Sue - the Tragedy of the Graduate Everybody Wanted

by : Toby Marshall

Definitely someone ‘most likely to succeed’. Talented, smart, great academic results, ambitious, mature, organised, sociable and she loves her touch rugby team. Just an all round great kid who will have a great career despite the setback of her first job.When she graduated, she received 5 job offers from leading employers and chose a good bank with a well supported graduate program. Sue quit after just 20 months.If you believe that the whole point of Graduate Recruitment is hiring your future leaders and specialists, then Sue and thousands like her should be setting off alarm bells in major corporations.Before you read Sue’s story remember it’s not all doom and gloom; there is a simple solution. If you would like to discuss it, call our office and schedule an appointment to talk on the phone or meet.Sue went to a great high school that she loved. She was a prefect and was heavily involved in the school community. Having received great results in her final exams, Sue enrolled in the 5 year program, Commerce/Law.She lived at home while at Uni, and her parents fully supported her study which was often fairly intense – her goal was to graduate with a distinction average (and she did). With their support, she only needed to work about 8 hours on reception at the local gym, just to get spending money. “My job was to ‘smile and swipe’. Not too challenging!"Her choice of commerce law? Well, it was what the smart kids all did, her family were keen for her to do it and she had the grades, so why not?There was a lot of friendly competition among the ‘smarter kids’ in the course about who they would work for when they graduated and who would get the best starting salaryLike most of her Uni friends, Sue’s parents were not wealthy, and in 5 years she piled up a scary debt of student loans. So, they were all keen to get a big salary and move out of home!In their second last year, placement in summer vacation internships was the goal. The big firms were out on campus casting wide nets and spending big to get the best to come and join them. They know that without such a program, they won’t have a chance to hire the best the following year – this is the first of the 2 ‘Piranha Feeding Frenzies’ (the second being the intense competition to get the best onto their graduate programs.)Why just the big firms? Well, they can spread the incredible marketing expense of their Summer Intern program over a large intake. Small to medium sized firms don’t get a look in as it’s just not cost effective.Sue and her friends got some offers but it was very hard for the students to work out which company was best – though highly educated and intelligent, their knowledge of the corporate world consisted of their own simple fantasies and assumptions.Not their fault. They have never worked in a professional role. And it’s sure a lot more complicated than it used to be. So many varieties of jobs, so many new careers that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Sue’s parents tried to help, but were also clueless – they own a small business and had no corporate experience.“So, I chose the big and well known brand, the one who had all the smiling young people at this great breakfast they put on at a luxury hotel. Not to mention the Ipod nano, and other sweeteners offered! But also, ‘Big Bank’ only takes the best students – I had great grades, and I thought why waste them. My parents supported the decision, as the Bank is really well known and profitable."Now, ‘Big Bank’ puts a large effort into its summer program – they spend well over $20,000 per intern. When costing it, most firms just include the direct costs like the intern’s salary, brochures, the corporate booths on campus, the free gifts etc.What they don’t include is management and staff time. To quote one leading banker who has had interns assigned to his Division: ‘they just get in the way; they take up too much time, and we are all so busy. The program is just about marketing and pandering to these kids: there must be a better way to get the best ones to come to us when they graduate. I refuse to take them in my area anymore." (Manager of a department in Macquarie Bank, anonymous so HR doesn’t murder him.)In Sue’s words: “They were all really nice to me and gave me heaps of time to tell me about what they did, and let me sit in on meetings – I didn’t understand much of what was going on! The jobs I was given were pretty simple – including the coffee run, filing and copying. The boss was terrific, but I was only there for 9 weeks and he was away for 5 of them on holidays or travelling. He apologised for the lack of supervision, but also for it being a really quiet time being Christmas and January so there wasn’t much for me to do.“He did give me a research project to do, but I could tell it wasn’t anything important. And he didn’t have time to review it or give me much feedback.“So while I got to know them quite well, I don’t really know much about what they do."And of course, the bank has no idea of how productive Sue is, or how she will perform under pressure. Just that she is willing and keen to please.For a better way to learn about your future graduatesFree Web Content, Know/Act/Profit First by going to and learn what a few innovators have started doing.For a media article exploring the problem and the solution in greater detail -