The secret to success in early talent careers

Jan 5, 2022 | Sector & policy

New year, new you? We look at the skills quality and knowledge that helps people to be successful in early talent careers.

Many early talent teams are run internally as a discrete business unit and this can mean that the effective early careers professional needs to be something of an all-rounder.

There is the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills in areas such as strategy and finance. This means that after you have been working in early talent for a while you will have built up an array of skills, as well as a specialist expertise.

Are you a problem solver?

Successful people in the sector are often problem solvers. At a junior level, this might translate into figuring out how a candidate can get to an interview, how you can support with reasonable adjustments, how you can use social media. These are fun problems to solve – not systems or processes – they are people.

As you progress, the significance of the problems increases, as does the range of stakeholders you’ll be engaging with. And then of course there are bigger aspirational problems, including social justice, and the transition from education to work. Finding the right solutions lies at the heart of most roles in early talent.

Transferable skills

There are other transferable skills that evolve as the diversity of the work you are involved with increases. The breadth and depth of work is illustrated in ISE’s Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development

The list below is not exhaustive but really illustrates how the breadth of work translates into a considerable skills requirement:

  • Managing significant budgets
  • Creativity
  • Stakeholder management and relationship building
  • Presentations and public speaking
  • Campaign planning
  • Project management
  • Candidate engagement.

Plus you will very likely be looking ahead to what can be a long time horizon, planning next year’s ‘three years on’ programme at the same time as tracking those hires who left your programme two or more years ago. It is hard to find a career that tops all of that!

Lifelong learning

Perhaps most importantly successful early talent professionals are lifelong learners. This is where there are benefits to the cyclical process of recruitment and development. Every year you get to do it all again, but each time you have the opportunity to build up your knowledge base, and figure out the most effective way to apply your expertise.

Students change, the market changes and your organisation changes and this means that your experience in the early part of your career, or even when you were a graduate yourself, becomes less useful. People who are really effective in early talent recruitment and development are able to read these changes, keep learning and develop their practice in response them.

Recipe for success

One of the keys to building a successful career is to take a holistic approach and consider student employment as an end-to-end process.

Some people find it difficult to see how attraction fits to onboarding, to development, to progression planning and people strategy. People who understand the whole process are likely to be more valuable to organisations and more able to move up in an organisation.

On the other hand, you might find a niche that is a perfect fit and have a desire to become an expert in that field. There are lots of specialisms in early talent including marketing, assessment and selection and learning and development. This can be another way to direct your career as the industry needs both depth and breadth.

The recipe for success extends beyond a pure skills perspective though. Rebecca Fielding, founder of Gradconsult and ISE Fellow, refers to the ‘candidate empathy cycle’.

When you first move into the sector, empathy levels are high; you’re potentially not long out of the process yourself and can really identify with the challenges candidates are going through.

As understanding of the process builds, some of that can be lost, often quite quickly. The people who love the sector, and are most successful, rekindle that compassion and have a solid balance of pragmatism and experience with candidate care. You have an emotional connection and a sense of stewardship that continues as you progress.

It is really important to recognise the impact you are having on other people’s lives, which is often why people stay with it.

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development

Read more insight and know how from ISE’s Guide

Book onto an ISE course to boost your professional development

Read career stories from ISE members


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