When you’re at school, you’re completely unaware of the disparity in education received from school to school, particularly between state schools and top private schools. While state and private curricula are broadly similar - as can be the teaching - equally qualified school leavers or graduates often have a distinct difference: privately educated job hunters are more confident in their abilities, so they expect success.
This made my experience of applying to large corporates a daunting one. At group interview days, applicants around me discussed mutual school friends or their Oxford colleges. Fortunately, for start-ups, it was different.
Expectations and Challenges
I was lucky to go to a very good state school which encouraged me to pursue my interests, but it wasn't until I went to university that I realised that having the right networks and experiences brought enormous value. I went to the University of Bristol: a university with a reputation of having a privileged student body. I was the only non-private schooler on my corridor of 12 and had friends who, for example, interned at Goldman Sachs in New York because their uncle was a Director. I also studied Economics, which meant I was surrounded by coursemates who defined success by which tier of bank or consultancy they received offers from. A common denominator of this environment was an expectation, confidence and assumption that everything would be alright and getting a top corporate job was inevitable. Despite this, I wasn’t put off and started seeking out corporate grad schemes. But I still felt disadvantaged when competing against those who seemed to have the right networks and experiences from an early age.
An Alternative Route
My whole perspective changed once I discovered Jumpstart, which provides graduates with an alternative path: into start-ups. At start-ups, you are judged on your proactivity and enthusiasm for making an impact - rather than the opportunities you’ve been offered through your network. This has helped me to see that the start-up world is where I belong. Everyone wants to build something great and innovative, rather than trying to fit the mould. It often feels like some grad schemes are outdated and slow down graduate progression; at start-ups, I feel like I get the opportunities and responsibility needed to accelerate.
Grads with a state-school background should apply to start-ups (and Jumpstart!) as you will have more space to thrive without the constraints found in the corporate system. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found my way into an early-stage start-up and I encourage more graduates to challenge the conventional corporate routes.
Edward was part of Jumpstart's July 2021 cohort and now works as a Founders Associate at Compose.