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Now is the time of year when undergraduates are searching for graduate positions in a range of businesses in order to help launch their careers by giving them valuable experience in the workplace. A St Andrews alumnus and current Lancaster postgrad, Paul Young, has channelled his experiences of being a student and enduring the stress of searching for work by creating his company, Grad Careers Ltd (www.grad-careers.co.uk). Young found graduate careers sites often to be ‘too corporate’ and not focussed enough on the needs of the student. Grad Careers encompasses both an easy to use search engine specifically for use in finding graduate positions, and also contains helpful advice regarding careers for students. In this interview, SCAN speaks to Paul about the skills university has instilled within him and the challenges he faced in starting his own company whilst still a student.
Can you think of any skills you learnt or developed at either St Andrews or Lancaster that led to the position you are in now?
I believe that the research skills I have learnt from both universities really helped me with the market research of the competitors businesses and careers advice. University has also given me a large sense of responsibility and confidence to contact businesses to advertise on our site – this has led to a response from companies such as Boots, the NHS, and others.
Is Grad-Careers a project that you have worked on primarily by yourself, or have you received a lot of outside support in setting it up?
The business has been a project that I have established myself. I am responsible for establishing the business, creating the website, and contacting employers. I have had support from various members of staff at Lancaster University who have helped to broaden my marketing and business acumen. I have also joined the Business and Sustainable Development society, which has provided me with great networking opportunities.
What have been the major challenges you have faced in the establishment and development of your organisation?
The major challenge was first establishing the business. I had limited knowledge of how to establish a company or how to run one. However, it is a great experience to build professional skills, stretch your knowledge, and have fun along the way. I have also struggled with finances to establish the business, but the limited available funds have taught me to save money in any way possible without hampering the business.
Now that the initiative is up and running have you seen a large amount of usage of your service?
The business has far surpassed my expectations. I have had interest from a number of employers and site visitors keep on increasing. On average 30-50 people use the site a day accessing careers advice and applying for jobs. I have also noticed a significant interest on social media with over 7000 followers on Twitter after five months.
You have said that the idea for Grad-Careers came to you whilst you were an undergraduate. Had you had any similar thoughts before that of setting up something like this?
I never envisaged myself starting a business. However, in this regard, you have to just say ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ You may make no money or you might, but the skills you gain are invaluable. I would thoroughly encourage students to start a business and to build and develop skills, which make them very attractive to future employers.
As a graduate yourself, do you feel a greater pressure or responsibility to current students who are looking down the route of graduate jobs?
The idea for Grad-Careers Ltd (www.grad-careers.co.uk) occurred whilst studying for my MA Geography degree during my time at St Andrews. Like every student in their final year, I too joined the bandwagon to search for graduate jobs. Whilst browsing these sites, I found that they were too ‘corporate’ and focused on driving businesses to advertise rather than focusing on graduates. I do not feel pressured. Being a student myself I can relate to other students who may find themselves in a similar situation. This familiarity has helped me to build a website with students in mind.
Are there any job sectors that you expect to see either a rise or fall in applications for graduate jobs?
I think 2015 will be a year for the I.T industry, technology is evolving rapidly and companies now need the expertise and fresh eyes of graduates to expand their businesses.