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Can graduates make good managers straight out of university?

Many graduates applying for management schemes worry that they haven't got the knowledge and experience to be taken seriously by their team members. But this fear is groundless, according to Kate Hurles, head of graduate development at Spicerhaart Residential Lettings.

‘I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about entering a team to manage those who probably had more experience than me,’ says Joe Blincoe, a branch manager on a fast-track graduate management scheme at estate agency group Spicerhaart Residential Lettings. ‘Before you start, you do worry whether you can do it and whether people will take you seriously.’

According to Kate Hurles, Spicerhaart’s head of graduate development, this is a common concern among her graduate management recruits. However, it is unfounded: ‘While there is no doubt that the more experience you have, the better you become at strategic and people management, pretty much all of the best people in our organisation (including me!) were given branches to run at a very young age (22 in my case).’ Indeed, recruiters wouldn’t recruit new graduates into management roles if it would be detrimental to the business.

The ‘blank canvas’ advantage for would-be graduate managers

One advantage for the graduate straight out of university is that they can be moulded by the organisation they work for. ‘Our graduates come to us as blank canvases, with no experience in the industry and no other company’s training or mindset for us to “retrain”,’ says Kate. ‘The people we hire are ambitious and driven and soak up advice and experience like a sponge.’ So, in fact, if you learn quickly, your lack of experience and knowledge could actually be an advantage.

Trainee managers are given responsibility in stages

Although as a graduate manager you will be given considerable responsibility, no employer will just throw you in at the deep end; responsibility is always given in stages. In retail, for example, graduates usually start out as assistant managers and will be responsible for overseeing a section of the store or department on behalf of the general manager rather than manage an entire store. In construction, they will manage a section of the project rather than an entire project.

At Spicerhaart, management levels are phased, beginning with managing a small village estate agency with a low turnover and two employees under their care and rising to managing a large city branch with a number of negotiators and an assistant manager to look after. After this, there are area manager and divisional manager roles to progress to.

Graduates can rest assured, therefore, that they won’t be overburdened with responsibility to begin with and will have more experienced managers to turn to.

Graduate managers are well trained

Graduates on a management training scheme can expect to receive ongoing and thorough training, which often combines a mixture of on-the-job learning as well as more formal training sessions; some schemes will provide trainees with a learning mentor. Joe has had a very positive experience of management training with his employer, which consisted of a mixture of working in branch and training sessions at head office involving lots of role play.

What makes a good manager?

For Kate a great manager is ‘someone who really thrives on being busy and loves being around people; someone who always sees challenges rather than problems’. When recruiting, she seeks those who can think strategically and motivate themselves and others, as well as the usual competencies such as communication and organisational skills.

Kate also says that it’s important for graduates to be able to get on with people and to recognise that everything worthwhile takes hard work.

Has graduate manager Joe found it hard to manage his team?

‘Although I was nervous, I’ve never had any problems. I’ve always been treated as a member of the team,’ he says. ‘I’ve learned that when you manage people actions speak louder than words. You need to go in there and show that you’ve got the right attitude. I try to manage how I’d like to be managed.’

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