Graduating From A Conference To Remember

Posted by Asaf Ben Or

As a newbie to the GradConnection team and the graduate recruitment industry in general, I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first annual AAGE Graduate Recruitment & Development Conference. I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet like-minded professionals who are passionate about helping students find their dream role, as well as a chance to learn about the ever-changing and competitive graduate market, and that we’d get to have a fun boogie at the Gala Dinner and the after-party (hosted by us)! What I didn’t know was that it would revolutionise my understanding of one of the most exciting recruitment markets.  

After weeks of preparation, the GradConnection team and I arrived at the Crown Conference Centre ready with our green sneakers and tee-shirts, poised to greet existing and prospective clients, alongside friendly industry partners at our unmissable stall. Sporting green all over, our stall was packed with tasty fortune cookies containing hilarious graduate fortunes (thanks to our witty marketing team), alongside jasmine air fresheners; both in line with our conference tagline “FRESH‘N‘UP”. This catchy phrase is meant to act as a reminder to graduate employers that because demands of graduates are always changing – their hiring strategies should too. This is where the work of GradConnection’s business development team comes in – as consultants we improve employers’ tactics to attract and retain the best graduate talent. 

The freshest booth at AAGE!

It was an absolute privilege to see, face-to-face (especially after COVID), the amazing impact of the GradConnection team’s work on so many graduate employers, and to witness the strong and reputable brand of our organisation as recounted by experienced professionals. Our stall had visitors from across the industry, keen to share their graduate recruitment success stories, to learn about how to improve their “keep warm” strategies for graduates, how to set-up the best campaign for next year (yes, we plan ahead!), and simply get the chance to chat to catch up after two years of virtual conferences. 

This year’s conference was centred around the theme “Stand Out from the Crowd: Reimagined and Sustainable Early Talent Programs” – which I found to be so fitting for the times we’re in! Throughout the conference, the interactive workshops and lectures allowed us to learn about the different organisations operating in our industry and make great connections.  I had the opportunity to attend exciting sessions which enriched my knowledge of the graduate job market. From finding out about online courses that prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow, to learning about university career hubs and their functions to building the best graduate programs and so much more...the conference was truly an educational experience which strengthened the expertise of all its attendees – I personally know I will be going back to client meetings with new pieces of valuable advice! 

GradConnection also presented our own workshop, “FRESH’N’UP”, to share our insights with the industry. We started our presentation by engaging with our audience – Saad’s quiz kept everyone busy and allowed us to see how much our audience knows about today’s graduates! Domonique and I then shared our insights on the current student sentiments surrounding the job search process, drawing on what we learnt from focus groups and our recent annual student survey. As one of the graduates who participated in the focus groups, it was only natural I presented this segment! Alex followed with valuable information about trends in the ever-changing recruitment market, with Mai concluding our presentation on the benefits of hiring international students.  

Thoughts from a pandemic grad

Every bit of the event was as enjoyable as the other, but the true highlight was the Gala Dinner! Not just a fun experience – but also a humbling one – with the annual AAGE Graduate Recruitment Industry Awards being announced and GradConnection taking out the  Most Popular Supplier Award (again!). I felt so proud to be a part of a motivated, dedicated, and hard-working team whose contributions are recognised by so many of its partners. Special congratulations also go to my colleague, Alex Tyrrell, for winning the Individual Award for Contribution to Graduate Recruitment and Development Industry for the second year running. Sitting alongside her and her clients at the dinner table, I could see first-hand how meaningful her contributions are to so many organisations. 

The final thing I learnt about the industry – we all know how to boogie and have fun! The dancefloor was packed with professionals enjoying their night and the after-party that ended at 3am showed we just couldn’t get enough.  

If you were at the 2022 AAGE Conference – I hope your experience was as positive as mine, and if you weren’t – I’m looking forward to meeting you and introducing you to the industry in 2023 – I’m already counting down the days! 

For more insights from our focus groups and student surveys, see my previous blog post about how today’s graduates are changing the workforce. 


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