A review of 2016 Bright Network Future Leaders

The inaugural Bright Network Future Leaders was a truly empowering event. All about equipping talented undergraduates with the skills they need for a successful career, everyone came away feeling inspired and raring to put what they’d learnt into practice.

Future Leaders brought together over 100 exceptional state-educated students with five top graduate employers for an afternoon of discussion, networking and workshops.

A huge thank you to our partner firms for their contribution to this unique event – Premier Sponsor McKinsey & Company, Civil Service Fast Stream, Dentons, Goldman Sachs and Teach First.

Why do we need Bright Network Future Leaders?

Social mobility - the ability to improve one's prospects - is a major issue in the UK and a big part of the problem is that top jobs remain in the hands of an elite.

Last year it was reported only 30% of the best graduate jobs went to state-educated candidates, despite over 90% of the population having attended a state school. The vast majority of these roles were secured by the privately-educated, even though they only make up 7% of the British population.

Here at Bright Network our goal is to make sure every student can reach their full potential no matter their gender, ethnicity or background. Building a diverse and inclusive network is a real priority for us and hosting events such as Future Leaders is a crucial part of this mission. 

A warm welcome from Rosie and McKinsey & Company

Our very own Rosie Cook, Director at Bright Network hosted proceedings on the day and kicked off the afternoon by congratulating the audience. We received hundreds of applications from impressive and talented Bright Network members – it was a real credit to all those who had secured a spot at Future Leaders; you are the cream of the crop.

Rosie shared her top networking tips and emphasised the importance of taking this opportunity to connect with business leaders, top employers and peers, before handing over to Daniel Gordon, Public Sector Expert at McKinsey & Company.

In his keynote address, Daniel talked about his childhood in an industrial town in the North. He comes from a mining family and believed he would follow in their footsteps. It was only when the local mine closed that he had to explore all the options open to him.

Daniel went on to mention recent research by the Sutton Trust that found over 70% of senior barristers and top ranking army officers are privately educated. He hoped in 20 years’ time these percentages would be much more representative of our society and that we'd truly have equal opportunities for all. 

Daniel ended his speech with two core pieces of advice. Firstly, when meeting employers remember to “be interesting and interested”.  And secondly, don’t do anything to simply pad out your CV – do things you’re passionate about and excel in them.

Networking & skills-building

To ensure every student had the chance to meet and chat with all five firms at Future Leaders, we held two structured networking sessions. In these attendees were divvied up into small groups and spent 16 minutes with each employer - finding out about their business, career opportunities and what it takes to be a successful applicant. The famous Bright Network bell told students when to wrap up their conversations and move onto the next firm.

We heard some really perceptive and intelligent questions as students quizzed firm representatives on everything from their own career path to an average day in the office.

The discovery continued during the skills sessions hosted by Premier Sponsor McKinsey & Company and leading law firm Dentons.

The former focused on problem-solving, highlighting the importance of working out the root cause of a business issue. Daily difficulties tend to stem from larger problems - solving the big issues is vital to success.

During Dentons's workshop, delegates discussed networking basics and how to build a professional network. The key is making a positive, lasting impression and being able to really sell your skills and experience.

Learning from the best

Alongside the networking, delegates heard from all our partner firms during the panel session about becoming a future leader. They found out about the panellists’ own experience and discovered what steps to take today to set you on the path to leadership.

The panel affirmed everyone has the potential to be a leader - you need to believe in yourself and really go for it. Helen Ouseley, Vice President Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs added, “Don't be afraid to fail; see it as a learning opportunity.”

Conversation then moved onto deciding on a future career path. Our panel agreed you need to live in the moment and be flexible when it comes to new opportunities and change. There's no such thing as a straight road to success. “It’s not a career ladder, it’s a career zigzag” said Helen and Daniel restated his earlier point, "whatever you do, do it well". It's crucial to find what really interests you – explore your options.

And their final words of wisdom: “A poor first impression can be redressed. A great lasting impression is vital”.

Wrapping up

Rosie once again took to the stage to wrap up a wonderful afternoon. Having spoken to delegates throughout the day, the highlights were "talking to top firms and exploring different career paths". Rosie also spoke about her own professional experience and pointed to just some of the opportunities attendees could look forward to.

There was then just enough time to recognise the Future Leaders top Tweeter - Bright Network member Amy Fearn walked away with a bottle of bubbly and a box of chocolates.

As we all made our way out into the London evening, there was a real buzz in the air and we caught one future leader saying “today has made me realise I can take my ambitions to new heights”. We'll take that as a sign of a successful event!

Check out all the photos from Future Leaders here.

Thank you again for making it a day to remember and we look forward to seeing you soon. And don't forget to save the date - Bright Network Festival 12th September.