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March 25, 2015

Graduates. What do you want?

Walk up to any stranger in the street and ask them:

“What do you want to do with your life?”

If you don’t get ignored I’m sure the answers will be as varied as the people you’ll meet. But now ask them what do they want to do in the next 12-months and I’ll bet the answers get a bit more coherent.

This was how we approached talking to graduates to determine if they were a good fit for Space 48 when we attended Manchester Digital’s Talent Day back in February.

“Hey graduate, where do you see yourself in twelve months?”

Good answers included ‚Äúbeing able to learn from people who have real experience‚Äù and ‚Äúbeing able to be a part of a team and achieve something‚Äù. Poor answers covered everything from “err” to “managing my own agency”. Don’t get me wrong, managing your own agency is a lofty goal and I’m not saying it’s a bad idea but let’s walk before we can run.

My personal favourite was the student who’d taken the time to check out our website and told me about how they wanted to get involved in the team activities we’d done. Going that little extra really does make you stand out. All we’re trying to do is see if we can picture you as part of the team. Placing yourself there shows us how interested you are.

So, what are we looking for in a graduate?

To be honest it’s as much about the person as it is the degree. What we want is someone with a good base knowledge that is happy to learn and be a part of the team. Sounds simple. It is.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. Don’t tell us you’ll do whatever we want. We don’t need that. We need you to care about what you’re doing. So talk about the things that you have enjoyed and how you’d like to do more of that. Be passionate and don’t be afraid to be honest about your fears of how work will be different to university. Remember, most of the people you talk to will have stood where you are in one way or another.

Do recognise the power in your position. If you hadn’t already worked it out, the industry needs graduates. Why? You’re a very valuable resource in a team. The work that you want to do and the work that is appropriate for you is always the stuff agencies never have enough people to do. What I’m saying is that when you start out you’ll be doing the simple things. The simple things always need doing. It’s where everyone starts and it’s where you’ll learn all those skills you won’t have picked up at university. You’ll be contributing to the business and making them more profitable.

So what should you expect to do?

Learn. You thought you were done with that right? No. Everyday is a school day. You’ve got the skills to do the job but not how to the job in the place you’re going to do it. So you’re going to learn process and responsibilities. Workflow and software. Oh, and about 30 people’s names. It’s going to be amazing!

My advice, if you’re asking, is to find a place where you like the vibe. By that I mean the people and atmosphere. Try to talk to the person who will be working with you day to day. You might love the MD but the chances are you’re not going to be spending your day with them. Make sure the people that you will work closest with, are people you can relate to. People who you are happy to spend a good deal of the next couple of years with.

You have your entire working life in front of you and you should be excited, also nervous but that’s fine too. Trust that you have learnt what you need to and now just go and find the place where you want to apply it. Oh and if you get an interview bring cake. You won’t know this yet but agencies run on cake. Do this and you will be another step closer to your first job. Good luck.