Purpose-The purpose of this paper is to explore the usefulness of the concept of the "implied graduate" to explain the difficulties which students report when engaging with local employers. Design/methodology/approach-The "implied graduate" is an analytical concept that aims to bring together assumptions about what a graduate should be like. In this paper the concept has been used to analyse interview data collected from students after they took part in an employability project at a small Higher Education (HE) campus in a Further Education (FE) College. Findings-The students in this study reported significant issues with continuing to engage and maintain contact with the employers they met during the project. For many, this was the first time they had met graduate level employers and so felt inexperienced in how to approach networking with them. It seems that some of the offers for future contact made by the employers were aimed at an "implied graduate" and, as such, the students struggled to fulfil those expectations. Originality/value-This paper sheds light on the difficulties that HE in FE students face in engaging with graduate employers. These issues are likely to contribute to the well-established, but unexplained, differences in employment outcomes for students from diverse backgrounds.