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Early Careers: Making the transition from education to employment


The effective transition of young workers from education into the workplace is a subject close to the hearts of all at The Career Innovation Company. It’s the subject of a forthcoming Virtual Roundtable on Early Careers programmes and underpins our enthusiasm for #NationalCareersWeek, the established celebration of careers guidance and educational resources across the UK.

Many organisations are working hard to get their early careers offers right, against the backdrop of uncertainty over the future of work. As a learning and career development consultant working with young people in Higher Education, I have gained an insight into some of their needs, expectations, and their challenges in adapting to the world of work.

Life is full of transitions – and the move from education to employment is a key one. Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is a useful sentiment for employers to bear in mind in relation to early years professionals. Those organisations that can understand and action this effectively will have a head start in gaining buy-in, trust and rapport.

The consistent themes which emerge from my interactions, include:

  • Wellbeing. There are differences between student life and that of an employee, whether in terms of the structure of the working week, self-directed learning vs employer-driven deadlines, or changes in work-life balance. Wellbeing is paramount and employers can help greatly with initiatives such as mentoring, training and peer support networks.
  • Diversity and Inclusion. A sense of belonging within the workplace is important to many younger employees. They need to feel that they can be their authentic self and leverage their cultural wealth, as a precursor to engagement and realising their career potential.
  • Cost of living. This is playing on the minds of those transitioning from education to employment. Some of the previous certainties enjoyed by earlier generations in working life feel out of reach, such as getting on the property ladder, or the prospect of a lower retirement age.
  • Work skills and experience. Young people, moving from education to employment, may not have undertaken sandwich placements or internships to get an insight into the world of work and may need some support to understand workplace etiquette, how organisations work structurally, and clarity about their job role and those of others and how they interact and interrelate.
  • Values. Employees want a clear sense that what they are doing makes a difference. While many organisations are clear about what they do and how they do it, fewer are effective at articulating why they do it. A clear sense of purpose, cause, or belief that a business has is now critically important to those entering the workforce for the first time.

What can employers do to ease the transition of those entering the workforce for the first time? One of the core beliefs at The Career Innovation Company is that an employees’ ability to thrive and perform is based around the “whole person” – personality, values, motivations, and a sense of meaning.

It’s worth remembering that many employees, at any stage of their career development, would want many of the same things as those entering the workforce for the first time. So, it is already well within the scope of any organisation to work hard to understand young employees from the outset, simply by putting themselves in their shoes, in the way they seek to do for all others. And, when they do, it will become clear that a more strategic approach to early careers can enable all employees and the organisation to succeed together.

You can find out more about our Early Careers Roundtable here. And for strategic career support take a look at our solutions.

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