The transition from university to work can raise a huge number of unknowns. Listen in as Anna from our recruitment team gives an introduction to starting work as a graduate trainee, and pick up top tips from a panel of recent graduates as they chat about how they adjusted: dealing with imposter syndrome and office culture, building new skills and networks. Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as a silly question.
Moderator: Excellent. So, the, the webinar recording has now begun. So, as I said at the start. Welcome, thank you for joining us today to our event, 'Transitioning from Uni to Work, how to start well and stay well.' My name is Anna Buttenshaw and I work at the local government association on the National Graduate Development Programme for Local Government, which, thankfully, we refer to as the NGDP. And I'm joined today by some current trainees on the programme, current and recent trainees. Reisha, Ed, Georgia and Tom. So, we'll come to give a little introduction to them in a minute. So, as I say, where we're going this morning, we'll do some quick introductions and then I'm gonna speak a little bit on what it's like-, apologies if you can hear that, that's a fire engine going past, the realities of working from home. We've got-, we'll talk a bit about what it's like to enter the working world as a graduate trainee. I'll give a little overview and then our guests will be having a bit of a discussion along that line. We'll talk about what it's like to become an employee, some of your expectations, rights and responsibilities, and then we'll talk about personal well-being, and on each of these topics, I'll give a little overview and then we'll have a bit of a discussion. If you've got any questions for myself or for our panellists, then please do make use of the chat. We might take them as we go along and of course, we'll leave time for questions at the end. So, I've got you all in named order. Reisha, do you wanna kick us off and say a little bit about yourself?
F: Sure. Hi everyone, I'm Reisha, like it says on the screen. I'm at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is an inner London borough and so, like, really unique in terms of what the residence base is. There's a lot of really affluent residents and a lot of residents that live in pockets of poverty, so it's different every day, for sure. Yeah, my current placement is in the growth and delivery team within planning which is completely, like, new to me and never-, something I never thought I'd do but really enjoying it.
Moderator: Fab. Thanks, Reisha. Ed? Do you want to give us a little intro to you?
M: Yeah, of course. Yeah. Good morning everyone. Yeah, my name's Ed, again, like it says on the slide. Ed Groome, and I'm based at Cambridgeshire County Council, which is a large county council, well, in the centre of-, in the centre of the country. I've actually recently come off the scheme, so I was a member of cohort 21. I did a variety of placements. I worked in climate change and energy, I did a six-month placement in our transformation service and I also worked for nine months in education and I've recently have been successful in obtaining a permanent role at a council as a manager in the chief executive's office. Thank you.
Moderator: Fab. Thank you, Ed. Georgia?
F: Hi everyone. I'm Georgia. I'm based in Sutton which is in outer South London and I'm just about to move on to my next placement which is in organisational development. I'm working on gender and racial equality in the council. So, I'm excited for that.
Moderator: Fab, it does sound really interesting. Thanks, Georgia. And Tom, last but not least.
M: Yeah, save the best 'til last. Morning everyone. My name's Tom, again, as it says on the slide. Flying the flag for the northern councils today. It is a whole, spread about the England scheme so if you're ever involved in northern councils or got any questions, let me know. So, I'm currently working in homelessness prevention at Sheffield City Council. My previous placement was in housing as well, so if that's something you're looking to go into then feel free to fire across any questions.
Moderator: Fab. Thanks, Tom. I know it's always such a topic of interest, and rightfully so. So, onto our first agenda item, being a graduate trainee. Now, some of you joining us I recognise might be current university students, some of you might already be out in the working world. This is one of those strange things about doing a virtual workshop in that we don't get a chance to chat with you at the start or the end of the event in person, but whatever your experience of the working world and study, being a graduate trainee is a really unique opportunity and I just wanted to draw out a few factors that are quite different about starting work as a graduate trainee as compared to a, sort of, normal job that you might have held in the past or perhaps other opportunities that you're considering. So, being a, a graduate trainee, then you've usually got a central contact point for your graduate scheme. Now, that might be someone on a large organisational level, you might also have someone on a placement or a lower down organisation level. But, this can be something that sits outside of your usual line management. Now, that's a term we'll come into a bit more later for those who aren't familiar. And if you have concerns about adjusting to working life, receiving support or just uncertainty about what that transition will be like, this is the huge benefit of being a graduate trainee, from my perspective, that you've got those central contact points in place, people who you can go to from day one with any concerns or for any support and who can also help to manage and promote your own development during your time on the graduate scheme.
You've possibly, as I've said, got a separate point for your employment, your line manager and our graduate trainees can talk about some of them have quite a few different contact points. Sometimes that can be a little confusing, but the hope is that you've got lots of levels of support and input for you as you're adjusting to the world of work. Something else that's very different about being a graduate trainee is that the vast majority of schemes including ours provide the chance to rotate between three or four, is the typical number, different roles during your time on the graduate scheme. For us, you stay within the council that you are employed by so you're not changing location or employer every six months, as I know some graduate schemes do. You're in one place and what you're doing by rotating different placements is you're getting a huge wealth of experience, a range of contacts and a really wide view of the organisation which, to us, is really critical in being able to push you faster up into a management position when you finish the scheme. So, it's a key facet of many graduate programmes for that reason. On our scheme and many others, we'll have extra responsibilities around learning and development. Those are really fantastic opportunities in terms of your personal and professional growth, but they definitely do come as an added pressure on top of working life. I'm sure our trainees can speak to that. And then, another benefit is the network of peers. So, those joining our call, our panel today, may not have had the chance or many chances to meet in person but nevertheless, they remain a network of people who are sharing similar experiences with similar values and drive to make a difference and that network of peers, I know over the years trainees have found incredibly helpful. And so those are my, sort of, top, top thoughts about being a graduate trainee.
But enough from me, let's hear from our panel. So, for those of you on the panel who worked before, perhaps in a part-time role or perhaps in a full-time role, what was different for you about starting the NGDP, starting work as a graduate trainee? Any of you are welcome to kick us off, just hop off mute.
M: I'm, I'm happy to go first.
Moderator: Yeah, yeah.
M: I guess, for me, the more part-time roles before the NGDP were, sort of, student jobs and maybe been supermarkets or working at university, and then moving to Sheffield Council, I think I had a bit of an imposter syndrome. Maybe somewhere with unfamiliar territory and more structured line of work, like you've previously mentioned, Anna, line management things. But I guess one of the things I've learned quite quickly is that most people who are your seniors have been in your position at some point in their careers. So, even though you have that, sort of, sense of impostor syndrome maybe in the first few weeks, you soon get to realise that everyone is there to support you and like you, they've all been through the process that you're going through before and so they, they do understand quite a lot o, maybe the thoughts and feelings that you're having. So, honesty, I'd say. Just be honest with how you're feeling and, yeah, people are there to support you.
Moderator: That's fab. Anyone else who found that feeling of impostor syndrome rising as they took on the label of graduate trainee, from our panel?
F: Yeah, definitely. I did, and I think part of that is because the work is supposed to be challenging because it's supposed to be developing you into a leader. So, there's always that element of being stretched and being slightly, hopefully uncomfortable, like, that's, that's supposed to be a good thing if it's at the right level. But I think because there's that stretch as well, there's a lot of support, like Tom was saying, and I found that quite different from other jobs.
Moderator: Fab, thanks. Any other thoughts on this one from our panel?
M: I don't know. Do you want me to go, Reisha, or do you wanna go?
F: Yeah, go ahead.
M: Are you sure? Oh, thank you. I was just gonna say, yeah, just to build upon, yeah, the support point. I think most councils have, kind of, participated in the scheme for quite a long period of time. I know Cambridgeshire has and, kind of, therefore, they're very well versed in, kind of, supporting and developing graduates and I've found that-, I mean, the council obviously, yeah, because they're paying for, for your wages and for your qualification and for your training, yeah, they're very invested in your development and the managers will give you time and their energy to, kind of, to push you on and I feel like from my perspective, that is kind of the main, yeah, difference that I've found between, yeah, jobs I've had before and, yeah, being on the scheme. I think there is a real vested interest in pushing you on, which is obviously what you want.
F: I think yeah, definitely, echoing, everything that's been said before. I think the main thing, for me, actually that was different to previous jobs was, like, the longevity of it. In my previous jobs, I've kinda felt like when I, like, when I left, that, that was fine because someone would just take over doing, you know, the shop role or whatever. There was real, like, impact of, like, me personally being there. But, I think with this job and being a graduate trainee, it's like the others have said, they put so much into you specifically, like, there's a reason they chose you for your role at the council, so it does genuinely feel like you're making a real impact, like, both within the council and, like, the jobs that you're doing.
Moderator: Yeah, that's fab, really interesting to hear so many differences, really, in, in taking on that role. What aspects, and you've touched on this a little bit in talking about support, several of you, but what aspects of a graduate programme would you say are most important to look out for when some of the students that were graduates who are on this webinar might be considering several options. I'm sure, while we obviously believe really strongly in the NGDP, we're not naïve and we know the graduate marketplace and the public sector marketplace are very full and often, people are considering several options. What would you say are the top things to look out for when you're choosing a graduate job? Anyone can kick us off.
F: I, I can kick off this one. I think, at least for me, variety was really important. I think the beauty of doing a grad scheme is that it's almost-, and it's-, it's a little bit of an extension of university where you're not in a permanent role and you're having to do one thing, this is almost like the last chance you'll properly get to, like, move-, bounce around teams and be completely brand new to something. So, that's important and I think, as well, it's a bit cliché but, like, what grads on the programme say about it. If you can reach out to people on LinkedIn or, like, just, you know, word of mouth or whatever. If people seem to have a positive experience on their grad scheme, then it doesn't matter, I think, I think, at least, like, the pay, the opportunity, where it's located, like, you want to feel valued and supported while you're on the journey of it.
Moderator: Yeah, those are some great points. Ed, Tom or Georgia, anything to add?
M: Yeah, I was just gonna say, I think as well, I know it's hard because it might be your first job out of university or first graduate scheme, but think about your values and what you want out of a job. Again, you can only really speak from personal experience, so for me, I did quite a lot of work with homelessness charities in Sheffield at university before I joined the scheme so I knew that was a passion of mine. So, I was sort of looking for jobs and careers and grad schemes around the area, so if you have a certain passion within local government or even within your local community that you want to make a difference in, maybe just do a bit of research around different councils and if any of them have, sort of, a, a bigger interest in that sector. So, yes, I think, I think just go on personality, experience and what you want to get out of work and things that you value.
Moderator: Fab, yeah. Anything to add, Ed?
M: Yeah I think-, I was going to say, I think a lot of-, I think a lot of the points I was gonna make have been touched upon, yeah, like the values, the-, yeah, yeah, the, the experiences people have had. I think, I don't-, long-term prospects are always good to think about as well, kind of, yeah, yeah, what people do after the scheme I think was something that I personally was quite interested in and I wanted to see, see, kind of, what it was leading onto. I mean, I still don't really know exactly what I wanna do long term but I even thought it was interesting to kind of look at what people that have been on to do the NGDP before me have gone on to do. And again, you know, just to highlight, highlight, yeah, the variety of those roles that people have gone into, I noticed, like, the broad spectrum of opportunities and the broad amount of doors that are opened by embarking on this scheme.
Moderator: Yeah, that's fab and it's really interesting. You know, Tom, you said, 'I came with a really defined interest and wanted to look for opportunities to do that,' and Ed's still saying, 'Actually, show me more. I'm not certain yet,' and both-, there's room for both of those within our graduate scheme. And it's, just as you've all said, worth thinking about whether a graduate scheme is pushing you in one very refined direction where you're having to, from the outset, define a specific part of your career you'd like to focus on or whether it is a generalist scheme is more appealing to you. But, there can be room for both speciality and broad appeal within a generalist scheme as well. Georgia, anything to add?
F: I was just gonna add that I think, for me, it was really important to have a lot of development as part of the scheme and for that to be specific. So, I guess it's easy for organisations to say that they're really focused on your development without you really know what that means. But, also the support to help you do that well, and I think we'll come onto more of the well-being stuff later, but that balance was really important to me and I've definitely found that to be the case on the NGDP.
Moderator: Fab. Thank you. So, coming onto being an employee. Now, those of you who are listening in today who might already be in work or who have more experience of work, some of these terms might look really familiar and may be a little bit boring. But when we were considering today's workshop, we just wanted to reflect on, actually, how intimidating some of the employment language can be when you're first adjusting to work or if you've had a, a role where you've been predominantly studying. So, there are things and ways of being, things like line management which is within your role, the person you're responsible to for your work, and perhaps some of our trainees might be able to speak to what it's like to be a line manager as well and function within that, sort of, organisational structure and the responsibilities that that involves. Things like one to ones where you're meeting with your manager or other colleagues to do-, give updates. Review practices, many jobs will have an annual review, but there might be quarterly reviews or monthly reviews of your progress as well. Organisational policies, most organisations that you look at will have a whole enormous section of their website around organisational policies, and I don't know if any of our panellists would join me in, you know, remembering when you first click on your organisation's, sort of, human resource policies or IT policies or training policies, this enormous list comes up and can feel really overwhelming. There's a lot of information and structure out there, but it's not always immediately accessible in, in the way that you'd like it to be. So, it's always something we can talk about.
There's things like organisational culture which can be a really tricky thing to pick up on, what kind of clothes do people wear? How do people relate to each other? How formal are people? How informal? A lot of that is influenced by the sector in which you're functioning but every organisation is very different and it can, again, be a really intimidating thing to face the prospect of adjusting to a new way of being and, and want to, sort of, fit in but still be yourself and how to balance that. There's really practical things like, do your employer use a specific set of documents or structures? What's the email tone like? What's the etiquette? How do people sign off their messages? Then we get into practices that, for me, where they begin to touch on well-being, and we might come into this more, around things like home working and staff networks, human resources, annual leave and flexible working. So, all of these, sort of, terms and jargon really come into a question from our panel which is, out of all of these, sort of, structures and phrases and practices, what did you guys find the biggest adjustment to be when you were starting work? And, I suppose, connected to that, is there anything that you would do differently or that you would recommend as people are facing the prospect of, kind of, adjusting to these ways of being an employee? So, Ed, you're top of my screen. I don't know if you wanna go first.
M: I was gonna say this is a very interesting question. I think-, I think especially, yeah-, yeah, when I came from university, I think yeah, having to book your leave and plan your time off in advance is very important. Yeah-, yeah, so when you're at university, obviously you're used to having your reading weeks off, you have Christmas, Easter, obviously, you have a large, a large break over the summer whereas in the workplace, you only-, well, there's for Cambridgeshire I think I have 25 days a year and obviously, it's important to plan that, yeah, yeah, well in advance, therefore, your team can plan around your workload and all that sort of thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I think, yeah, for me, that was the biggest thing. Yeah, obviously, I wouldn't ever be able to have as much time off or as much time to, to rest as I used to and obviously, yeah, you're planning ahead, in that case, it's really important. Yeah, yeah, so I, I, I think for me, that was the most difficult one. But, I, I like to think after, after a couple of years-, I like to think I'm used to it now anyway.
Moderator: Yeah, it is-, it is a huge adjustment and I think you forget that sometimes. Like me, I've been working for, sort of, ten years or more and it does seem a long time ago having those summer holidays but it is-, it can be a huge adjustment, yeah. Tom, you're next on my screen. I dunno, did you find the adjustment to annual leave really tricky, or was it something else for you?
M: Yeah, I guess I haven't really spoken-, I touched on this in my first answer about impostor syndrome, but just another thing is, is the small things like you've already mentioned like email etiquette and, like, I've never really, apart from university, written formal emails before to maybe managers or line managers. But I think, again, repeating myself, but you've got to remember that everyone starts at your point and even though little things that you think are stupid questions that you might wanna pop up to your manager and be like, 'Hi, stupid question but how do I do an email signature?' Or, 'How do I respond to X, Y, Z?' Don't be afraid to ask those questions because the sooner you ask those questions, the sooner you get into the flow of working and all this organisational jargon and structures and stuff soon becomes the new normal.
Moderator: Yeah, fab. Georgia, you're next on my screen.
F: Yeah, similarly to Tom, I found getting used to emailing people really tricky, particularly senior people. Like, I didn't really know how to contact them and we have-, we use Google at my council, so you can send people a Hangout which is a message, so you can get, like, a quicker response from people but it took me a long time to feel confident enough using them with people that I didn't know so well. So, yeah, I probably would have started to just doing that sooner because you're not being rude by trying to get in contact with someone for the good of your work. So yeah, I just think I was a bit scared about that.
Moderator: Yeah, that, that kind of-, it's a combination, isn't it, of what is the common practice in communicating in the council and also maybe a little bit of that impostor syndrome like, 'I am important enough to speak to important people,' isn't it? Reisha, how about you?
F: I think-, I think in all honesty, a lot of the things that were on that slide are an adjustment. Some of them will be bigger for other people-, for some people, and smaller for others. Like, like, for example, for me with my email signature, I like-, I go with, 'Kind regards,' because all the others just sound really cringe to me. I don't know why, they just do. So, that's why I've gone for, 'Kind regards,' at the end of all of them. But, like, in terms of workplace culture, I think returning to the office, like, post full-time working from home has been really interesting because it's almost trying to navigate, like, how to be a person at the same time as being an employee in the office. Like, how much do people chat to each other? How much do people talk about their lives? How often can you get up to go get a coffee or run down to the canteen or, like, leave the building to go to Starbucks? Which I do. So, it's things like-, it's things like that, that I think have been quite an adjustment. And I think what's helpful, it's helpful throughout, like, starting a job, whether you're working from home or being in person is just observing what other people do and like I think Tom said, not being afraid to ask. There's-, there'll always be somewhere there that is thinking the same thing as you, someone that's from a very similar background, someone a similar age, someone who started their job five minutes ago that might be twenty minutes old-, like, twenty years older than you. So, yeah. There's always someone that you can ask, and more than likely someone else thinking the exact same thing that you are.
Moderator: Yeah, I think that's such a good point. It can be very easy to feel like you're the new person. I had a colleague who kept introducing himself as, 'The new person,' even months into the role and, you know, it-, I think it showed a like, 'Oh,' just, just-, it was like a little warning flag of, 'I'm still feeling new,' and it's okay to feel that way, but don't ever stop it from helping you to reach out and ask the, just the really practical and sometimes really important questions when it's, 'Who do I speak to in HR about this practice?' Or, 'I've got a concern about something that's happening,' or, 'I feel like I can't do this piece of work because I don't know what structure to put it in.' So, what is your top tip, and we may have covered this but for adjusting to the expectations and structures of a new workplace, either in preparation or in the first few months, I know that many of you have been saying, you know, 'Don't afraid to ask the silly questions,' which has been a really common theme. Any other tips for those who are listening in? Anything to do in advance that comes to mind?
M: Yeah, I've got one. It, it'd be flexibility. The NGDP, most councils have placements so, in Sheffield, we have three placements that are eight months. So, we'd move between teams or sectors and flexibility because one, one placement could be you in a team with 25 other people, you've got a line manager, a very organisational structure and then the next team could be equally as important, a different policy but a smaller team. So, you might find you're now working with maybe you and just one other person on a particular thing, a bit more specific. So, maybe don't go into different schemes with perceptions and pre, like, pre-expectations. I'd say, try and react to the environment that you're placed into and be flexible to different organisations because although they're in the same council, all teams do work differently and they work differently with each other. So, yeah. Flexibility would be the, the word that springs to mind, for me.
Moderator: Yeah, that's great. I see you nodding, Ed. do you-, do you have anything to add to that one?
M: Yeah I mean, it's a tad, kind of-, it's a bit, like, yeah, the asking questions one but, I mean, yeah, before you start at your council, I know-, I know before we started and then, like, subsequent of the graduate cohorts, we always-, yeah, they were gonna put the new grads in a WhatsApp group with the current grads and before they even start, well, at the council, obviously, then it's possible for them to ask questions of us, basic ones like, 'Oh yeah, where's the best place to live?' Kind of, 'Oh, does it take long to get into the office?' Kind of, 'What are the nearest restaurants, cafés, places to get lunch?' All that sort of thing. I think, I think it is possible-, I mean, I don't actually know if other councils do that or if it's just us but I think it's just good to, kind of, yeah perhaps to open those barriers of communication before we even start a placement, like Tom said or, or before you even start at the council, it's just good to ask those questions, yeah, or perhaps you're scared to ask because then obviously, when you start, it means you're as best prepared as you can be.
Moderator: Yeah fab, Reisha, any thoughts from you on this one?
F: Yeah, kind of just going off what Ed said there and to be, like, find your support system as early as you can, I think, and that for me, that's been my fellow grads, there was seven of us in my cohort, there were six in the year above and now there are five in the year below. So, I think it's really nice to have those connections that you can speak to and have people in the exact same boat as you and in terms of the structures of a new workplace, I would just write things down, like, in the same way I did at university. I would just make myself like a little folder of notes of, like, the directors who sat under them and who sat under them in relation to my piece of work so that when I saw a name in an email or a meeting, I could immediately be like, 'Oh, I know who that person is and I know why they're interested in this piece of work.' So, I think just like keeping track of things and whatever way works best for yourself can be really useful as well.
Moderator: Yeah, definitely. I remember in my first job, there were a lot of acronyms and I just had a page in my notebook with all the acronyms and what they actually meant so you could, kind of, like, hop over and look a little less confused, you know, maybe at least about 50% of the time. Georgia, any thoughts for you to round us up on this one?
F: Yeah, just thinking about the, the structures of a new workplace. I think I found it really helpful just to, kind of, use being a graduate as my, as my 'In,' and just to organise chats with random people to find out what their role is like and that's helped me to, kind of, understand how different teams in my department work together and how they work with other parts of the council and then if I need to ask someone a question later down the line, I've already said hi to them. I just find it helps me to, to build some, kind of, connections and friendly faces. So, I found that really helpful.
Moderator: Yeah, great tip. Now, on to what I think of is actually the really-, the highlight of this webinar which is personal wellbeing and, you know, when we're talking through some of these really enormous changes to working life and the transition from university, there's so much that comes with that and there have been little hints of it along the way. But, for many graduates, they'll be facing relocation, so, either moving away from where you've been living during study or moving away from home or where you've been living temporarily, and adjusting to a new place, kind of, as you were saying Ed. You know, where's the place best to live? Where do you eat? You know, how, how do I get to the office? Is there, like, a back route or-, you know, all of those questions, moving somewhere new is a huge life shift. There's the aspect of new routine and I think, was it Tom or Ed, you spoke about this in terms of booking annual leave, getting used to that practice of building in your own rest breaks. But also defining what your working day looks like, what your non-working time looks like and establishing that very-, that adjustment to a, sort of, nine to five, ten to six pattern can be really different to sporadic lectures and maybe a part-time job on the side. All of those aspects can be really trick to adjust to. I've just written lifestyle change and, and it's maybe not that simple but, yeah, that shift from being a student, if that's what you currently are, to being an employee in all of those, sort of, structures that we looked at a few slides ago can involve a huge mount of lifestyle change. Your relationships can change, the introduction of new responsibilities, maybe again relocation coming into this, meeting new people, getting used to having colleagues and how do you relate to them? And of course, just your health in every way.
This can be a real-time of change and often will have cases of, you know, physical health issues or mental health, or other aspects that start to change or adapt in response to the new pressures in both positive and negative ways. But it's really important I think to look at all of that because that's a huge part of your life and I know for us in local government and on the scheme, we're not expecting you to deliver objectives as a robot. We're really looking to foster a culture of personal well being, which is enabling you as an individual to deliver on your goals and the goals of an organisation. So, enough from me on that, from our panel, how would you recommend staying well in any sense of that phrase that's been pertinent to you during that period of adjustment to work? So, any tips or personal experiences that you wanna share about just how you either did stay well or, looking back, things you wish you'd done differently when you were in that adjustment period to working life?
F: I would say, so I'm an introvert, and I would say that maybe particularly for introverts, adjusting to work and adjusting to a new, like, place is, is such a massive transition. So, definitely be patient with yourself as you're going through that. But some things I found helpful to transitioning to a-, to a new, like, place and neighbourhood, local Facebook groups are really helpful. I joined, like, a choir and other community groups just to meet people. And I think some of those are only stuff that I've one recently since we've come out of lockdown and I wish that I had the opportunity to do them earlier on. So, I'd definitely say make the most of those opportunities as soon as you can but also try to have reasonable expectations of yourself. And if you are an introvert especially, don't do too much, don't commit to too much, don't beat yourself up if you have to cancel some plans because you're just a bit socially exhausted. So, just take it slow and be patient.
Moderator: Yeah, that's really important. Tom, I see you've come off mute, do you want to go next?
M: Yeah. I came off mute because Georgia just triggered something in my-, in my head. I, I guess the, the sense of moving to a new place and starting a new job, there's so much pressure for you to walk into a perfect job and it's never really the case. Like, it's okay to not really get along with something, maybe you walk-, you walk into in the first place. I'm currently in my second placement and I'm enjoying it a lot more than my first placement. And I think maybe I walked into that placement, in the council in my first placement, thinking, 'It's gonna be perfect, it's gonna be the best thing in the world. I've got my graduate job,' but it's okay to not get along with everything that you're doing. You'll learn a lot about yourself while you're adjusting, learn a lot about how you work and how you work with other people. And maybe something you thought you would be good at or something you'd like in your job, you might join and maybe not get along with it so well. So, I think it's about giving yourself that time to adjust and that time to settle into your council and not putting too much pressure on yourself for everything to be perfect because, yeah, not everything's perfect in life. And just give yourself time to adjust and, yeah. Don't-, just don't put pressure on yourself, I think is what I'm trying to get at.
Moderator: Yeah, does that resonate with you Ed and Reisha?
M: Yeah, completely. Oh, sorry, Reisha. I'll let you go first if you want.
F: Oh, thank you. Yeah, definitely. I think my-, I think my primary recommendation would be to, like, set boundaries for yourself at the beginning within the role. Like, I-, I've not moved away from home since starting so my biggest adjustment has been, like, the job. And I think, like, putting in time for lunch, saying you're not gonna finish any later than, you know, five something, that you do from the beginning is really important, not just for your-, not just for your well being, which is, well, it's the most important for but also for, like, standing your ground as an equal employee with other people I think. I think in a grad, and I've, I've heard people say they feel like as they're the most junior position, they, they just have to, 'Yes,' everything or take on all the work that the team isn't doing, and that's not the case. You are an equal, you do have a life, you should be learning, growing and having enough time to really enjoy the work while you're doing it. So, taking that hour out for lunch, finishing at, you know, 5:30 or whatever it is, is really, really important. I'm just-, so sorry, I just saw a question in the chat about Covid and, yeah, just about, like, work life balance. So, I think that's why that was so important to me from the beginning because I think being your authentic self at work is so, so important, but that shouldn't mean taking your work home into your personal life. You're not, like, a 24, 7 public servant, you're a nine to five public servant with a 24,7 interest in helping people and the value of, you know, supporting vulnerable people.
Moderator: Yeah, fab. Thank you, Reisha. And I'm just looking through the chat now, which I left for a couple of minutes and has been very busy. Just seeing if there's anything that we've missed which is relevant to this bit right now. I think a couple things we'll come onto at the end but it's definitely been a really strange time you-, for all of you to be adjusting to a graduate role within the remit of Covid. And I think that some of those lessons about drawing boundaries and-, with your work are really, really healthy and especially as people are looking at almost, like, adjusting to the new normal, or the next phase or goodness knows what's coming our way. Then it's almost something you have to come back to with each shift, isn't it? In that-, in that time. Just wanted to touch on this question for a minute. What is the conversation like in your council around mental health and employee well being? And perhaps as an add on to that, are there any things that exist or modes of support that you've, kind of, discovered as you've been there which you wish you'd engaged with from the start or which you did engage with from the start and have been a really helpful support? So, I'm not sure who'd like to, to kick us off on that one.
M: I'm happy to go first if everyone doesn't mind. Sorry. Yeah. So, at Cambridgeshire, they've recent-, well, I say recently, over the last year they've started to do these monthly well-being hours, and they're always on a different, yeah, yeah, topic. So, for example, they-, one was about, yeah, stress relief and they talked through, kind of, different, yeah, yeah, things you can do if you're worried about particular work or, or home-based issues. They did one whole hour on, like, home exercise, they've done ones on, kind of, mental health awareness and suicide or prevention. And our managers have, have also, kind of, put more focus on that in our one to ones as well. So, the first question I always get from my manager is always about my well-being now, and it's the same when I do one to ones with people that I manage now. It's always about, yeah, yeah, their mental well-being as well. Yeah. And really ever since, you know, working at home as well, I've noticed teams and, kind of, people putting, yeah, more time just have, like, half-hour catch-ups with you because obviously, it's much harder to catch up with people now that we're not in the office as much. So, one thing I've noticed is people put more time in the diary with you just to catch up. Our team do a weekly catch up now and us grads do weekly catch-ups as well. So, yeah, like, the current grads, former grads. Obviously, I think there should be more focus on it at Cambridgeshire especially, well, in my obviously personal experience, yeah, since Covid.
Moderator: Thanks, Ed. Anyone-, anyone else on this one? I wondered, have any of you engaged with any staff networks? Because this is something that I think in the last few years in particular councils have, have been really growing and investing in a lot of staff networks or the people who work there have been doing that. I'm not sure if any of you have engaged with staff networks at all?
M: Yes, I've engaged with a few and I would also say there is networks on the NGDP itself. So, I'm involved in Northern network of NGDP and there's plenty of networks to be involved with. And as well as organising events surrounded by that topic or your interest in, they always do work-, they also work very well as well being sessions. As we-, as Anna's mentioned, most of our work is online so it's a good time to, sort of, chat with other, other graduates and get to know people better. And you, sort of, share experiences and also share fears. And you also realise that a lot of people from different councils are experiencing the same thing as you.
Moderator: Yeah, fab. Any-, anyone else on that one?
F: Yeah. I've been involved in some staff networks at Sutton. I've been involved with the-, with the youth network which is more of, sort of, an early careers network which is really helpful for, kind of, helping us get used to the workplace and help each other out. As well as the women's network and they've done events with the BAME network to focus on the experiences of women of colour and, kind of, having learning sessions. And, yeah. Just really-, it's just a really good way to learn about other people's experiences but also find that solidarity in whatever stage of life or whatever you're in.
F: Yeah. I think definitely echoing what's been said about, like, staff networks. I'm involved with the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic networks for the council on both the-, and the grad scheme. And like I said, like, like I think I mentioned earlier, it's about that support systems I think for me. In terms of what the council are doing, I will say that I think anyone that works in a council will say, like, it's not perfect. There's always gonna be room to grow and learn for organisations, leaders and people. But what's I think really good about working in a council is that they are fairly adaptable. Like, we have surveys that go out annually and they do try to respond to those concerns and see what can be done to provide more support. For example, there's been, like, a round of mental health first aid training that hasn't been around for a while in the past year or so. Things like that, so there are opportunities out there to improve it and to, like, change what you-, like, change the gaps that you see in your organisation.
Moderator: Yes. That's such a good point. And I think for me, just one final thought on this, I would say that for any of you considering applying to the graduate scheme, if there are outstanding issues in your own well being then please don't sit and think you need to hide those aware in a cupboard. Please don't see them as a disadvantage, they're part of who you are and we're really keen to support everyone to perform their best in the assessment process, and to support them when they're on the scheme. So, we really encourage people, if there's something outstanding and there could be so many things, we're all really different with varied challenges and life experiences and, sort of, physical realities. Then please don't feel like you need to hide part of yourself away. We're really keen on, on supporting everyone. And so, if that's you and you have concern about it, please drop a line to email@example.com especially if you're concerned about an impact that something in your life will have on the assessment process. We're doing a workshop tomorrow on reasonable adjustments, which you're welcome to join us for or watch back after. But my big point here is, you know, do reach out, no matter what stage you're in, people are there to support. And, as Reisha said, not everyone is gonna get it right the first time, but I think there is a real sense, especially in local government, of being on a journey to-, together to support people and to learn and to do that so that everyone can be their-, be at their best.
If that's not, sort of, the most horrific cheesy phrase. Seeing our next slide just brings us to questions really. I think we had a couple of questions around placements, location and employment after the scheme. Ed, it was you who's moved into a permanent role, am I right? Do you-, would you mind just talking us through your experience of transitioning from, sort of, the graduate scheme and finding a permanent role, and what that was like for you?
M: Yeah, absolutely, happy to. Yeah, so, yeah, so I was-, I started to look for-, I would look for jobs about five or six months prior to finishing the scheme because obviously, I was getting a bit, kind of, antsy about it. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't find anything, but Cambridgeshire were really helpful. I-, perhaps I should point out that, that, you know, graduates in Cambridgeshire have all got a really high retention rate. Yeah. So, we always tend to keep the graduates when they finish the scheme. Obviously, people do eventually tend to leave but, you know, not straight after the scheme. And I've not met-, I've not met, you know, grads that have failed to find a job. So, I think, yeah, that's a really important point to make. So, there were quite a few jobs, yeah, came up that I applied for at Cambridgeshire. The job that I'm in now was initially advertised as secondment, where I work in an executive's office, which I applied for and I was interviewed by our chief executive and leader. I had to do-, I had to present and then was asked a lot of interview questions. I didn't actually think it went that well but obviously, it must have-, must have gone better than I thought. And I was successful, it's obviously really positive. I found the council really supportive because they've obviously spent with time and money helping your developments.
Obviously, I, I had my qualification paid for and they paid for other things for me to do as well so I'd attended quite a few other courses while I'd been at the council. Things like project management, I did my PRINCE2 and all that kind of thing the council paid for, and obviously all the mentoring that I got from different managers around the council. So, I didn't find it to be as difficult experience I was expecting. I would just say that a job is obviously not guaranteed but I think the council obviously have got a vested interest in keeping you, seeing as they put you through all that training and all that-, all that mentoring. So, I wouldn't-, I wouldn't, kind of, be concerned about it if, if people are perhaps worrying about it, I'd say don't. I mean, obviously there's, there's, there's all your placements to go through first so, yeah. I, I actually found it to be quite a rewarding experience. I mean, I obviously hadn't done any recruitments since I got my place on the scheme. So, it's quite nice to be able to, yeah, dust off my CV and, and to be able to reflect upon all the things I'd one on the scheme. So, actually it was quite a nice exercise as well to be able to go to the people that were interviewing me and be able to talk about all the things that I'd one. Yeah. So, I actually found it to be quite a nice experience in the end, obviously it was a bit daunting the interview itself but it went well in the end.
Moderator: Yeah, fab. I'll just give-, we've got a couple minutes left if anyone's got any other questions for myself or the panel. I know lots have been going on in the chat. I'll just speak to a couple of points while we leave a minute for that around questions that have come up. So, there have been some questions in the chat around placements and how does that rotation work? And I think if you scan through the chat, you'll see some of our panellists have given an example. Each council does function in their own way but I would say the vast majority of councils will work on a couple of major premises, they'll be looking for really important and interesting projects in the council which align with business needs. They'll be looking for placements where there's a really good track record of line management because, as many people have said, you know, they recognise you're in a very-, most people are coming to this in an early career space. So, if you've got other work experience, that's fantastic but we're not expecting that of you. And so, usually placements are looking to build in that line management and mentoring support. And then, especially as you start getting into the graduate scheme, the vast majority of councils are really keen to help you pursue either areas where you want to look because you don't know very much about it and you want to learn, or areas where you're beginning to define a real interest or speciality in a skill set or topic.
Then most of the councils that I know are really keen again to give you those experiences which are relevant in building you up in your career. And as Ed and others have said, you know, there's a real desire to, to help you advance in your career particularly at that council, but also generally within the public sector as they've made such an investment in you over the year time on this scheme. So, there is some variety but there's pretty much a consistency and there's almost always a place for you to have your voice in expressing your interests and your needs when it comes to a placement. I thought I'd touch briefly on location. So, as you can see from our panellists, we work with between 50 and 60, sometimes upwards of that, local councils in England and Wales every year. And what we do is at the end of our assessment process then all of the candidates are given a full list of the councils who are taking part and they can give us their priorities of where they would like to work on a council by council basis but also indicating their regional interests. And what we do is undergo a really vast and complex match making process to give you job interviews with some of your top prioritised councils, and taking into account anything that might be in the way like caring responsibilities or a mortgage or a need to be somewhere specific. And then, a successful job offer does pend a successful interview. So, that is how location works on the scheme as well.
I'm having a really quick look. My colleague Elyse has put a link to our webpage where the application process is indicated. So, very much encourage you to take a look at that and some of the support structures that are in place there. I will say that we try to provide opportunities to practice for each stage of the assessment process. So, on our website you'll find resources to practise for our situational judgement test which I very strongly encourage you to look at. And we'll be providing resources around video interviews, which is the next stage, and also assessment centre which comes after that. If you look on our website, you'll also find our key skills and behaviours and these eight criteria are the criteria that every stage of our assessment process is measuring. So, it's not mystery what we're looking for. If you study and ponder on those key skills and behaviours then that's really one of the best places to start when you're looking at the assessment process. Now, I think we haven't had any new questions come to the fore. I've got one hand up I think in our-, in our meeting. So, Anata, would you like to come off mute and ask the question?
M: Yeah. Thank you very much, Anna, for the opportunity. I will like to ask a question. I know that this might be unrelated with the topic of the meeting but I would like to ask in terms of the application after graduate and the NGDP graduate scheme. Because, if I'm not mistaken, when I apply I need to conduct the online test. So, considering that the application is closed in January, so I cannot take it more time to, kind of, practice first before I apply because after that I need to learn the online test or I still can apply as soon as possible and maybe the online tasks as soon as possible to offer the role being closed. Thank you very much.
Moderator: Thank you, and that's a great question about the assessment process. Yeah. We're open for a really long time and that is so that people have a lot of time to hear about the programme, to practise and to apply when the time is right for them. So, if you're working or studying there might be really different points in the calendar year in this, sort of, three months that our applications are open that are gonna be the best time for you to study for and do out situational judgement test. So, there's no advantage to completing it early or later, it's really just about finding a time where you can prepare and do the test without pressure. It's an untimed test and so when you can-, you can start your application at any point. You should be able to save it and leave it and then when you're ready to do the situational judgement test, then you can start that test, complete it and then your application will be formally submitted. But there is no advantage to doing that now versus on the last day, as long as you've given yourself enough time to do it in a non-pressured environment I would say. We review all marks when everyone has finished the tests and we compare that against our equality and diversity data to make sure that we're not seeing any, any adverse impact from the test. So, that's why there's not an automatic, sort of, pass or fail when you complete. We do a lot of analysis work to make sure that it's completely fair and equal before we set those boundaries.
And so, that's one of the reasons there. So, I think that brings us to the end of our questions. If there is anything lingering for anyone then I've linked to our website here, you can follow us on Twitter. We do have a group on LinkedIn and this email address I've listed is the best one if you've got a question about how to apply or anything that perhaps we have covered here today. So, let me close with a huge thank you to our panellists for giving their time and being open about their own experiences. So, thank you so much. Just in my screen order, Ed, Georgie, I've gone too far, Reisha and Tom. A huge thank you from me, and I'm sure from our-, those who are watching for your time today. Do take care and do get in touch if you have an questions. Thanks very much.