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10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated

As thousands of students across the UK are sitting their finals and contemplating their futures, Katie Streeter Hurle, Partnership and Campaign Director at Shopper Media Group shares the advice she wishes she’d known when graduating.

It’s a scarily long time since I graduated, but I remember the time well. You’ve finished your degree, you’ve graduated, you’ve said farewell to some of your closest friends in life and reality comes and slams you in the face! Navigating the world of graduate jobs is truly over-whelming and I certainly wish I’d been a little bit better informed when I entered this new world. Here are the 10 things I wish I knew when I graduated:

1. Consider the big vs small. It is not just the big corporate graduate schemes that can offer great opportunities, often it is the smaller agencies experiencing growth where you can truly get a fast start to your career and a broad grounding in what it’s like to run a business. These ones often don’t have graduate schemes, so they’re harder to find, but a bit more digging can really pay off.

2. It is OK to have a long-term plan...but be prepared to change it! I had always thought I'd have a straight forward path and career.... but it took a long time for me to accept it's not always that simple or straight forward, sometimes you have to step sideways or scrap the path completely, and take a few twists and turns along the way. Embracing every opportunity and being pragmatic about it really is some of the best advice I can give.

3. Find somewhere that truly backs graduates. At Shopper Media Group, we made a conscious choice to back people early in their careers and give them genuine responsibility. Find a company that isn’t employing you to make the tea (although more to come of that later….) and where you will have the opportunity to learn fast.

4. That said, say yes to everything. No job is too small, too irrelevant, too junior. Take every opportunity that comes your way, be positive and make the most of it, you never know where it could lead or who is watching. You want to be seen as helpful, trusted and can-do, that way when a bigger opportunity comes up, you'll be first on the consideration list.

5. It’s not just about what you know. Employers are not only interested to know what you would do if you worked for them but more importantly how you would approach it. Demonstrating the right behaviours, in keeping with the business you are applying to work for, will get you far. The companies worth joining are the ones that not only appreciate this, but who actively nurture it too.

6. Make mistakes. In your career, expect the unexpected and embrace it with open arms. Every challenge is an opportunity to grow – it’s far better to try and get it wrong, than to not have given it a go in the first place. I’ve made so many failures in my time, but I’ve learned from them and moved on.

7. There is genuinely no substitute for hard work. Invest hard in the first few years of your career. Don’t be afraid to graft and know that you might have to put in the hours every now and again – it will pay dividends in the future.

8. Don’t be seduced by glamour. Don't be seduced by an industry you think is cool, or the ‘latest thing’. You may find there are always a lot of people vying for them and as a result pay is poor and you may not be treated well as they know you're replaceable. The most rewarding jobs are those you may have no prior knowledge of - cast your net wide.

9. Make learning top of your agenda. Find companies that invest behind learning, regardless of your experience or tenure in the business. At SMG, we have a scheme called the ‘University Fund’ where we give every employee £500 per year to invest in learning something they’re interested in. This is entirely self-selected and we give people the autonomy to choose what they want to learn. You need to be a sponge and absorb as much as you can.

10. Have fun. And finally, don’t take it too seriously all the time. You’ll spend more time in the office than with your friends or family, so having a laugh whilst you’re there and enjoying the company culture really is important. Find somewhere with people you can trust and who will challenge you, then head to the pub after hours.

SMG is one of the most exciting growth companies in the UK today. We are the home of three award winning agencies Capture, Lobster and Threefold. We believe that the best way for brands to grow is to connect with shoppers at the point of consideration and buying. Conversely, for retailers, enabling that connection creates happier customers, better performance and brilliant business results. We believe that brands and retailers can achieve transformative results by working together to reach shoppers.


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