When I’m with my teenage daughter I am reminded that millennials, like the young generations before them, are not one homogenous group. There are certainly commonalities – we all know that Wi-Fi, access to Snapchat and of course a smartphone are necessities for most millennials, including my daughter – but when it comes to finding out what makes them tick, and the career that’s right for them, there is no one-size-fits all approach.
And yet, when I am at one of my regular speaking events on employment, talent and the world of work, I often get questions from young people about how they can prepare for the world of work. It’s been quite some years since I got my first job, but because at ManpowerGroup we find work for thousands of people every day, I see a few things come up again and again.
1. Learnability is the path to career security
New technologies will require increasingly specialist skills for people and organizations. Many people attempt to predict the future of work: more jobs, different jobs, fewer jobs, even no jobs. Few people write about how people will need new skills, and they’ll need them fast, especially if they’re to be employable for jobs we may not even have heard of yet. In an environment where new skills emerge as fast as others become extinct, employability is less about what you already know and more about your capacity to learn. By focusing on learnability – the desire and ability to adapt your skills to remain employable – millennials are redefining career security.
Employers should listen up, too: 93% of young people want ongoing skills development and four out of five say the opportunity to learn a new skill is a top factor when considering a new job. It’s important to create a learning culture because what works for them works for the rest of the workforce, too.
2. Skilling up for an equal future
Looking ahead, we know where to expect growth and which groups are underrepresented. This particularly impacts women, who should make up half the workforce. Architecture, engineering, IT and mathematics are all sectors expecting growth yet they are currently dominated by men.
And this trajectory is set to continue; today, women make up only 18% of computer science graduates, compared with 37% in the 1980s. We need to do more to remove the barriers for girls and women to study and work in high-growth sectors if we’re to continue to accelerate gender parity in the workplace. Creativity, people management, emotional intelligence and negotiation are also areas that will tap human potential and allow people to augment robots, rather than be replaced by them. Organizations will need to invest more in training and development to address today’s talent shortages and anticipate the demands of tomorrow.
3. College or on-the-job learning? It’s not as clear as you might think
College is important, but what young people learn at university alone can make you grad-ready not job-ready. It’s important to get practical work experience early. Students who have four or more contacts with employers while in school are more likely to be employed at age 19-24 and five times less likely to be jobless.
Many organizations continue to pay too much attention to academic qualifications and hard skills, as if what entry-level employees had learned during university actually equipped them for today’s job market. Although learnability does boost academic performance, just because someone is graduate-ready when they obtain their educational credentials does not mean they are also job-ready or learning-ready. Find out your learning type and whether it’s at school, college or on-the job, make sure you’re being curious. Speak to different people, expand your network, go beyond your neighbourhood or even country and seek out new opportunities.
4. Purpose matters
Of course money matters too, and when young people are getting into work the impact of that first pay cheque shouldn’t be underestimated. But it’s important to enjoy what you do. We know that millennials want to know that what they do matters. Eight in 10 millennials in Mexico, India and Brazil say working for employers who are socially responsible and aligned to their values is important. Almost half of Generation Z go as far as saying that in choosing a job, working for a company that helps make the world a better place would be as important as the salary.
Employees who work for an organization that has purpose and creates meaningful impact for the communities in which it operates are three times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t. Employers should be explicit about our responsibility to the communities in which we operate
As my father said, it doesn’t matter what you choose to be in life. Today that has never been more true; the job for life is a thing of the past and millennials are likely to have many careers over long working lives. What matters is your desire to learn new things and whether you make the right choices in those first steps to shape a rewarding future.
(this article was originally published on 31 March 2017 as part of the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2017)