Tanya de Grunwald is the founder of the campaigning careers advice website Graduate Fog, best known for calling out bad practice among well-known employers of young people. She has challenged Tony Blair, Philip Green, Vivienne Westwood and Simon Cowell for running unpaid internships, questioned the quality of Poundland’s work placements, and exposed Capita for charging participants up to £21,000 to quit their graduate scheme (a policy the outsourcing firm has since scrapped).
Graduate Fog’s exclusive stories regularly appear in the mainstream press – picked up by the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4 News, TIME, Vice and BuzzFeed, among others – and Tanya has become a spokesperson for the UK’s young job seekers. Earlier this year, she was profiled by the Financial Times.
Most recently, Tanya has started working with good employers of young people, launching the Graduate Fog Employers Club last year. This coalition of big-name firms – which already includes Google, Channel 4, KPMG, Santander, Royal Mail and Accenture – meets for quarterly events to share their challenges and innovations around early careers. The Club’s remit has expanded beyond graduates, with core topics also including attraction, diversity, fair access, apprenticeships, retention and schools outreach.
What was the inspiration behind Graduate Fog?
I expected it to be a straightforward careers advice website – but immediately it was the blog that took off. Young people were crying out for a platform that called out dodgy employers. So, I applied my journalism training to create and own an entire niche that didn’t exist before Graduate Fog. By picking big targets to ‘Fog’, I quickly marshalled a large and highly engaged audience of young readers who happily shared and retweeted our stories. Then I started seeding our exclusives to mainstream journalists, building the brand and our SEO.
Calling out employers and even celebrities who offer unpaid internships is a brave thing to do. Have you ever had second thoughts?
Weirdly – no! To me, it’s so clearly the right thing to do. Having no investors or advertisers gave me the freedom to publish content that was edgy, confrontational and exciting. Knowing you’ve made Philip Green or Simon Cowell angry is really fun – and Poundland and Capita deserved to be held to account for their actions too. It makes my blood boil when those with power take advantage of those with none. Plus, it’s not libel if it’s true…
You’ve now set up an Employers Club. What does that involve?
Graduate Fog made its name calling out bad employers, so it’s a big change to be working with the good ones! But ultimately the club and Graduate Fog have the same goal – to make the job market fairer for young people. These firms have an important role to play in setting out what good employment looks like. They want to be seen as leaders – and I want them to step up. So it works for everyone. They’re also a great group of people, who I like immensely.
What’s next on your to-do list?
The Graduate Fog Employers Club is about to announce several big brands as new members – so it looks certain we’ll expand significantly in the next year. It’s exciting to imagine what we can achieve together – beyond ‘just’ talking. For starters, we’re planning a campaign to end unpaid internships in the UK, once and for all, in 2020. Unpaid internships exploit those who do them, and exclude those who can’t afford to do them. They’re bad for diversity, social mobility and our country as a whole. Entire sectors are being starved of talent because most young people can’t afford to work for free for months, in the hope of being offered paid work later. It’s a broken, unfair entry system – and it needs to change, now.
What advice would you give other female entrepreneurs?
Remember that without even trying, you’re already more memorable than a bloke doing the same thing. Especially if you wear colour.
Finally, if you could invite anyone, who would you invite to a dinner party?
Cher. “Believe” is my karaoke song.
If you work for a big UK firm and would like more details about joining the Graduate Fog Employers Club, contact Tanya’s team here https://employersclub.graduatefog.co.uk/about/contact/