The Graduate- Zac Williams

GradTouch founder and Van Mildert Alumni Zac Williams gives some advice about getting through the treacle field of job applications

GradTouch is a student graduate support service that aims to save graduates applying for jobs from jumping through the usual hoops, provide them with help and advice, and work with employers such as Deloitte and the Coop to advertise job opportunities.

We had a chat with Mildert alum Zac who started the whole thing twenty months ago to find out more about starting up a business after uni, and a bit about life after Durham.

How does GradTouch work?
There’s loads of different ways really- we give advice to people applying to jobs, help them with their CVs, proofread applications, help with online tests. We try take a bit of the mystery away from the assessment centres so people feel more prepared going in.

We work with over 70 employers to advertise jobs, which can be applied to through us, as a kind of outsource recruitment which cuts out some stages of the process.

We also work as a consultancy, helping businesses to get onto campuses, help with their design and marketing strategy to target students. We’re a solutions company, and we’re trying to make things easier for everyone involved.

Why did you start it up?
I had a graduate job with Accenture that I was offered at the assessment centre. When I got a 2:2 and was refused it, I felt that there was a bit of a communication breakdown- the message between the employer and the applicant can get lost.

The other reason is that I felt like it was important to get to know the personality behind a company before you apply to it, and to get recognition for smaller companies who can’t necessarily afford to come to careers fairs, even though they’re just as good as larger firms, and the work can be more fun (you don’t sit on Excel all day).

We want applicants to know what they’re getting into as well, so we’re making videos from the client companies so people on the website can get a feel of what it’s like to work for them. We recently filmed two people at Grant Thornton, one in HR and one higher up, it gives potential applicants a chance to see how the business works, get a feel of the company ethos, and what the social side is like.

It’s a way to avoid corporate jargon, and gets past another problem we noticed- the lack of suitability. Everyone applies for everything at the moment, it’s much better when someone knows what they’re looking for and finds the right job for them.

How difficult was it to start the company?
It was hard at the start, I got no money from it in the first year and it was all about networking and travelling around campuses, trying to get the word out,  it was fun getting to come back to Durham a lot. Now it’s got a bit of momentum and we work with 76 unis, it’s harder work but it’s definitely better having more responsibilities and working as a real business now we’ve got offices and staff.

It’s taught me that when you’ve got an idea, you should go for it, pursue entrepreneurial ambitions alongside looking for a job because on the offchance it’s successful it is so worth it. Look for a gap in the market or something you feel is lacking, and be proactive!

Any advice for Durham students?
Firstly, do the research. Don’t just fill in every application you can find, ask yourself what you really want to do, and what kind of business you want to work for. When you want to know more about a company or a job, ask! Join LinkedIn, look on the Durham alumni group and ask people questions.

Don’t arse-lick by any means, but add people from your college and start networking. Don’t be afraid to call up businesses to get answers either, any small thing you can do to find out more information, or to get yourself noticed, is worth it.

When it comes to your CV, basic things make a difference. Say why you want to do that particular job, display work-guided interests, relate all your extra curriculars to the position you’re applying for. If you want to work in PR, highlight the fact you did marketing for your college fashion show, stuff like that makes you stand out and shows you’re committed to the field.

The other main thing I’d say to Durham students is, don’t worry. You will get a job, even if it takes you a year, you’ll find one that’s right for you eventually. Durham’s one of the most targeted universities and its employability rates are ridiculous, even if you get a 3rd you’ll find something.

Rejection isn’t all doom and gloom, it’s inevitable, you’ve just got to apply what you’ve learnt from rejections to your next application. The first interview is always going to be bad, it really is just about improving with practice and not letting yourself get down or give up.

Do you miss Durham?
Three years is probably enough, but life after Durham is definitely not as much fun. Living in college in final year was the best, you’ve got all your mates around you all the time, you’ll never get that again… Unless you move to Clapham.