Graduates and the 21st Century Skillset

23 Oct, 2013


I want a job. Oh god do I want a job. Words cannot express how badly I want a job. However since I am not in the Faculty of Management, Engineering or Science, few companies have come knocking on my door and the search for employment has become a slightly more difficult process. Those who are already employed seem to revel in the fact that employment has become increasingly daunting for each new generation of university graduates, which is unfortunate because it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many skills unique to people our age that could easily be harnessed by the employers of the world, not for charity but for mutual benefit. As a public service, I have gathered a brief list of skills unique to the generation employers seem content seem to dismiss. No need to thank me, but feel free to employ me.

1. Social Media Coordination

No, I don’t mean running a halfhearted Twitter account and setting up a barebones Facebook page. With the increasingly prevalent role that technology and social media play in our everyday lives, the perception of one’s “online persona” has become hugely important. When one or two unsavory pictures can kill your chances at your chosen company, we’ve reached a point where sanitization of your Facebook page is a higher priority before a job interview than reading up about the business.

But if the goal is to find out every little thing about a potential applicant, why are these checks done by a man whose main exposure to Facebook is his kids posting pictures of their grandkids?

The clear choice for this kind of task is a recent university graduate. For every hour we spend in class or doing readings, we spend three on Facebook trying to find out that one girl’s relationship status without having to add her as a friend. The 22-year-old fresh graduate has unknowingly cultivated these skills for years and can do this job so well it will barely seem like work. The larger the role that social media plays in our day-to-day lives, the more important this role will become, and the company that hires the best Facebook private eyes will be that much further ahead.

2. Understanding Millennial Culture

We’ve all seen advertisements that are targeted towards people our age. And just as often we have wrinkled our brows and asked, “who thought that was a good idea?” From Samsung’s recent ad focusing the ability to operate a computer when saran wrapped to a bed to Kate Upton and Snoop Lion’s Hot Pockets advert, there are several instances of youth-targeted advertisement that completely miss the mark.

This is understandable, however, because the bigger an advertising campaign, the more likely it will be run by a large firm staffed by industry veterans. But the issues with having such a campaign run by experts in their 40s is that they no longer have a feel for what appeals to the millennials they are targeting. This is how companies end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to air an ad where a nerdy guy makes out with Bar Refaeli.

The solution to this is to employ (and listen to) these young graduates as consultants. The more a company accepts their input during the creative process, the less time and money it will waste on bad ideas that should have never left the drawing room. Advertisements will be more relevant and engaging, allowing for the product itself to enjoy greater success.

3. Connecting to Students

A huge priority for employers is recruitment—businesses often say their most important asset is their human capital. No matter how well a company is doing, they always want the best and brightest to maintain their level of success. Similarly, faltering corporations must attract talent in order to revitalize their business. The bottom line is that many businesses are looking closely at these soon-to-be graduates.

For those lucky people whom the major firms are courting for jobs (and not those people simply making mildly funny lists for a campus magazine), how do you decide where to go? Particularly when you’re staring at a room full of interchangeable men in suits handing out business cards telling you that you could have a great future at “insert company here.”

The way these recruiters could get an edge is to have younger graduates be their spokespeople. Any university student will trust someone his or her age that recently experienced exactly what he or she is experiencing now, especially over the word of someone who went to school during a time when a bachelor’s degree alone was enough to get a job supporting a four-person family.

4. Anything requiring massive time commitment or extreme monotony

The baby boomers have repeatedly called the millennial generation lazy – and sometimes they have a point. But they are forgetting the most omnipresent characteristic of this terrifying job market we all now face: desperation. Today’s university students live in such perpetual fear of their futures that they have cultivated an exceptionally valuable skill in the eyes of the employer: the ability to work nonstop for days.

At first glance, you may disagree—until you remember your two consecutive all-nighters last exam period. You knew if you worked hard enough, your exam mark could bring your B up to a B+ and that would be good enough to get you a job. This willingness to grind for days at the time for a potential future benefit is the one skill ubiquitous in university students.

Perhaps these are just the fear-induced ramblings of a soon-to-be graduate, but if so, it is a fear shared by many of us.  There is merit to be found in my generation—we are more innovative and hard-working than generations before us, yet we still cannot find jobs because of circumstances out of our control. When companies realize that what they need is readily available, the transition from the cocoon of university to the barren wasteland of the job market may not be so terrifying after all.

In the mean time, does anyone want to give me a job? No? Okay then.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Bull & Bear.

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