Dear Graduate Employers
There is definitely a “cute and cuddly” factor when you consider adopting a pet. You lose yourself in their expectant eyes and you imagine a richer life with them by your side. Maybe adopting is the wrong word, but as you take them home in your car on that exciting first day, there is very much the sense of “for better or worse.” They are now your responsibility, there is no going back. Graduate employers will relate to these feelings.
It is much the same with an intake of fresh graduates into any business. They will have undergone a rigorous selection process and, although you may not have personally chosen them as colleagues, the same feelings should be present. There they are on their first days, keen to make a good first impression but utterly unsure where to start. They need people to take them under their wing, they need guidance and they need support. Without this, they will feel neglected and fade into corporate obscurity. Just like the dog that no longer brings you the ball (because he knows that you won’t throw it for him), new grads need to feel the love or they will grow disheartened quickly.
There will often be a number of new starters at this time of year, so you are rarely limited in the choice of adoptee. The benefits of mentoring (for both parties) have been well documented, but “adoption” only works when both parties want to engage. Let the new starters find their feet for a few weeks, but make sure that they know that you are there for them. A distant mentor is not an effective mentor – you should give them the space to grow into their roles, but at the same time offer them the benefit of your knowledge and experience on a regular basis. They may not ask for it, but they will almost certainly need it.
The key to success is to retain the give and take.
Just as the dog feels your enjoyment when you play together, the new grad needs to feel that their mentor is getting something from the relationship also. A “free lunch” is not so satisfying if the chef is forced to make it. The grad might offer a fresh perspective, or act as an impartial sounding board, but for the relationship to endure, they have to feel like they are also making a contribution.
As the autumn leaves start to fall from the trees, all sorts of new relationships are starting to blossom in the workplace. It takes time for a new graduate to feel comfortable in their new career, but with an experienced mentor (or two) by their side, their introduction into the business will be infinitely more successful. No one wants these newbies to fail, but if they are not “adopted” by the right people in the right way, potential failure is lurking around every corner.
So, we ask graduate employers: Do the right thing, take a grad under your wing.