Fighting over grads means we ignore the mavericks
A view from Claire Beale

Fighting over grads means we ignore the mavericks

It's a long time since I was at school but this will forever be back-to-school week - a discomforting blend of exciting new possibilities and bubbling panic.

There are certainly plenty of exciting possibilities in store for the hundreds of new recruits joining our industry this summer, if they can be persuaded to stick around long enough to enjoy them.  

This is a fantastic time to be kicking off an advertising career: the industry’s inching back into growth and with that comes a growing confidence and sense of purpose. But what’s clear from our forum on page 14 is that adland’s new recruits come with their own growing confidence and sense of purpose, manifested as a list of demands that the industry will struggle to meet.

For starters, their student debts mean they’re pushing for higher salaries. There’s plenty of competition from other industries for the brightest grads, and the pressure’s on for agencies to offer comparable salaries and throw more bonuses, scheduled pay reviews and training packages into the offering in a bid to lure top young talent. Yet all the evidence suggests that many of this year’s joiners won’t be in the industry in ten years’ time, let alone in your company. The idea of spending your career progressing through a single profession is well and truly over for many young people.

It’s a failure to commit long term that’s compounded by the arms race for the best grads. After all, if a graduate is open-minded about whether to spend the next five years or so in advertising or, say, banking, and chooses advertising based on the starting package, then they’re unlikely to come in with the same passion and commitment as someone who has spent years with their heart set on a future in the ad business.

Which is why I applaud the decision by Grey to strip qualifications out of the job application process. For smart, ambitious people who really want to work in this business but don’t have the "right" degree, there are fewer and fewer routes in. Consider how many of adland’s founding fathers started their career in the agency post room (Frank Lowe for one). It’s impossible to imagine that happening today, just as it’s impossible to find many examples of the maverick entrepreneurialism that characterised the industry when it was less homogenised and risk-averse in its hiring policies.

As Paul Snoxell says in our forum, you can be talented, maverickey and unfettered and still have an excellent degree from an excellent university. But finding those people is easy. We need to try harder to find those brilliant candidates who don’t have the cookie-cutter educational profile that the industry lazily demands as a starting point.