3 Guiding Principles for Choosing Your First Employer

Many students completing their time at university in the next few months are now starting to receive feedback on interviews and opportunities for the year ahead. If you’ve been through the process of applying for graduate opportunities, going for interviews and completing assessments with a few employers, and are now trying to evaluate which offers are right for you, making an informed choice is critical to set you up for success. Based on insights from more than 2 000 graduates who have just started their journey into the world of work, here are three guiding principles to consider as you begin choosing your first employer:

1. Learning and Development – how will I be prepared for an ever-changing world?

As you would have seen through the recruitment process, many employers use assessment systems to measure many of the core skills you’ll need to complete every day needed at work. These core skills include numeracy, language literacy, comfort with technology and teamwork. How you use these literacies when you approach a task is measured to assess competence in areas of critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Qualities such as curiosity, persistence and adaptability then overlay these competencies to support your approach, contributing meaningfully to your team in the world of work.

If you have worked hard to develop these skills at school and university, it’s probably very important to you to understand how you can continue to develop these skills so that you can contribute to your profession. Most graduates would agree! Learning and Development are top of mind for graduates as they enter the world of work. If a company has focussed on measuring these skills and rewarding you by making an offer, you should be considering how they will contribute to building your skills for the future.

As a Quant, you also want to make sure that your new employer will help you build your quantitative, analytical and technical skills. Quantitative fields are evolving all the time, and your ideal employer should support you in learning new skills so that you can evolve with your profession.

2. Align your Values

Most graduates say it’s important to them to feel challenged, engaged and motivated to contribute at work. Your future employer’s values, culture and reputation are critical for you to assess whether they will be able to give you this kind of work experience. So, for example, if you value innovation and new ideas, the last thing you want from your first employer is a culture in which new ideas are only discussed in the boardroom and young Quants are not encouraged to contribute.

To have a clear view of the alignment between the company’s values and your own, you must first be clear on what is important to you. Employers whose stated values align with yours will be much more likely to create an environment for you that will allow you to thrive and contribute to your highest potential.

If you have the opportunity to chat to current or past employees, or review what is said about the company in the news or on social media, this will also help you get a feel for whether their stated values and their actual culture line up.

3. Long-term is Key

Life has changed and, unlike your grandparents, most graduates will not stay with an organisation for 30 years or a career lifetime. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to look at the longevity of your relationship with the organisation. Almost half of the graduates we surveyed told us that they’d like to stay with their first employer for more than 5 years. So, look for a place where you can make a meaningful contribution in the long term – an organisation that can show you a map of opportunities with different directions that suit your plans. Whether you want to grow into a leadership position or would rather become a specialist in your field and contribute deep expertise to the complex future solutions for your industry, an employer that can show you how they can facilitate your growth is more likely to be able to offer you a satisfying career experience.

Some of you might be looking for a diverse range of experiences. Given you are starting out in your career, you may well prefer the opportunity to experience a variety of types of work so that you can figure out what you really enjoy doing. You might very well not have had the opportunity yet to know what your range of talents can contribute. In this case, you would do best to find an organisation that will offer you the chance to sample various parts of their business and that allows for growth in many different ways.

Choosing your first employer can feel like a make-or-break decision. But if you’ve used the interview and assessment process to get to know the organisations you’ve engaged with, while simultaneously putting your best foot forward, your choice of an employer should be well informed.

References: Choosing your first employer

1. SAGEA Candidate and Employer Insights 2021 – https://sagea.org.za/sagea-candidate-and-employer-insights-2021/

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