You graduated. So what now? After spending a lengthy 3 years at university, nearly 40% of graduates receive the biggest shock of their life when they don’t fall straight into employment.

That’s where TalentPool comes in. Tom Davenport and Andrew Lavelle founded TalentPool in 2013, leaving their full time jobs to build a platform that connects graduates to post-university jobs. It’s an increasingly common story: graduating from university and not finding work, and being told you’re ‘overqualified’ for non-graduate jobs. Tom and Andrew are attempting to eliminate this catch-22 by matching candidates to top-tier opportunities.

I wanted to know how they did it. With almost half of startup companies failing annually, how has this small yet successful business become, well, successful? Without a doubt, starting up a company is daunting, especially when there are only a few employees and finding product-market fit is the aim of the game. So how did they maintain motivation when starting up?

Tom: “I think you’re so attached to it emotionally, that your emotions are so aligned almost with how you perceive the business to be doing. So there may be one week where you think things are going really well and you’re on this real emotional high. The next week, something bad may happen and you lose motivation. But I think ultimately, as you have more and more of these, you realise that it just comes with the territory and you have to keep pressing on regardless of what happens.”

The thing that appears to be the most unsettling is the financial situation, where you don’t know if the company will prosper or do the complete opposite, and there seems to be a lack of guidance for first time entrepreneurs.

Andrew: “There’s no one to tell you where the right or wrong path is and I think that’s magnified for being an entrepreneur, because at least when you’re on a graduate scheme, that’s a very well-defined career path. But leaving that well-defined career path to go into another business – there’s no one to tell you if that’s the right decision.”

The Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR) stated that the amount of young people who attend university has dropped to a staggering 49%, reinforcing the fact that university has never been the most feasible route for everybody. So, in retrospect, what about the rest of the people who don’t graduate? TalentPool aims to cater to these markets in the future, but at the moment are focusing on the area in which they know best and can implement all efforts into.

Tom: “There are clearly a lot of adjacent markets, which it would make sense for TalentPool
to expand into. There is an issue where the market isn’t functioning properly, there’s a lack of information on the employers side and on the candidates side and there are lots of markets where this is the case and we’ve certainly been exploring those.”

After going strong for 3 years, what are TalentPool doing right? 

Andrew: “You should always seek to see where you’re doing things wrong or could be doing things better. It’s a constant improving process.”

Focus is evidently an important part of the company, and both Andrew and Tom agreed that staying and implementing the same amount of effort every day is paramount. This appears to be where a lot of startup companies go wrong and attempt to immediately explore into different areas, losing the main focus of why they started up.

Andrew: “Just stay the course and keep your focus because I think it’s very easy to operate in this very compact environment where everyday feels like an opportunity to do something different, and it is in a sense and experimentation is important, but keeping your focus, keeping an understanding of what the direction of travel is, where you are trying to get to and how you will get there.”

And of course, starting up a company is bound to affect its founder’s personal evolution in a number of different ways. Interaction with their team is a contributing factor to the personal evolution of both Tom and Andrew, as they work with such a small amount of people.

Tom: “We’re at quite an interesting point where personally you’re quite exposed because you’re managing a small enough team where everybody knows you well, but you are at the same time in a managerial position. So you’re not in this ivory tower where you’re a CEO of a large company and you can issue carefully created emails for the team. Leadership for us is interacting with everyone. So I think, in a personal way, it makes you very reflective on yourself because you are a constant example to your team.”

While it’s evident that Andrew and Tom are equally content with their success and business, they appreciate how much of a challenge it is and take great pride in what they do. As they have ‘been there, done that’ with the university route, they can empathize with graduates and grasp an idea on what is needed to run and improve the company.

The creation and development of TalentPool has given graduates a newfound sense of guidance and support in their journeys of finding graduate jobs, and that can only be a good thing.

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Check out TalentPool here

By Alice Beckett