By Marissa Geist, CEO
Every year, commencement speakers dispense advice to a new crop of university graduates. Many offer wisdom on empathy, courage, leadership and finding your way in a confusing world. But as the CEO of a strategic talent acquisition company – and a mother of four – I have a different, more pragmatic brand of advice to offer.
In precarious economic times, how can graduates find a good job that suits their personality and skills, with an employer who shares their values and purpose? More importantly, how can companies looking to hire grads make sure they're attracting new talent that suits their needs and will stick around long enough to make their investment in the hire worthwhile?
With one child already in college and the rest not far behind, I’ve thought long and hard about the new generation's preparation for entering the workforce. Things always change, but for right here and now, this is the advice I would give all new grads and the organizations hoping to hire them.
1. Know thyself.
The first step to successfully matching eager young job seekers to employers is self-knowledge. If neither party knows who they are or what they're looking for, it'll take intentional work to find those answers. You can't just stumble around and find it.
Employers can’t attract candidates looking for their particular value proposition if they aren’t 100% clear on what it is. For example, are you offering training and long-term opportunity but a comparatively lower salary? Is compensation your competitive advantage? Whatever advantages you offer grads, you need to actively promote them. Think about what graduates may want. For example, are they looking for fast-paced environments, mission-driven work or the perfect work-life balance?
Be explicit about what you’re offering at the interview stage. Discuss whether you require people to work in the office, the kind of work hours you expect from employees or the structure of your work environment. The more you can describe this to potential hires, the more clearly they'll be able to see themselves at your organization – or not.
2. Soft skills are everyone’s responsibility.
Employers sometimes forget how much new graduates don’t know when it comes to soft skills and business etiquette. This is a generation that's spent much of the last few years attending online classes in their sweats and hoodies, sending emoji-filled texts and working when and where they pleased. You'll need to be explicit about the norms and expectations at your company.
Set standards and then actively coach grad hires to meet them. For example, how do you expect them to show up in meetings, use technology appropriately or even write emails? If you don't have a formal onboarding program for early talent, consider assigning mentors who can help grads navigate your culture. You can also encourage these new employees to be proactive in learning about your norms and how employees should act.
3. Do your due diligence.
Remember that in our very online world, the way companies treat their people isn't as private as it once was. Jobseekers have the ability to investigate companies through professional spaces like LinkedIn or anonymous employer review sites. They're looking out for how companies treat their employees through good times and bad ones, as well as what current employees are saying.
Your reputation as an employer affects your ability to hire the best and brightest young talent. Keep this in mind when you’re considering decisions that could benefit you in the short term but ding your employer brand in the long term.
It's vital to support graduates as they enter the workforce
Today's priorities and expectations among graduates are different than they were even four years ago. As the class of 2023 prepares to enter the workforce, it's important to be aware that work fulfills a different role in the lives of this generation than it did for previous ones. They're thinking about how their values, purpose and stability will be supported, as well as what kind of support they'll receive to settle comfortably into their first real role.
To get the best from them, my advice is to be clear about your expectations from the first interview, understand your long-term responsibility in these employees' development and offer resources for them to integrate into your culture. Considering the relentless pace of change in the job market, a willingness to adapt and level up what you bring as an employer will always make an experience.
Originally featured in Forbes.