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Ready or not: This year's graduates and the job market

Graduates, being of the generation we call millennials are subject to all the hype: jumping ship after three months in the job, needing constant reassurance, regular pay increases and flexibility of working arrangements. So far, these aren't sounding like your dream employees, right? Research has told us that the generation born after 1983 has a very specific approach to work and money: they are more focused on doing fulfilling work in line with their passions and demand flexibility and balance. Having read so much about this generation who expects work to work for them, I wondered whether the South African millennial was quite like this.
What are the technology geniuses and creative sages of the future going to demand from employers, and is either party ready?

I recently ran a focus group with students in the final year of their Bachelor's degree, all planning to go into the communication industry. While my method was hardly scientific, the comments were enlightening.

We explored the topic of the type of companies they would like to work for. The results were interesting:
  • Familiarity
Students wanted to work for companies that they knew through their parents and other relatives. "My Uncle works at xyz and they treat him well, I thought I might work in their PR department." This is good news for established companies as they would reap the rewards of treating their current employees well in this way. In this group though, little preparation is taking place as the student above did not know whether xyz had a PR department, let alone who or how they hired into the department. Is that remarkable, or am I just old enough to have forgotten how ill-prepared my cohorts and I were for the world of work?
  • Challenge is key
The students valued a workplace where they could make their mark and make a difference.

A refreshing insight was how highly this group valued challenging work. One participant in particular wanted a job at our national electricity utility and thought their PR team would be an ideal place to stand out.

Some of my interviewees mentioned a challenger brand in banking who they thought was doing great things, and taking customer centricity very seriously. They saw this as a great company to work for: large enough to be part of something great and still small enough that someone could make a big difference there.
  • A cool place to work
Take heart employers who have invested in chill rooms and fooseball tables, it is really important for these graduates to work in a fun environment.

The group felt that the world of work was out of their reach and that opportunities would be hard to come by, a point of view not supported by data which shows that for Bachelors graduates, the rate of unemployment today - around 5%- is very close to rates over the last 17 years. With quotes like "do companies even hire people with an undergrad degree these days even as interns?" my group of interviewees showed their fear of not being able to find employment. However, the group was also doing very little about that with none of them having a resume ready yet, even though their course ended in three months. None of them were targeting companies for possible opportunities and when asked, the only job searching they were currently doing was online on a few sites whose names were hard for them to remember.

These communications majors could only name three advertising agencies though they all said they would love to work in an agency. They had done no research into how to get hired by one of these agencies and felt that these, and all other employers, had done nothing to reach them. The campus career days were aimed entirely at finance and engineering students, in their opinions, and served only to make them worry more about their prospects.

What is clear is that there is room for employers to reach out to graduates and show their brand as one where young professionals could find the challenge that they are looking for. Graduates should also be making a greater effort to investigate and prepare for that all important first placement which can set them up for an exciting career.


About the author

Vanessa Gibb is Organisational Development and Human Resources manager at NATIVE VML.

NATIVE VML's press office

NATIVE VML is a digitally-led full-service marketing agency that strives to forge deep relationships between its clients and their customers.