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"I want to work hard and build a career I'm proud of, but not at the cost of everything else"

This month, we talk to Johan Spruit. A recent graduate from The University of Exeter, Johan’s on the brink of beginning his career. After three years studying geography, he’s looking for a graduate role in the environmental sector.

We chatted to Johan about what he’s looking for from an employer, how much organisational culture matters when exploring graduate roles, and his expectations of the recruitment process and future line managers.

We’re excited to bring you Johan’s perspective as a young person about to enter the world of work. If you’re recruiting for graduate and junior level roles, we hope you find his insight invaluable.

Johan, thanks for agreeing to spend some time with us! You’re about to start applying for graduate roles, what are the top three things you’re looking for from a prospective employer?

The main thing I’m looking for is an employer who will support me to continue my learning and development. I’m obviously straight out of uni and whilst I’ve now got a really good academic foundation, I haven’t learnt that much about the day-to-day of being in an actual job. I’m looking for good development opportunities, the chance to do some professional qualifications and to be surrounded by people from whom I can learn how to actually be in work.

Flexibility is important, so I’m looking for an organisation that offers some kind of hybrid working. I want to be able to get to know the people I’m working with so it would be good to work for a company who has some fixed or pre-agreed office days. Whilst I find that working from home days are good for rebooting my energy, I’m definitely not looking for a role that’s fully remote.

And then finally, a good line manager. Someone who is available and accessible, will offer me regular feedback and is invested in my development.

Being paid well is a hygiene factor at this point, it wouldn’t even make my list of ‘things that I’m looking for’ because it’s so essential.


And how about your expectations of the recruitment process? What could an organisation do that would entice you further or put you off?

I’d find a process during which I’m offered minimal updates on my application quite off putting. I’d appreciate being kept up to date throughout the recruitment process, even if it’s just knowing what the timeline looks like or when a decision can be expected. Knowing that I’m still in the running would save a lot of worry! I wouldn’t look forward to a lengthy, multi-stage process but it wouldn’t put me off applying either.

Organisations who sent me more information about their business throughout the recruitment process would keep me interested, it would be a good opportunity to get to know more about a company before I’d even joined.

Mainly,I’d like for the process to be personalised to some extent and to know that real people are considering my application. I’ve worked really hard for my degree, and I’d like to feel welcomed by an organisation rather than just falling into a monotonous or robotic feeling application process.


What app or piece of tech could you not live without?

Obviously, my phone. But if we’re talking more broadly, then maybe a speaker or headphones so I could listen to the music I love wherever I am. If it’s not too much of a cliché for a person who lives in Cornwall, I’d say the app Surf Line that lets me track how big the waves are on beaches throughout the UK. I love to go up to the north coast to go surfing.

Our recent Work Remastered research suggested that work life balance, flexibility and security are the most valuable things to employees today, does that ring true for you?

Work life balance- yes! Reserving time to enjoy myself and do the things that I’m passionate about is a non-negotiable for me. I’m ambitious and I want to work hard and build a career that I’m proud of but not at the cost of everything else.

Having a good salary and job security is really important too. I don’t really expect that I’ll go into a job and do it for life, but I want to feel secure whilst I’m there.

Flexibility is important but, for me, there needs to be a good combination of working from home and co-locating with my colleagues. I’d be really interested to try a four-day working week. I could see that pushing me to make the most out of the days I work and challenging me to maximise my efficiency.


Do you have any worries or fears about beginning your career?

Mainly just the fear of inexperience! I feel well prepared in terms of my specialism but less so when it comes to the day-to-day business of doing a job.

Even though I’ve had a few jobs already and am no stranger to work, I have real imposter syndrome about not knowing enough or knowing much less than my colleagues. I get that it’s irrational and I’m confident I’ll be successful once I get into the swing of it, but it would be good to have a buddy or a mentor who’s already been through the same experience to show me the ropes in the early days.

How important is it that you’re able to get an understanding of an organisation’s culture before you join? What kind of things would stand out to you as indicators of a positive culture?

I’d put time into researching the culture of an organisation to see how it lines up against my values - it’s definitely something I’d want to get a feel for during the recruitment process.

An organisation that places plenty of value on the relationships between employees would be an indicator of a good culture to me. I’d like to join a business that creates plenty of opportunities for me to meet and get to know my colleagues. It’s valuable to me to be able to know people as friends and for them to know me, so I’d like to be part of an organisational culture where that’s considered important.

I’d also pay close attention to the purpose of an organisation. Ideally, they’d be doing meaningful work that I believe in and that’s making a difference. There has to be an alignment between what’s important to me and what’s important to the organisation.

Where would you love to visit that you haven’t had chance to yet?


Canada.I love being in the mountains hiking or doing snow sports, I don’t get too much chance to do those things in Cornwall. Skiing in Canada is top of the dream list right now.

We know that the demands of line managers are more varied than ever. As someone about to begin their career, what do you expect from your manager?

Simple things really. Someone who I can speak with regularly and openly and that will be generous in the amount of feedback that they offer. I want to know as much about how I can improve and develop as possible. I’d love for my line manager and I to be able to know each other on a personal level too.

I expect a manager to understand that I won’t be perfect straight away and to care about helping me develop. It’s also important that they set clear expectations and are reliable in doing what they say they will.