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It’s not unusual to see fresh graduates job hunting again within six months of starting their first job. According to statistics, 1 in 5 graduates do this, and up to 85% switch jobs within their first two years of employment. Some companies are even hesitant of hiring graduates because they find that the investment is far from the return they had hoped for.
These figures are bad news for employers, though perhaps the current economic climate keeps the job hunt just that: a hunt, not an actual catch. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much this job-hopping actually benefits young professionals. The average student starts their first “real” job at the age of 25, but by the time they reach 30 they are fed up with switching jobs every other year, trying on each one for size. At this point, many realise why they didn’t enjoy their previous jobs, but the realisation has taken too long, has come too late, and they end up in a quarter-life crisis. So it’s important to try to figure out what you would like to do and what you could do right from the very beginning. My previous column discusses this: how to find your “dream job”.
However, I have not yet addressed what I think is the root of this double-sided dilemma: expectations. My guess is that the job, the team and the environment are nothing like what graduates expect, and vice versa: the graduates’ behaviour, attitudes and their sense of immediacy are not what organisations expect either.
It’s rarely the job itself that makes young professionals look elsewhere. The old saying goes that you quit your boss, not your job. This is often true, but we also change jobs because the organisation’s culture and the level of responsibility we start out with do not sync with our expectations. Perhaps the organisational definitions of values displayed on a beautiful website do not match graduates’ definitions. As such, recruitment teams have quickly learned to speak the language of this generation. Still, even once recruited, it may be difficult to retain these graduates for very long, as their words and behaviour are often not aligned with the organisations’.
But I cannot blame it all on the organisations. As we previously explored, perhaps parents are also to blame because they told us we could do anything we wanted to do, as long as we set our mind to it. Is this true? What if we are not yet capable?
I remember one evening when I was having a meal with my parents, they asked me what kind of job I would be working at once I finished my course (I was studying Organisation & Management). As if it was the most obvious thing in the world, I answered, “I can be a manager.” I was under the impression – and I am definitely not alone in this – that if you go to university and study something like Organisation & Management, surely you do not start at the same bottom rung where your parents started without a university degree.
In hindsight, I was naïve in my expectations, though I like to think that I was only half as naïve as some of my peers. I had already seen, at my father’s organisation, some of the working world prior to entering it, and I now know that even if you can see ways to improve an organisation, you may not yet have the gravitas or managerial experience to deal with it properly. In the end, of course I didn’t leap straight from university into the job I wanted. I started as a consultant and peeked inside the heart of many organisations, gaining valuable work experience before taking on a managerial role.
Both young professionals and organisations should adjust their expectations accordingly – perhaps even parents and universities could have a role in this. Even though the educational system tries to prepare graduates for the real working world, there is still a big difference between being a student with a side job and doing work experience, and the real thing.