By Gemma Proniewicz, OPEN Programme Manager

After facilitating three different OPEN Programme modules in November alone, the OPEN Programme team is feeling fulfilled, positive and rather exhausted! It is easy to get swept up in the preparation and delivery of the modules and forget to set aside time to reflect.   But when colleagues and peers ask me ‘how did the OPEN Programme go?’, I thoroughly enjoy relaying my thoughts and observations regarding a particular cohort and the changes and challenges they have experienced. It is these conversations that has prompted me to share some of my thoughts with you about the changes we see in the graduates as the progress through the OPEN Programme.

As each individual moves forward on their OPEN Programme journey, they begin to get a real understanding of what their business expects of them and how they can go about achieving this. Each and every OPEN Programme graduate reaches a stage when they realise that getting a graduate job isn’t the final step following academia. In fact, it is just the start of their professional development. It is at this same point that they begin to grasp that they may need to go over and above simply doing their job to demonstrate their worth to the business. This really is an eye-opener for some delegates, but once they’ve got it, the attitude change we see really is quite phenomenal.

Increased self-awareness is one of the first and most rewarding changes that I see time and again, almost immediately after (or even during!) the first OPEN Programme module. With a stringent focus on understanding their true self, delegates receive feedback left, right and centre on module one; from other delegates, from their Parallax profile and from engaging in activities that really get them thinking about who they are now and who they want to be. Having absorbed this information, things start to ‘click’ into place and graduates begin to foster a deeper understanding of what they truly want from their working life and what they might need to put in to get it.

However, it is not all plain sailing when it comes to personal development. At the start of the OPEN Programme it is often difficult for graduates to maintain a focus on their own development. It requires time, effort and concentration which proves quite a challenge for graduates when coupled with finding their feet in a new career. Their commitment is often extraordinarily high during the experiential modules, but when back at their desks, this motivation has a tendency to dwindle.

And this is where I come in! Through keeping in regular contact via email, phone and face-to-face conversations on support visits, I am the gentle reminder that is often needed to draw the delegates’ attention back to their development. I encourage the graduates to remember that investing in their own development will help them to be more successful in their role and that a lot of the time, sacrifice is required to achieve objectives. The ILM (Institute of Leadership & Management) coursework can feel like a huge effort, but it allows graduates to apply the learning to their business, helping them identify examples of the theory in practice. And, the certificate they get on successful completion often provides the motivation they need! Essentially, it is about reiterating that the more they put in, the more they will get out of the OPEN Programme.

Another common challenge is manager availability. It can be a rather arduous task for the graduates to tie down their managers to talk through their OPEN Programme experiences and development objectives. To assist this communication, graduates can go into meetings armed with tools such as their Personal Effectiveness Wheel to help focus conversations on personal objectives and avoid drifting onto work related issues. Touching base with line managers through support calls and visits, I act as the glue between the graduate and their line manager to ensure that graduate development remains a priority on their agenda as well as the graduates’ own.

I hope my reflections have given you further insight into the changes that the Discovery OPEN Programme initiates for graduates and their businesses alike. I am lucky enough to enjoy a highly rewarding role at Discovery and am always keen to answer any questions from graduates and employers alike, about any aspect of the OPEN Programme.