On hiring recent graduates

It’s almost the end of January – I know, how did that happen already… Can you hear that sound? It’s the sound of seniors scurrying to get their post college plans into place. And the sound of employers rushing to hire the best talent graduating this Spring before they get snapped up by someone else.  

Hiring people right out of school. When I have the right role, when it is the right fit, when I know I have the time to dedicate to the new hire, it is the most wonderful, rewarding, impactful experience. The first year out of school and into a job is a major transition. It is an honor to walk someone through it. And I take that responsibility very seriously. 

In my time, I have seen new graduate hires that have worked and some that have not. And the outcome is rarely because of the new graduate. The outcome is closely linked with the supervisor and the resources (including time) that they have dedicated to the new hire.   

I know… Ouch! 

But here’s the thing: showing your recent graduate to their office, booking in your weekly catch up and closing the door isn’t going to cut it. It doesn’t cut it for any new hire, but this is especially true for early career practitioners. Early career professionals require their manager and/or organization to dedicate time and resources to their development.

Hiring a graduate is a partnership. It is a commitment and investment, because the on-boarding process can take up to a year. And, I have found that if you make that commitment, your business is better for it. Because today’s early career professionals are highly educated, extremely bright, deeply insightful and just plain talented. And seeing that talent flourish and contribute to your team – well it can be a game changer.  

So, how to get it right? First there are questions to ask yourself in the hiring process. 

  •  Is this role suitable for an early career professional or does it need a more experienced professional? 
  •  Do I as a hiring manager have the resources (including time) to dedicate to an early career professional? 

Answer the questions honestly. If the reason for hiring a graduate is that you can only afford to pay an entry level salary, but the demands of the job mean that you actually need someone with more experience – well, alarm bells. I see this over and over. Spoiler alert – this scenario doesn’t work for anyone – not the recent graduate, not the hiring manager and least of all, the organization. 

But if you can answer yes to the above questions, then go forth! Hire an early career professional, a recent graduate!  

And once you find your prefect new graduate, here are some things to consider when designing their on-boarding plan. These are some things that have come up for recent graduates that I have managed, especially when the role was their first 9 to 5 gig: 

  • They may want more face time with you than other team members. And sometimes they may need more face time with you, but not realize it 
  • They may need you to provide a space to test ideas, ask questions, think out loud  
  • They may need you to provide a space to learn how to plan their day/week & the rhythm of the workplace 
  • They may need to you to help them understand their own work style, learning style and needs 
  • They may need you to teach them that they, like all of us, have a customer to serve. And that sometimes the customer is their boss
  • AND of course, learning the technical skills of your discipline. They may have learned the theories and skills in school, but this is where they put them into practice in the real world. There may be shades of grey, or nuances to learn. Or it may just be a case of needing time to see how things play out. 

Then there is all the stuff that they will need to learn about how work…well… works! Email etiquette, time and priority management, seeing office politics for the first time – there is a lot to learn. Throw in the fact that (in the US at least) they have likely moved to a new city and are navigating that transition for the first time, it can be quite overwhelming. So, check in with them regularly. Ask them how they are doing. Be FOR them. 

Want to know why I love supervising recent graduates and why I take it so seriously? Doing this work is an incredible opportunity to model what it looks like to be a strong, empathetic and effective leader. Because these guys are going to lead teams of their own one day. Modeling people whispering is my little way of making future workplaces better for everyone.  

And that is what it is all about. 

Until next week,