When do people start to become talented? Mozart was 21 when he composed his first piano masterpiece, Mark Zuckerburg built Facebook at university and Mary Shelley had completed Frankenstein by her 20th birthday.
So why do employers sometimes seem so worried about hiring young graduates?
In the mid-nineties I taught one day a week at Bath Spa University and got to meet some fantastic young designers. It may have left me biased, but when I started Mytton Williams I didn’t think twice about hiring a new graduate as our first employee, in fact the first few employees had all recently graduated. While there was an aspect of ‘giving back’ by employing them, they certainly brought some benefits of their own.
One huge upside is the fresh approach they bring to projects. There is no ‘this is the way we do things’ attitude, no learnt methods. Having that ‘can-do’ mindset in the company instantly brought a new approach to the work.
Although Mytton Williams has been trading for 17 years, we still take on recent graduates for pretty much the same reason. A young employee tends to be more in touch with current, what people like and how people are starting to work. I’ve been in the industry for 25 years and so perhaps am less in touch with creative trends. These youngsters haven’t been through the system, they’re not constrained by the learnings of one particular design company and this means they can spot new ways around a project that an entrenched veteran probably wouldn’t.
There are, of course, risks when bringing young talent in to your company. Their lack of experience can show through in how they interact with older clients, which can be a little uncomfortable, and it can also show in the standard of their artwork. However, for me, the benefits of hiring someone at the very start of their career far outweigh the risks. Young employees are a cost-effective way of expanding your team and your work load, especially if money is tight. Not only is it cheaper to hire a graduate but at the start of their career they are also very enthusiastic.
In the early years, having that enthusiasm in the office was perfect because, as new business owners, we were hungry to make a success of everything that came through the door. We were working very hard to grow our business and the recent graduates were working equally as hard to prove themselves as designers; our ambitions matched.
Generally I’ve found that the better graduates stay for two or three years and then leave for London. The fact that younger talents are more likely to leave might be an issue for some agencies, but I don’t think it has to be a problem. Being forced to replace a graduate after a few years just means another set of those fresh eyes coming in, and that can make up for any retraining.
Oddly, people only ever ask about the risks of hiring younger, relatively unestablished talent, not the pros; and they never ask about the risks of hiring older, more established creatives. The danger there is very often they are less in touch with the goings-on of digital and social – and frequently not interested to get involved with it either. Sometimes, after so many years in industry, they have a set of go-to methods and in today’s world, if they’re not changing, they’re out of date. When that happens, existing ideas have to be challenged in order to avoid staleness – and bringing in youngsters is one way of keeping the whole office on their toes.
The mix of old and new blood has always been good for our company. I’ve been lucky to have forged relationships with young creatives through lecturing and maintaining links with education, but it’s a relationship that any agency could, and probably should, be making. While, yes, it will have benefits for your agency, above all, the creatives graduating now are the future of this industry and it’s imperative that we help develop them.
D&AD Award winners Mytton Williams look every inch the London outfit but, with their focus on ‘no fluff’, are in fact a proud South West agency with clients including Waitrose, the Royal Photographic Society and The National Trust .
Illustrated by Oliver Sin
- One Thing I Know