I graduated in 2013 with a 1st class degree from Newcastle university and won two cash awards for my academic achievements. Although I was a high achiever, I always felt that ‘grad jobs’ were out of my league. I compared myself to others on my course who were mostly privately educated and oozed the confidence I definitely lacked. They could be talking about how chocolate cake inspired post-structural theory and you’d be convinced they knew what they were talking about.
Growing up as a child dependent on the welfare state receiving free school meals, frequent visits from social workers, and being brought up by a single mum addicted to prescription opiates – I felt that I didn’t belong amongst these self-assured, privileged people and so shied away from companies who attract graduate calibre types, fearing I wouldn’t be good enough.
However, a few weeks ago a conversation on Twitter with the CEO of one of the UK’s largest social and market research companies made me think that maybe I do have what it takes to compete in the graduate job market. Soon after I had followed the CEO on social media, he messaged me to tell me he liked my blog! And he even asked if I had applied for their graduate scheme. This gave me the confidence boost I craved and the next day I applied for my first ever graduate programme. I also made my cv available online, letting recruiters know I was looking for ‘grad jobs’.
It wasn’t long before I received a call from a recruitment agency ‘Pareto Law’ who place graduates in business-to-business sales roles. I thought the job sounded incredibly uninspiring but the graduate manager assured me it was just what I was looking for. She invited me to their assessment day in Leeds, where they would assess whether I would cut the mustard for a b2b sales career.
As I arrived at the hotel where the day was held, the waiting area was full of nervous grads in business attire. I was hoping the room would also be filled with a continental breakfast buffet, but all I could see was a bowl of apples and I think they were just for display.
After all our names were ticked off the list, the day started by each of us standing up one by one to introduce ourselves and talk about our greatest non-academic achievement. It soon became clear that this was a room full of young people with broken dreams. There were the creative types, actors and musicians who were there because it was time to “grow up”. There was a man who was proud to have made it into the parachute regiment of the army but was discharged for medical reasons. There was another who had done great work supporting children in a care home.
We were a diverse bunch but we all had something in common: desperation. I don’t imagine anyone gets themselves into huge amount of debt at uni to bag themselves a depressing job selling IT software or telecoms.
The man running the assessment day spoke about the kind of graduates they’re looking for – confident and money driven. Reading between the lines I could see that they wanted thick skinned, bordering on arrogant types who enjoy lad bantz far more than any meaningful conversation. After nearly crying listening to one grad talk about his work with troubled children, I knew I was in the wrong place.
This was a graduate assessment centre but you were actively encouraged not to talk about your academic life. They asked for no proof if you actually attended university and they certainly didn’t care one bit which institution you graduated from. I wouldn’t be surprised if you told the recruitment consultant you graduated from the University of Unicorns with a degree in Glitter Sprinkling and they responded with “That’s fantastic! Get yourself to our next assessment centre asap!”.
When I began my search for a career, I wanted the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge that I had learnt at university; critical thought, analysis, report writing. The roles Pareto Law recruit for offer none of these things, and of course they don’t – they are a sales company. I am baffled as to why they claim you need a degree to apply for one of their pseudo graduate jobs. The only reason I can see why they recruit graduates is because there are so many of us, and I don’t want to work for a company just because I went to university. I want them to value my education and help me to use it in a way that will be beneficial to the company and for my own personal development.
I also want to work for an organisation who respect their employees and I think assessment centres are a good way to test this. Before we attended the Pareto Law assessment day we all received an email saying lunch would be provided so there was no need to bring our own. At around 3pm we were allowed a 15 minute break but there was no food to be seen. A few people brought up the email but the recruiters laughed it off with a very disingenuous “sorry about that”. Some of us had travelled over 100 miles to be there and had spent a fortune on parking. I don’t think providing a small amount to eat would have been much to ask but then again, they’re all about profits.
If your grad job search has been futile so far and you value money making over wholesome work, then I would definitely recommend Pareto Law to get you started. You can progress quickly and be making 200k after two years, apparently. I’m sure the prospect of this financial success outweighs the negatives for some but alas, it seems I am not the money driven candidate they are looking for. Pareto Law may have been the beginning of my graduate jobs quest but it certainly isn’t the end.