Hiring a graduate is an effective way of energising and shaking up a business. Here in the Catalyst team, we get to see bright young graduates’ vocational (and personal) transformations during their year with us, and the effect they have on the start-ups they work with.
Graduates often come under fire for being lazy and entitled, unprepared for the realities of work. But among this group saddled with a ‘snowflake’ reputation is rising talent desperate for their chance. That ‘fire’ is the first thing you need to look for; an eagerness to transfer their academic skills and knowledge into business.
People move more freely between professions nowadays and most graduates are still working out their career goals, meaning that generally, they’re open to trying new things. This ‘can-do’ attitude is especially important to us due to the variety of our work. We don’t always hire based on experience, but rather a keen interest to learn about different start-up industries, working environments and job roles. We look for people with diverse passions as this shows an element of drive, and that they didn’t go to university just for the social experience!
The Catalyst team was created responding to the needs of businesses looking for a flexible and reliable resource at a competitive rate. For our graduates, the programme has developed into a brilliant scheme with rare and transformational opportunities. Due to the richness and variety of their experience, they leave us with a greater understanding of their career goals or path and some are hired full time by their clients.
Team members might work with up to 30 companies during their year with us, doing a variety of work from insight and market research, to marketing and customer-facing projects and more. Some are one-off projects and others are longer-term roles, spending a few days per week with a client over months.
To ensure that we have a diverse team to take on practically any challenge, we hire from a wide range of schools across the University. Some businesses might be put off hiring someone whose degree doesn’t ‘match’ the role, but we’ve seen time and again that History students can have excellent research skills, a Literature student might have an eye for design, and Physics degrees often involve a lot of coding experience.
The most essential thing you can do for new starters is show that there’s no limit to how many questions they can ask. Part of the onboarding process that our new team are going through right now is guidance on aspects of work that we sometimes take for granted after spending a few years in an office environment, such as organising and prioritising projects and emails.
We throw our graduates into several different kinds of projects in their first few weeks, helping them work out their strengths, what they like doing, and what they don’t. As the year goes on, this helps us match them with clients and projects. That’s why so many of our clients are loyal to Catalyst, we look after the onboarding and training, and they see a bright, enthusiastic and skilled graduate.
CASE STUDY: Mark Davies, MoWork
Mark Davies was a graduate of the University of Sussex’s Physics school and joined the second Catalyst team in 2015-16. During his time on the programme, his projects included social media marketing for an e-commerce platform and putting on events around the launch of Sussex Innovation’s Croydon workspace.
For several months of his placement, Mark worked on a market research project for the founder of a new employee rewards product called Thanksbox, interviewing HR directors for insights that would guide the platform’s development. At the end of his time with Catalyst, the founder asked Mark to become his first employee. Three years on, the business has rebranded as Mo.Work, receiving significant investment and expanding to more than 20 staff. Mark is now Head of Customers, with responsibility for his own small team.
“I’ve always enjoyed picking up new things, but before Catalyst I’d not really had a chance to show that I could do that in a business context. I got to learn how sales and marketing works, along with research, design and writing skills – some of the tools I learnt to use aren’t things I use all the time in my job, but it’s useful to have that broad understanding. Most of all, it left me more confident about connecting with new people and presenting a business proposition to them.”