What do they want?

For millennials, it's about more than just status or income when it comes to finding an employer
By Lauren Friese
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/17/2015

Experts agree today’s students aren’t just looking for a career that looks good on paper — they’re looking to work for an organization where they can have a positive impact. 


They’re looking for an opportunity to make a positive shift in their environment, and to couple their passions and talents with their careers. It’s not just about acquiring status and a steady income — in fact, many millennials say they are willing to take risks in their career in order to achieve their dream job.


However, there is one factor that stands in the way of this trend: Fear. While they know they have a lot to offer, many students hesitate during the transition from school to career. The working world is a place with different expectations and unwritten rules — a huge threat for a young professional who has, to that point, been in the shelter of the educational system. 


This transition can be likened to a favourite family pastime: Bowling. Imagine a five-pin bowling lane with the bumpers up. For a kid, this was the best-case scenario — you only had a few target options, and the controlled environment ensured you’d be able to hit at least one of your goals. 


Contrast this with a 10-pin bowling lane, with the bumpers gone. All of a sudden, there are risks and consequences, and your target options have doubled. There is a chance that if you don’t execute your game the right way, you can easily end up in the gutter, with nothing to show for your work.


The good news is employers have the opportunity to build trust with these promising new grads who are looking for an organization that cares and is clearly invested in helping them succeed. Establishing training and mentorship programs for young professionals is a great way to make sure employers not only attract top talent, but retain it for a long time.


Reducing fear, building trust 

Here are a few ways employers can reduce fear and build trust when it comes to attracting millennials.


Educate: It’s incredibly important for new hires to understand the company they work for. It’s not just about understanding the processes — they also need to know the vision behind the organization.


Take the time to help new grads identify how their own personal values align with their employer’s. Many new grads think they need to change who they are to fit into a professional environment when, in reality, they already possess fundamental, professional qualities. Show them that it’s a matter of developing those skills — not acquiring them — and they’ll feel more at ease. 


Set expectations: Be sure to establish a structured environment for students and grads to learn in during this transitional period. Since a lot of their anxiety stems from not having a controlled environment, bringing a small semblance of this can help calm their nerves as they absorb their new environment.


Set some overarching expectations for them to adhere to, so they’re not constantly wondering if they’re in the red. Don’t beat around the bush — be direct and clear, even when it comes to small housekeeping items such as arriving on time or meeting deadlines. The more guesswork that’s eliminated for them, the more time they’ll have to focus on their work performance.


Provide training, mentorship: Even though training is not always the most exciting part of being on the job, it does provide familiarity for new grads. Many young professionals arrive to work nervous on the first day, only to find relief in their training curriculum since it’s reminiscent of their time in classes. But it’s always a good idea to make your training sessions as interactive and engaging as possible. Remember: Students want to feel like they’re part of a team — not just reporting to a superior.


Outside of formal training, mentorship is a great way to help new grads build relationships with more experienced employees. This way, you can make sure new hires learn from top performers and students aren’t left wondering “Who should I ask?”


Show the “big picture”: When building up a new grad for success, don’t limit the information shared to your company or the job opportunity — take the opportunity to be a source of information for your industry and broaden their knowledge beyond their entry-level role. This can include resumé coaching and improving industry skill-sets. 


By focusing beyond your company, you become a helper — a company and employer that cares about and invests in students. There’s always the chance a student or young professional, early in his career, may decide to go in a different direction. But the ones who choose to stick with their role will remember your organization as the one that helped build them up when they were starting out. 


And, one day, when it comes down to choosing between you and the competition, they’ll choose the one that helped them out when they were scared.


Lauren Friese is the founder and CEO of TalentEgg in Toronto, an organization that helps students and recent grads hatch their careers. For more information, visit www.talentegg.ca. 

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