successful vendor relationships. I have owned and supported recruitment processes for a wide range of business units, held a Director role with a key industry body, written content to contribute to my industry. I have written and delivered development content and been part of such programs myself.
The variety of the graduate talent industry is in my view, unparalleled in any other facet of Human Resources. No day or week is the same and as you progress through the industry, you get the opportunity to be exposed to such a variety of responsibilities that make you much more of a rounded professional with expertise across multiple functions.
5. Hard work. The number of times I have been told that someone is interested in graduate recruitment because it would be ‘easier’ or ‘offer more of a balance’ than the area they currently work in, continues to astound me. Industry statistics in Australia show that every year, up to 70% of the graduate talent industry are new to the profession. While there are a range of reasons for this, one of them is absolutely related to the level of activity and output required of the profession. Energy is hard to maintain.
Graduate professionals work hard and I respect that about our industry. When you are juggling so many competing priorities, many of which don’t relate to the actual core output of hiring graduates or interns, there is bound to be hard work involved. Passion is a critical ingredient to continue to choose a career in graduate talent – otherwise, you will find it very hard to get back up off the floor when you have been on campus every day and evening for several weeks while burning the candle at both ends maintaining the rest of your core role…possibly for the second, third, fifth, tenth year in a row! A true leader in the graduate industry is not only able to maintain their own energy, but also to foster and help support the energy of their teams in those challenging periods.
There ARE down times – but I do love the buzz that comes with being in the graduate industry.
6. And finally – you get to work in an aspect of business that demands innovation and thinking ahead. The expectations and desires of the current (and future) generations of the workforce and the experience they are seeking is constantly evolving. Being responsible for identifying WHY a graduate would want to work in your business and bringing that to life through your employment brand, the candidate experience and the way a student FEELS when they engage with your business is a rewarding challenge and one that requires constant review.
You must understand how students want to engage with prospective employers and you must be open to using new ways, tools and approaches to do so. Traditional ways of engaging and attracting talent won’t fly with current graduate pools – you need to be thinking a few years ahead, predicting technology and trends to ensure your future campaigns and programs still hit the mark.
And most importantly of all, you need to make sure that those campaigns and programs are authentic – graduates won’t fall for messages that don’t truly connect them with the opportunity your organisation offers or aren’t a true reflection of your brand. It can be a real challenge to stay ahead of graduate expectations and your competitor set to ensure you continue to be positioned as an employer of choice for your target students!
So, these are the key reasons I have chosen to remain in the graduate talent industry thus far in my career. I am sure there are many more reasons that my network will also be happy to shout from the rooftops about! We are a passionate industry, constantly sharing information, pushing ourselves to add significant value to our organisations and the graduate industry as a whole, and providing fantastic opportunities and experiences to young talent.
Who knows if I will always make this decision – there are many aspects of Human Resources and broader business that I would love to explore. But for now, being in the graduate industry energises me and I plan to remain an active part of it.
About the writer: Gemma Hudson has been directly involved in the graduate talent space for many years both in Australia and South East Asia. This article was published by Gemma in September 2017, but it is one of many you will find useful. For example, similar to this topic you should check out these posts.