Graduate Training At Startups


Graduate Training at Startups

If you’re about to leave university and trying to decide whether to join a blue-chip graduate training scheme or a small startup in London you may be wondering which is more likely to give you the best experience on the first step of your career ladder.

We have encountered people asking this question many times and I’m going to share an example that will hopefully help you find the approach that is right for you.

Let’s say you have the choice of joining a startup FinTech or an established finance company such as a bank or accountancy firm. You love finance and are predicted to get a good degree but can’t decide whether to join a global firm with an excellent reputation or an unknown, yet potentially more innovative business. For graduates they will offer very different experiences.

At the large finance company, you will join a well-oiled machine with human resources support that have years of experience taking graduates through career development. Some of them will have undertaken the same graduate training scheme as you. You will probably get the opportunity to gain professional qualifications such as ACA (accounting) or CFA (investing). You will get a standardized and high level of base knowledge that you can show future employers. Working at a company like this has some prestige, which again may help with future career development.

If you join the FinTech, don’t expect to have anywhere near the same level of support. Training graduates is unlikely to be the main company focus as they work towards rapid growth in their early years. And as the company is new, it is unlikely any manager will have been on a similar training scheme.

You can still ask to take qualifications – in the past I have suggested that my juniors took the CFA – and you can self-learn and attend external classes.

But what a startup will offer you is early opportunity. Startups need to take risks to grow fast enough to justify their investment. This means that employees at all levels will be able to build products or talk to customers much earlier than at most large companies.

This can be both good and bad. Bad, because you may not have the skills to do the job asked of you. You could also pick up bad habits, some of which may mean you find it harder to walk into larger companies at a later time in your career. But good, because if you take responsibility at this early stage of your career, you will have a steep learning curve and a powerful story to tell future employers.

2 of my friends recently switched jobs. One had worked for a FinTech for 6 years and wanted to join PwC. Although his weakness was a lack of professional training, he had a great story to tell of joining a business that went from a small attic office to raising £10m in venture capital and international expansion. He got the job.

My other friend had worked at a bank for 10 years as an accountant and applied for a job as a financial controller at a fast-growing tech company. He also got the job, as he was able to bring in professional skills that the business needed.

If you decide to join a startup here are my top tips:


Training opportunities

Ask a startup if they have any training programmes or are willing to pay for qualifications – and how much will they pay.


Be proactive

Get involved in as many projects as you can so you gain a wide set of skills.


Keep records

Make sure you keep records of professional development, so you have a great story to tell when you are ready to move on.


Ask for help

Find mentors and people with experience who can help you. This may seem as though it could be a bit of a challenge, but it never hurts to ask, and people in general love to help if they can.

Are you a graduate working at a startup? We’d love to hear about your experience. Get in touch with us at

Further reading


Startup Bullshit Bingo

Startup Bullshit Bingo

Relieve the boredom of tedious meetings and conferences with a game of startup bullshit bingo.

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