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Why a traditional graduate scheme wasn’t for me.

Updated: Apr 26

Alex, one the members of Jumpstart's first cohort of grads, joined a large scale grad scheme upon graduating from Cambridge, but quickly realised this wasn't for him. In this post, Alex takes us through why he decided to change tack, and why he has enjoyed working in a start-up so much.


When I was in my final year at university and getting ready to leave it really only felt like there were two routes I could go down; the first was further academic study, that would mean going into greater depth in my subject area (anthropology) and finding a niche I was passionate about. The second was a conventional graduate scheme. Out of these rather limited set of options, the latter seemed like the only feasible option for me. I was too keen to get started with my professional career to commit to any further study and was worried I would be doing it more because the option was there then for any sort of meaningful purpose or motivation.


With this in mind I then looked towards graduate schemes, this method of achieving employment with a large organisation in a preordained manner felt inevitable and sufficient. I looked around, applied to a few different ones, did far too many psychometric tests, and ended up receiving an offer to a prestigious large scale graduate scheme.


This opportunity was reassuring, allowing me to ‘forget’ about my future prospects and focus on enjoying and thriving in my final year at university. It also gave me a very clearly defined path forward and put me on to the bottom rung of a ladder to climb. I think that when people such as myself look to post university life we lean towards a structure and the well-worn path because that’s what we know and are familiar with, everything up until now has been planned out and laid out for us, this is the comfort and security that a graduate scheme provides.


Once I finished university I refocussed my attention and looked forward to starting my scheme. It was an exciting period, I received the details of my first posting and I was still unsure of what I had actually signed myself up for. My goals at this point were limited to breaking into the world of work in some form, I didn’t have the tools, knowledge, or confidence to articulate what I wanted longer term.


I started this scheme in late September 2019 and knew pretty quickly it wasn’t for me. I felt boxed in, as if my path for the next ten years was laid out in front of me. More importantly, the pathway itself didn’t really excite me and I knew that I would lack the agency to change where I might end up. So I started really thinking about what I wanted out of employment, what would make it meaningful for me. I decided I wanted a job that:


1) Gave me the flexibility to figure out what roles I was good at and where I needed to invest more energy into developing myself

2) Had a strong social aspect where I worked alongside passionate people who enjoyed each others company and this passion shone through their work.

3) Provided a wide range of opportunities for progression where I was given recognition for my output and ability, not due to the amount of time I had spent in a role.


I kept these criteria in mind and I looked on job sites, I talked to friends in other companies, and I spend a lot of time reading various pieces of literature from my universities careers website (a fantastic resource I highly recommend to any recent graduate still trying to figure out what’s next). In the end I landed on the conclusion that the only place I would really thrive would be in a start-up.


Start-ups characteristically are always open to trying new methods and figuring things out in a way that some larger organisations simply don't have the agility to undertake. They also provide quick effective feedback and the kind of flat structure that I knew I would thrive within.


The next challenge however became figuring out how to get into this field, I didn’t know what I should be looking for, whom I should be talking to, and what I should be asking for in return. I was fortunate enough to come across an advert for Jumpstart. The programme sounded perfect to me, they would give me the training I needed and help put me in touch with start-ups that they knew and trusted to be stable and provide long term employment prospects if I was the right fit.


Jumpstart removed the fog over the startup sector and helped me understand how I should examine and assess the prospects of different startups, they helped me figure out what roles would suit me and put me in touch with a variety of fantastic organisations.


Thanks entirely to the support Jumpstart gave me, I am now an operations analyst at Thirdfort, a company I am passionate about. I feel challenged and stretched, and am delighted to have found somewhere that is the right fit for me. I highly recommend start-ups as the way forward for all recent graduates. Jumpstart provides an effective way to pierce the veil that seems to exist around the sector and point recent graduates like me in the right direction.


#Jumpstart #startups #gradschemes #Thirdfort

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