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How to choose your future employer as a graduate

GradAustralia

Get the best start to your career by following these 7 tips on how to research and find the right organisation for you to launch your graduate career.

Once you have chosen a specialisation, then your next decision – which organisation to apply for – can fast become a vexing one. Even if you have a strong sense of where you’d like to work, it pays to ensure that your decision is a carefully considered one. After all, why shouldn’t you reward yourself with the best possible start to your career?

Questions to help you decide

To help you make the best choice, we’ve compiled a list of seven key questions that every business graduate should be able to answer when considering a prospective organisation.

1. How large is the organisation?

Organisations range in size from tiny boutique outfits that tend to specialise in niche areas such as small accounting firms to global giants like PwC, which employs more than 223,000 people in 157 countries.

There are pros and cons to working in organisations at either end of the spectrum. While some may be drawn to the scale, stability and career advancement opportunities offered by medium and large organisations, others will prefer smaller organisations where they can focus on specific topics of interest, develop close client relationships, and potentially enjoy a more close-knit culture. Smaller organisations may have a faster growth trajectory given their ‘all hands on deck’ approach.

Of course, there are few merits that are reliably exclusive to firms of any size, so the scale of any specific firm should be considered only insofar as it might impact on your career satisfaction and advancement.

2. Will you be working in a specialisation that interests you?

As you’ve seen in the first section of this guide, there are many areas in which you could choose to specialise. If you have a strong sense which specialisation interests you most, then it’s worth seeking out organisations that will cultivate your passion.

It’s also important to consider whether your personality fits the specialisation. Bear in mind that it may be challenging to switch specialisations once you commit to one. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done! There is always scope for change – you may just need to be prepared to take a backwards or sideways step depending on the stage at which you choose to switch. For example, it can often be easier to make a switch at the early stages of your career rather than later.

3. What’s the culture of the organisation like?

The importance of culture in an organisation cannot be overstated. After all, there are few other environments in which you’ll work as intensely or closely with other groups of people, so it pays to ensure that you fit in and feel supported.

To properly evaluate the culture of an organisation, you’ll need to ask a variety of questions such as: How competitive is the organisation? What sort of people work there? What is expected of graduate employees? What are the people like? How many hours a week will I work?

Organisations and even individual teams within organisations also vary widely in their value systems. Some may value individualism, conspicuous effort or reaching monetary targets; others may value employee and client satisfaction, work-life balance, or community engagement. Where possible, try to secure a position in an organisation whose values are consistent with yours.

4. Will working at this organisation help you in your career?

On average, people change jobs between 11 and 12 times during their careers. So, it pays to consider where you want to be not just for the next few years but in a decade or so. If you have a strong sense of your career goals, then you should ensure the firm you’re interested in will help you meet them.

This might mean checking that you’ll learn the right skills, focus on the right issues, gain the right experience, or network with the right people. Some firms have established professional development initiatives, especially those with structured graduate programs. Just be certain that your career will grow at the target organisation rather than being restricted. Remember, you should always choose an organisation that facilitates the greatest rate of growth. The moment you stop learning, it’s time to look elsewhere either in terms of role or organisation.

5. Does the firm have an international presence?

For graduates excited about the prospect of working abroad or focusing on international projects, it could be worth prioritising organisations that have a global presence. It can be much easier to find employment overseas if internal transfers are available, and international firms often leverage their global presence to address issues that span multiple regions.

On the other hand, if you’d prefer to work in a single location or focus on domestic issues, you may wish to avoid international firms in which overseas postings or training programs are considered a natural part of your career progression.

6. Will I have a healthy work-life balance?

You will have your own sense of what a healthy work-life balance looks like – some people may derive satisfaction from working late, others may prefer more regular hours with ample time for personal commitments. In either case, it’s important to check that your idea of a healthy work-life balance is achievable at a target organisation.

7. Who are the clients?

If you work in professional services, you may want to consider the types of clients that your target organisation works with. Are they in industries that you would like exposure to? While you don’t have to be passionate about every single client and industry your organisation works with, you must at least be sure that you are curious.

Other factors to consider

It pays to consider your academic background. If you’ve completed an undergraduate degree or alternative qualification in an area other than business, this may make you more employable in specifics areas. For example, if you studied law alongside your business degree, you may find it advantageous to pursue a career at a commercial law firm.

You should also take into account your interests and explore how you can use them to create a more satisfying career.

More questions to consider:

  • Where is the organisation located?
  • Will the organisation meet your salary expectations?
  • Will you have any autonomy?
  • Will you receive a variety of interesting work?
  • Will you have an opportunity for rotation into different specialisations?
  • Will you be required to work very long hours without a clear link to performance and pay?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development, including training, education (such as funding for further study) and mentoring?
  • What is the professional reputation of the person you will be reporting to? Do you think you will like working with them?

How to find answers to your questions

If you are interested in working for a particular organisation, it’s helpful to speak with current employees about their individual experiences. One way to do this is by approaching representatives of your target organisation at careers fairs. Alternatively, recruitment agents and other contacts and friends who have worked at the firm can provide honest and valuable information about its culture, reputation and working environment. You can also refer to graduate job reviews and insider guides on gradaustralia.com.au.

Researching online can be a helpful way to find answers to your questions, although you should, of course, endeavour to base your opinions on reputable sources. You can also seek out the advice of lecturers, tutors and career counsellors. Finally, there’s no better time to ask clarifying questions than during a job interview.

By doing your research and deciding carefully on an organisation that fits your values, goals and expectations, you can be confident of your choice and get your career off to a flying start!