“So, what is it you do?”

Over the course of my year working on the Catalyst programme, this was a question I received a lot, from anyone and everyone, ranging from prospective and current clients to intrigued relatives and acquaintances.

The response to that question would nearly always end up producing more questions than answers. In short, we work with growing companies on a flexible basis, using graduate skills to help businesses in areas where they might need an extra pair of hands. Not the catchiest of slogans, nor does it quite capture the excitement generated by the work we do.

Sometimes we work with start-ups, but we also work with more established companies. We work on academic projects from the University of Sussex, but we don’t work for the university itself. We work on a flexible basis, but are centrally contracted to the Innovation Centre. It is an established, one year programme, and yet no graduate’s experience is the same as another’s. As you can see, plenty of questions, but not so many answers.

During my year with Catalyst, I worked with a vast array of companies and projects, fulfilling roles ranging from Social Media Manager and Website Builder, to Bid Writer, Blog Writer, Business Development Assistant, Graphic Designer, Market Researcher, Event Co-ordinator, Account Manager and Salesperson.

I’ve worked on an NHS-backed project, a range of university research commercialisation projects, worked with a recruitment company, a technology consultancy, an eCommerce firm, an expenses management innovation, a business networking event and an investment group building a brand new co-working space. This is by no means the full list…

Again, perhaps a few more questions than answers.

Now my time with Catalyst has come to an end, I find that a better question is “what have you gained from the experience?”.

I’ve learned how to have the difficult conversations, how to manage client expectations, and how to manage managers and their different working styles. I’ve learned the value of my time, and how to manage it. And I’ve learned to know where my blind spots are, and most importantly to trust where my strengths lie and assert myself accordingly.

Catalyst has exposed me to a near-endless list of job roles and companies, and I’m now much more confident in what I want from my career as I move forward. But ultimately, it’s the skills and experiences that are less easy to quantify which will stand by me the most.

The work you’ll do on the Catalyst programme will be difficult to bracket into simple categories, but this will be surpassed by the things you’ll learn about yourself along the way. Some skills can be taught, and you’ll get a lot of that, but the lessons you learn yourself will be the ones which take you the furthest.

Thanks for a fantastic year.

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