Businesses are trying to ensure that they can support their staff, stay economically viable and if at all possible #buildbackbetter. What does this mean if you are a graduate? Rebecca McLean MIEMA CEnv and IEMA Futures Network members explore in their blog.

This has been a strange year for everyone but imagine coming out of university, keen and eager to start on your career and be faced with the usual challenges along with Covid and the ‘new normal’. Businesses are trying to ensure that they can support their staff, stay economically viable and if at all possible #buildbackbetter. What does this mean if you are a graduate?

Rebecca McLean MIEMA CEnv from Sweco is in the process of appointing a graduate to the Environment, Sustainable and Design Team in Scotland and has called in the help from IEMA Futures to consider the best way to support a graduate in these interesting times.

Key challenges – getting to know your team when you only see them virtually, how do you teach someone the required skills when they will not be able to learn via osmosis, how do you ensure that they feel able to ask what they might feel as ‘silly questions’, keep their workload at the right level, let them get to know other teams and key players, expose them to clients and projects early on and ensure that they feel part of the team and that their contributions are worthwhile…….

Difficult to wrap your head around as you automatically consider these items from your own experiences but I think if Covid has taught us anything, the world can be turned on its head in a moment and perhaps the key is not focusing on what you can’t do, but focusing on what you can.

Consider what is possible with regards to the social aspect:

  • Weekly catch-up meetings that aren’t business related (in Sweco this is our Fika sessions (coffee and cake)). Make sure there is a bit more effort to provide a social connection, fortnightly face to face (where possible) for lunch and perhaps with different people or other graduates in the same location.
  • Coffee roulette - randomly place people who don’t know each other in a breakout room once a month to provide the opportunity to get to know the rest of the team better - to replicate that ‘random/chance’ socialising you miss from being in the office.
  • Take the new start out for lunch/coffee on their first day/week if possible to help them feel included and then plan in a regular meet up with them for catch ups. Giving them a more social view of the team so they feel they are approachable and are ‘normal’ people not just your seniors.
  • Online fun – team bingo, wine tasting, quizzes, building a relationship with them as a person is important and fun is definitely required just now. This can easily be tailored to your team and the personalities that exist, but will break down any perceived barriers and hopefully help them feel more comfortable to reach about with the questions they might consider as ‘silly’. To help them realise than no question is silly, perhaps some suggested solutions could be created.

Getting to know the business:

  • Organise or try to set up meetings/ extended invites for regular team meetings in advance of the graduate start date so help introduce them to the team and the work that’s being done before ‘officially’ starting work.
  • Ensuring that projects they are given have an element of collaboration with other team members. Independence in work is important but collaborating with others is a great opportunity to build relationships and confidence to reach out if they ever need to.
  • Consider a buddy system or ally outside of the direct team to help them get connected to other people in other teams and extend their network. As again this would be lost if they are not in the office as much
  • An introduction of who’s who and who does what, who specialises in certain things so they know who to approach if they ever need it. Take time to do this and provide a check chart for after, this is difficult to pick this up if you’re not surrounded by your team.
  • Provide a back up list of work, (if they do find themselves with a spare 30 minutes or so) such as E-learnings or development tasks such as creating case studies, taking the burden of timesheets and downtime off them for the first few weeks or so. Making sure they feel like a valued member of the team.
  • Invite them to lots of client meetings if possible to give them access to different people along with an opportunity to learn through watching how people interact and deal with situations within teams and with external contacts.
  • Ensure the induction process includes an intro to the structure of the team/ business and how they fit in, consider setting them up as a smaller contact team, another friendly face to speak to.

Written by:

Rebecca McLean

Rebecca is a leading professional in environmental impact assessment and sustainability with over 17 years of experience across public and private organisations. A Chartered Environmentalist and Full Member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and Chartered Environmentalist, Rebecca sits on strategic advisory boards including the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce for Scotland ( and has also been working with the Offsite Ready Student Design Challenge ( Rebecca is currently a Technical Director for Sweco, leading up their Environmental Planning and Design team in Scotland and is passionate about environmental enhancement and innovation.

Simone Codrington

Simone is an environment and sustainability professional, currently working as an Assistant Sustainability Manager at construction company, Willmott Dixon. She studied Environmental Science at The University of Reading and graduated in 2015, then joined Willmott Dixon as a Management Trainee. Simone is a Practitioner Member of IEMA and co-chair of the IEMA Futures network alongside Hannah, after originally joining as a member of the steering group in 2017. She enjoys engaging with the network and helping others to progress their careers.

Hannah Lesbirel

Hannah is a Consultant in the Resource and Waste Management Team at Arup. Hannah joined Arup as a graduate, after completing a Masters in Environment Science from Southampton. Her role involves developing technical and operational solutions for waste management, strategic reporting, Environmental planning and permitting works and supporting project management for large scale infrastructure projects. Hannah is also the Co-Chair of IEMA Futures, a steering group focused on supporting and engaging early career professionals starting their career in Environment and Sustainability.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.


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