New college graduates are finding a cold reception in the job market even as employers increasingly face talent shortages. The job market is broken; here’s how to fix it. Mark’s article, “How To Flip The Script And Win In Today’s Catch-22 Job Market,” published at Forbes.com on June 8, 2021.
The latest job reports point upward as more and more employers are staffing up to take advantage of the recovering economy. That seems like great news for the estimated 4.4 million college students who will be walking across the stage this year—either physically or virtually—to receive their degrees and kick off their professional careers.
But there’s a catch.
Fewer and fewer of the estimated eight million unfilled jobs across the country are available for “entry-level” or “new grads.” The number of available, so-called entry-level jobs dropped 68% from May 2020 compared to 2019, according to data from Glassdoor. To further complicate things, another analysis of open positions from 2018 found that the majority of these types of positions require at least three years of experience.
“Companies now require more experience for entry-level jobs because there are more candidates with college degrees applying than ever before,” says Casey Welch, CEO of Tallo. “A bachelor’s degree used to help differentiate a candidate from other applicants, but now, we’re even seeing new grads with advanced degrees applying for entry-level positions.
“This has become even more pronounced in the post-pandemic job market, as qualified candidates and new graduates are flocking to the workforce in droves.”
The result is that new college graduates will find themselves increasingly shut out of the job market—especially if they don’t reset some of their own expectations for the types of jobs they can land. Similarly, those employers desperate to bring on new talent may want to rethink their own narrow approach to recruitment.
“If employers are requiring experience that Gen-Zers haven’t had the opportunity to gain yet, and Gen-Zers are setting their sights high for their first job, companies are going to continue to struggle to recruit the talent they need,” says Welch.
It’s a lose-lose for both sides—unless we find a way to flip the script and break free from this catch-22 situation.
It’s worth looking at how Gen-Z graduates are planning to open the next chapter of their lives. “For starters, Gen-Z isn’t just looking for a job out of college,” says Welch, “they’re looking to start their career.” According to Tallo research, some 69% of Gen-Z said finding work that’s personally fulfilling is very important to them. This seems to indicate that Gen-Z job seekers have higher expectations for their first career move than previous generations have held.
But for those new grads looking to land their first job, Welch suggests embracing adaptability, innovation and new opportunities. “At the current rate of advancements in automation and new technology, the specific jobs that Gen-Zers grew up envisioning for themselves may not exist in the same form by the time they enter the job market,” he says. The first step is getting your foot in the door—maybe not the door you first imagined, but an opportunity nonetheless.
“I encourage Gen-Z to look at this as a positive rather than a hindrance; this new generation has the chance to become real pioneers in their fields.”
Broaden the recruitment funnel
When employers insist that candidates must have relevant past experience to be successful and productive, they create an impossibly narrow recruitment funnel, says Welch. “Recent grads who finished their education virtually may not have been able to secure the internships or part-time jobs that recruiters expect, as many of these opportunities were canceled or drastically scaled back during the pandemic,” he says.
What employers should do instead, says Welch, is to expand their search to find candidates who will be the “right fit” in terms of their values and alignment with the company culture. For both sides to escape this catch-22, the recruitment funnel must be broadened.
Make long-term investments and commitments
Another ah-ha moment for employers is that Gen-Z truly is a unique generation. “I see a lot of employers making the grave mistake of treating Gen-Zers like Millennials,” says Welch. “But companies can’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to recruiting younger talent.”
While some employers might be reluctant to invest in training entry-level employees who could leave in a year or two, this might not be such a gamble with Gen-Z. Unlike the “job-hopping” Millennials, many Gen-Zers are looking to stay at their first full-time job for several years. In fact, 51% of Gen-Zers plan to stay at their first job for at least three years, a number that has gone up from 43% in 2019.
“Investing in new grads will pay off for a company in the long run,” says Welch.
Bridge the skills gap
With that kind of long-term commitment in mind, new graduates and young employees are looking for opportunities to gain new skills on the job. In a recent Tallo survey of 1,700 Gen-Zers, nearly half (43%) chose leadership skills as the reskilling/upskilling development program they are most interested in.
One way to bring new employees up to speed with on-the-job skills could be apprenticeships, which are “drastically underutilized by employers,” says Welch. “Apprenticeships provide companies with the chance to deliver on-the-job training, bridge the skills gap and build loyalty among potential full-time employees.”
In many industries, the skills gap starts with an awareness gap of both the careers and how to attain them. While Tallo research showed that some 63% of Gen-Zers would be interested in an apprenticeship program, more than half (53%) of Gen-Z respondents said they’re not familiar with what apprenticeships actually entail.
Flipping the script
Despite all the challenges of a post-pandemic workforce, it’s an exciting time to forge new policies in screening and hiring talented workers. The brokenness of the job market for new college graduates has never been more apparent, but it can be fixed. A broader recruitment funnel, coupled with a real investment in training younger workers, can help companies make real strides in sourcing new talent.
Similarly, young professionals who reset their initial career expectations can get their foot in the door to something big—if they just have the vision to see it.
If you’re struggling to hire new employees, you might be overlooking a pool of talented Gen-Z candidates who are eager and ready to get to work. They’re worthy of the training investment needed to get the job done—so flip the script and give them a chance to prove it.
Read at Forbes.com