A blonde woman wearing grey jacket and pearls, smiling against white background.
Niamh Graham, vice-president of global HR at Globoforce. Image: Globoforce

How to play the long game as a graduate

15 Aug 2018

As a graduate, you could be forgiven for only thinking of the very next step in your career. But here’s why you should think about the long game.

When you become a graduate, the main thing on your mind will probably be your very next step in terms of your future and that pesky career ladder.

While a short-term goal might seem like the most important thing, it’s essential to play the long game, too.

Yes, you’ll want to know what graduate programme – if any – you want to apply to. You’ll be thinking about the kind of job you want right now, too. But what comes after that?

As a graduate, this is the perfect time to think about the bigger picture. However, we know that’s easier said than done.

That’s why we spoke to Niamh Graham, the vice-president of global HR at Globoforce, to get some expert advice on why graduates should think about the long game and how exactly to do that.

Graham believes it’s important to think big and aim high. “Always follow what you’re passionate about and believe in. If you do that, you will be successful – and of course happy, no matter what path you take.”

She said that when she was a graduate, she didn’t have a clear picture of what she wanted to do. However, knowing what she liked was the key to seeing the bigger picture.

“I am very results-driven, creative and enjoy interacting with people. I also like to be busy and to try different things and travel – all indicators of what I thrive upon,” she said.

“My advice is: think about what you thrive on professionally, what’s your purpose and follow that passion.”

Skills for graduates

Speaking personally, Graham said some of the skills she learned early in life are the ones she still uses today, including being open-minded and agile.

“You of course have to be prepared to work hard, be focused and committed,” she said. However, she added that soft skills and human traits such as authenticity, honesty and respect are all essential qualities that every graduate should hone and focus on.

“Continuous learning and personal development are also critical and you have to take ownership of your own career and development path.”

Just thinking of the short term is an easy mistake to make, especially if it means taking a role that isn’t quite right for the career path you want.

“Only you can control your own destiny, so ownership and proactivity are hugely important career-wise.” Graham added that everyone makes mistakes but the focus for graduates playing the long game should be on getting on the right course for them, whatever that means.

Follow your heart

“Never settle for second best and what doesn’t make you happy,” she said. “You have many years of work ahead of you, so choose what feels right for you and what motivates you. For some it’s an industry focus, for others it’s the title or the money, and for many it’s happiness.”

When it comes to looking at the bigger picture, it’s important to realise how many opportunities are out there, something Graham didn’t realise when she was a new graduate.

She advises graduates today to do their research to see the endless options open to them. “Things have changed since I graduated – social media and e-learning wasn’t around in my day, unfortunately,” she said.

“Do your research, study hard, follow your heart and mind, and all shall be well!”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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