So, you want to hire this generation of graduates?

University students have had it pretty tough these last few years.

Assessments to get there rather than exams, limited opportunities to develop those in-person relationships that make university so special because of lockdowns, remote exams and graduation ceremonies… And now you want to introduce them to the big wide world of work.

It’s no wonder that Bright Network’s 2022 Early Careers report, which we were lucky enough to have presented to us in-person back in April, delivered some stirring advice for tapping into this next generation.

How are 2022’s graduates feeling about the job market?

A few key themes have emerged within the early careers market, from future planning, to issues around confidence and upskilling. We’ll get into these. But the first thing that is very clear, is that the Covid pandemic is still impacting graduates. In a post-pandemic world, we are seeing that 23% of graduates feel that a lack of networks and contacts will hinder them in finding a graduate position after university – the two years of lockdowns affecting the number of opportunities to connect with the working world, partake in relevant work experience or attend apprenticeships. Whilst this isn’t true for all graduates, there is some nervousness here, with 22% feeling their lack of experience will hold them back.

What are graduates looking for in a job?

The perceived lack of experience feeds into graduates’ expectations from their future employers, with 95% of respondents wanting to see employers offering upskilling, with networking and coding being the two most popular areas for skills development.

Along with salary expectations rising to almost pre-pandemic levels, one other prevalent theme comes through: culture. Over one third (36%) of graduates see people and culture as among the most important factors when looking for an employer. Gen Z want to work for an employer that is moving forward with its people and culture initiatives, with 89% saying they would consider an organisation’s commitment to Diversity & Inclusion, and 91% to their mental health attitudes and initiatives, when applying for a role.

What does this mean for employers?

Despite the nervousness from graduates, we’ve found that employers do not feel the same – the lack of networks or experience is largely a non-issue for the graduate employers who are valuing transferable skills and varied experiences more highly. The key then for employers, is articulating this effectively in the messaging strategies to graduates, who may not be applying for these programmes at the moment due to their perceived lack of relevant experience.

With graduates’ desire to ensure that they are upskilled in roles, coupled with the struggles employers are facing in terms of hiring tech talent, graduate employers could, for example, take the initiative to offer or sponsor technical upskilling in new positions, that not only broadens the number of students going into tech roles but also positions that organisation as a tech leader.

Finally, students care about what a business is doing in the EDI space, with the environment and mental health also considered important factors in the job decision-making process. Companies need to consider how they are displaying their commitment to these areas in their messaging: What are they doing in these spaces? Is their targeting representative? Are the creative executions – brochures, websites and campaigns – showcasing commitments to these areas effectively?

There are lots of things to consider within the early careers market today. It’s not just about looking at what graduates want, it’s about understanding what they think an employer wants – and changing that narrative. It’s about creating a place of inclusion and of acceptance, where graduates feel like they can continue to grow and will be supported whilst they do so. Many organisations are already on this journey, but for those who need a greater understanding of the market and how to position themselves effectively, we’re here to help.

Find out more about our graduate recruitment expertise.