It's June 2016, I'm sitting in our office on the Sussex University campus watching students rush to their final exams. Most of them have no clue what they want to do once they come face to face with the harsh reality that university is over and every overdraft has a limit. A year ago that was me, and although I had a vague idea of my skills and interests, I still had no proper direction.
My main issue back then was, as I now have realised, the lack of focus and confidence. However, the kind of confidence and focus I needed was the kind you can only truly gain from experience. This refers back to the classic paradox most young people encounter when they are trying to get hired: you need experience to gain experience, but if employers are not willing to employ you without previous experience, how can you ever gain any? I was interested in starting a career in marketing, but with a degree in Anthropology, French & Spanish having only worked in customer service and sales I found myself constantly talking to recruiters who were keen to offer me sales roles. Luckily, I had a part-time job which meant I had time to consider my options, and in the end biding my time paid off. By coincidence I heard about a graduate opportunity at the Sussex Innovation Centre, and not long after I was hired as part of the Catalyst Team. Networking never fails.
I will be beginning a Masters Degree in Marketing this October. A prospect which would have seemed quite unrealistic a year ago is now the most logical next step. For the past seven months I have immersed myself in the world of business experiencing the highs and lows of getting start-ups up and running, and pushed more established companies forward. At the beginning I was blogging for Colour Me Social, executing Heatcatcher's social media strategy, and researching partners for Young Start-Up Talent.
As time passed, I got new clients and the roles with some existing ones evolved as I gained more responsibilities. I have now done sales, lead generation, online marketing, content creation and project management for companies such as Local Puzzle, Do Something Different and Dry Patch. Not only do the projects give me an understanding of, for example, how inbound marketing campaigns are run, but also in seeing how the same task is done in different businesses helps in analysing the best methods and assessing strategies benefiting both me and the clients.
In addition to the actual professional skills I have learned at Catalyst, I have developed at a personal level. As a fresh graduate I had ideas about what I was good at and what I enjoyed doing. Now I know what I'm good at and what I'm not, what I enjoy doing and what I don't, and I Have context and a sense of focus in everything I do. The amount of different projects Catalyst has allowed me to conduct has been extremely helpful finding my way, and it is something a single role within one company could not easily offer. Because hiring for Catalyst is not based solely on experience, but more on personality and abilities, the potential for self development is immense. As I was updating my CV I came to realise how much more I can include in it than I could seven months ago. The prospect of a job interview seems almost enjoyable now because I have tangible skills and experiences I can discuss instead of having to try and relate all my extracurricular sporting activities with an office job.
So where am I now? This seven month learning curve has brought me to a point where I feel ready to start developing a career, and take on new challenges with focus and confidence. Although I’m still constantly learning, I can now also give back to my clients. Catalyst is a good example of how giving graduates a chance to develop and grow can turn raw potential into actual talent, and give young people a well-deserved opportunity to prepare for an increasingly competitive job market. If seven months have taken me this far, who knows where I might be at the end of my time on Catalyst.