“If you’re not going travelling it literally is “what now?” unless you have a grad scheme”

Well, well, well. Blog post one at the end of the first week in the life of Arch Graduates. I’m excited about this business and excited about working with some Graduates to get them started in exciting careers.

The thing that gives me great belief in our business and our product is that I believe (and I do mean believe) that I’d have taken this path were it presented to me upon graduation.

For blog post one (which this is) I’m reluctant to go into too much update you on business progress stuff as, well, it’s week one!

So, I thought it’d be interesting to spend some time with a relatively recent grad who has found herself working in a very amazing (‘very amazing’ – not convinced that’s an acceptable phrase) start up called Accelerate Places. So, ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to Lucie Santander


Lucie, let’s do a quick “story so far” – where did you go to school? Uni? And what did you study?

“My family lives in Norwich so I went to school there called Framingham Earl high school, then  – Notre Dame sixth form and then to the Univerity of Birmingham and  studied Spanish and Mandarin Chinese which was a 4 year course. I got to spend my third year abroad, half year in Spain in Murcia and half a year in Shanghai.”


Overall did you enjoy university?

"Yeah, I had the best time, Learnt a lot, met a lot of really good people, didn’t want to come home, made loads of friends, it was great.”


I want to take you back to a point in your degree, I don’t know when this point was, but can you tell me the first moment that you thought “what am I going to do for a job?”

“What’s so hard for a grad is that when you leave primary you’re going secondary – then sixth form, then uni , you always have a direction, you always know where you’re going. Then when it gets to the end of university you think well what is next? I guess I’m supposed to get a job now, but no-one is telling you what to do, no-one is holding your hand anymore so me and my friend thought about going travelling, but I decided that I wanted to come to London and start work over travelling because I wanted to get to London and start working.”


So the idea of working didn’t freak you out, it was more the thought “What work am I going to do?” that was difficult?

“Yeah, there is so much competition that it’s really difficult I spent first semester of 4th year applying for everything I could find, all of the big firm’s grad schemes, I spent some of it thinking I wanted to be a management consultant. There wasn’t much guidance so I was just doing what I thought I should be doing.”


What about Grad fairs/career’s fairs, did you go to those?

“Yeah, the uni in Birmingham had really really good grad fairs, cause they had an amzing career’s network and everything but in 4th year it’s hard because you have no time to be doing that sort of thing when you’ve got a dissertation to write and finals coming up. I went to a few, met all the big firms basically, they gave me information but I’m really glad I didn’t end up in one of them.”


So was it hard trying to find the right thing?

“It was such a difficult time, it was stressful, everyone was saying “what now?” and if you’re not going travelling it literally is “what now?” unless you have a grad scheme. It feels like you either get onto a grad scheme or you don’t. If you don’t then it feels like the only opportunities are sales or recruitment jobs.“


Do you feel like the system is helpful? Do you feel like there is the right level of career’s advice, career’s support?

“At my uni there definitely is, I don’t know about the others, but I think the network is there, I think it’s there in most universities, if you want to seek that advice then you have to actively go and get it, they’re not going to set up sessions with everyone. It’s there for you if you want it. They will send out an e-mail, but you have to respond. If you want career’s advice you have to go and get it yourself.”


If you had any top tips for me when it comes to working with Graduates what would they be?

“Be supportive, ask the right questions, what do you like about your course, this job, that job description and stuff like that? It’s about trying to figure out what the right thing is for the grad, but they don’t necessarily know, so it’s kind of about discovering that together. It’s about asking the right questions that will help them think about what they do or don’t like. Yeah, I wish someone had done that for me!”


If you could invent a course to be taught at universities all across the country what would it be?

“Some kind of course on current affairs that is compulsory for everyone, just so everyone knows what’s going on in the world. I feel like you go down your specific course route and it’s like that’s all that’s going on, but there’s so much more going on that you need to be aware of.”


It was brilliant to meet Lucie, I’m sure you’ll agree she had some great observations to share. Some things really stood out for me, this idea that you kind of either get a grad scheme or you are left with sales jobs feels alarming. Looking at that from the other side of the fence (the employer side) there are so many great businesses desperate to hire great grads like Lucie, but clearly there is a link in the middle that’s missing.

The other point she made that really stood out is how there is employment advice out there but you’ve got to go and get it. Being proactive about this stuff is clearly really important, but what’s made me think is that when Lucie went to the career’s fairs she found it to be all the big firms, with all the grad schemes. Maybe there should be some kind of SME/start up career’s fairs too?

The other thing that I hereby promise I will not forget, ever, is that when you work with grads you need to be supportive, even though they might be incredibly bright, confident and well educated you need to work with them for you both to realise what the right career path is for them. What brilliant advice.

Lots to think about, lots of great stuff , thank you Lucie!

See you next week!