Personal Leadership- How To Get The Best Out Of Your Graduate Programme

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So, you’ve just recruited a bunch of bright, enthusiastic and confident graduates and you are excited about seeing how they can help to shape the future of the organisation.  

You’ve spent a lot of time, energy (and money!) selecting the best of the best and you want to make sure their graduate journey is positive.  

A few questions:  

  • How are you going to keep them motivated, so they stay with your organisation?  
  • How are you going to help them transition from an academic environment where everything is mapped out for them into a work environment where they have to start carving their own path?  
  • How are you going to harness their communication skills, so they express their ideas with clarity, respect, and professionalism?  
  • Then ultimately how are you going to get the best out of them? 


These are some of the challenges our clients face and questions they ask us when bringing in graduates to their organisation.  Getting it wrong is a costly exercise. So we would like to share with you a few suggestions on how to get it right.   

1. Have a proper “programme.  

A lot of organisations say they run a graduate programme but what this means is they recruit graduates, put them in their roles and that’s it!  

This is not what we would class as a programme. It may be a recruitment programme, but it’s not a development programme.  

Have some sort of structured series of timetabled events. For example, give your graduates the opportunity to work in different departments such as a 3 monthly rotation.  Give them access to timetabled learning opportunities, have a series of graduate networking events. The most important thing is that graduates feel like their first year or two in an organisation is partially mapped out for them.    

2. Show them how to set goals and make sure they set them!  

Graduates have come from an environment where they have a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to achieve their grades. Going into the workplace can, therefore, be a shock to the system when suddenly they don’t have such a clear target and will get paid whether they do an average job, a good job or an outstanding job. This can lead to demotivation.  

So, be sure to teach your graduates how to set SMART goals, and then make sure they set them for the tasks they are working on.  

Also, encourage them to consider their career goals so that they have a sense of direction.   

3. Raise their self-awareness   

Help your graduates to see they have both strengths and development areas.  

Encourage them to identify both.  

Show them that some of their strengths if overused could also be perceived as pitfalls.  For example, someone who is very decisive could also be seen as impulsive and inconsiderate to others’ views.  

Get them to think about how they want to be perceived by others and effectively what their “Personal Brand” is.   

4. Teach them how to adapt their communication style.  

Graduates will find themselves in an environment where suddenly it matters how they talk to people.  Of course, through their studies, they will make friendships and need to consider others in order to form friendships and take part in group work.   

But up until now, how they communicate with people will not have affected their chance of success, i.e. the grades they get. So for many graduates, the concept of having to consider how to talk to people and adapt their communication style is totally alien.   

The fundamental principle is to show graduates they need to consider who their audience member is and to match their audience members’ style and preferences.   

Excel Communications‘ graduate training programme teaches graduates the “colours model”. This model describes four different communication types, each type being represented by a different colour.   

We get graduates to consider which of the 4 “colours” they are, to then map out their stakeholders and what “colours” their stakeholders are and to then consider how to adapt to each stakeholder.   

5. Encourage them to give and receive feedback constructively  

In order for graduates to be successful, it is important to teach them the art of both giving feedback and receiving feedback.  

Giving feedback to others is a really important thing to do, and we should absolutely encourage graduates to express their thoughts and opinions. However, we need to make sure they know how to phrase things properly.    

So for example, rather than them saying to someone “You’re not very clear” we would teach them to say “I am not very clear on what was said”.   

This is the principle of using “I statements” as opposed to “You statements”.   In Excel Communications’ graduate training programme we teach 8 different principles around the language of feedback.  

Receiving feedback is equally as important, and we need to make sure graduates understand the value of feedback and how to respectfully receive it and act upon it. Once taught this skill, graduates will thrive.   

One of the many things I love about working with graduates is their thirst for learning and their eagerness to go off and apply the techniques taught. A well thought out graduate training programme is the springboard for huge success, and we often hear stories of how the graduates we have trained have gone on to great things.   

So, be sure to maximise the potential that sits within your organization and get the best out of your graduate programme.  


Gilly Meek