The story goes the same way every time. You’ve thrown up the mortar board, the photographer is snapping, but by the time the hat has reached its peak and started to fall, the whispers in your head start. Yes you have a degree. But so does everyone around you. What makes yours so special?
You look around nervously, the mortar board is falling now, and as you sip thoughtfully on the free fizz, you being to ponder. What’s going to make me stand out? What leadership skills can I demonstrate? Maybe I should have done a more useful, applied subject. I know graduate schemes take all sorts of degrees, but how is French and Philosophy going to be of any use to me when trying to get a job?
You begin to assess your extracurriculars. You were social secretary of netball. You had a budget, you negotiated with the manager of that club or a sweet deal on sportsnight. You volunteered. But so did lots of people. Shelley got a first and she edited the student newspaper. How can you compete with Shelley?
You decide that you can’t. But you are going to try anyway. You tried a couple of grad scheme applications, but you know that you didn’t agonize over it for the ten hours the careers service commanded. You had one rejection, and one telephone interview. That’s progress right? You resolve to fight back, to really nail that dream job. That dream job you wanted with Lidl. They were The Times top employer this year right? Or maybe that was last year, maybe this year your dream job was with PWC.
This is, we think, a really devastating way of understanding your journey through higher education. We don’t know how the story ends. It could end happily, with you attaining that dream job. The point of the story is not to bash any graduate looking to get their dream job. It’s more to question the basis of what constitutes that dream. If, like one of our good friends, it was to work for KMPG, then we applaud you all the way. We commend your grit, determination and motivation. It is not for us to presume that any career choice anyone makes is any better or worse than the ones we made.
The problem, as we see it, is that many people applying for jobs don’t really want to do the job they apply for.
Both our choices wereuninformed, but we didn’t opt for graduate schemes. We were both lucky enough to end up doing things that have allowed us to do two important things. First, we get to speak to students who want to do more with their degrees and experiences. They are not so sure about how to really make the most of their time at university, and it panics them.
Second, we both get to see, in our own occupations, how some people have abandoned the greased pole of graduate schemes for really exciting, interesting alternatives. They carved their own path. These are exceptional individuals, often driven by really strong goals. But they are normal people, there is nothing that makes what they did inaccessible. Often they just thought differently about things.
So we have taken inspiration from the Slow Movement. It’s all about slowing down the pace of decision making, in a world that seems to be frantically speeding up. It grew out of a protest about the opening of a McDonalds in Italy. It then developed into the Slow Food Movement, the opposite of fast food. If you haven't heard of Fast Stream, it's a recruitment service designed to fast-track graduates into the civil service. Like slow food, think of this as our response to fast streaming and graduate schemes that require you to have a career plan decided upon in your final, maybe even second year of university. We know people who successfully made it through fast stream, and are currently working for them. But it's not for us and maybe it's not for you.
There are now lots of slow movements, all about doing things more thoughtfully, be it food, science or media. We want to add to that list life at university, job hunting and careers to the mix. This doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard, don’t pursue your goals and put effort into things. All it means is you hurry less, and think about the journey more.
We hope you enjoy what we have to say, it’s a mixture of our observations, and discussions with others who have unconsciously or consciously developed a slow approach to their careers. People who stopped applying to grad schemes and started applying themselves.
So read at your leisure. After all, there is no rush.
Simon and Joe