By Jane Sunley, Author + Founder of Purple Cubed
Mentoring young people, I’m observing first-hand the consequences of ‘early generation pause’.
Generation pause is a buzz phrase to describe how, for today’s young adults, rites of passage and major life events are put on hold. Typically, the term refers to personal events such as leaving home. For example, one in four young adults (aged between 25 and 34) live in the family home; that’s a 23% increase in 20 years (ONS). One in ten believe they may never be able to afford to marry. A quarter of those aged between 25 and 54 believe they will never afford a property, while one in seven have put back starting a family for five years or more. A quarter believe their eventual retirement could be delayed by more than a decade.
And then there are the delays to starting out on a career journey. There are three main reasons why people start their careers later.
- Extended education: With educational, government and employer influences on becoming more skilled and qualified, the number of young people studying at degree level increased from 19% in 1989 to 47% in 2016. Similarly, whilst in 1996 4% of the working population had a post-grad degree, by 2013 this had increased to 11%. It’s not unheard of for some young people to complete more than one post-grad degree thus delaying the start of their careers even longer.
- Mobility: Young people are travelling and / or taking on more leisure based jobs (think seasonal work, taking a year out, volunteering overseas…). Even though we have low levels of unemployment in the UK, anecdotally young people are finding it challenging to secure a first job in their chosen discipline and, as a result, take less skilled work as a result. Others just don’t want to face the reality of ‘getting into the rat race’.
- Uncertainty: With the shift in traditional values, many young people simply don’t know what they want to do and so take ‘anything that appeals’ (often freelance or casual contracts) just to start work and then find this might not be relevant to their eventual choice. Of course, all experience is good, though employers do tend to look for relevance to their workplace; they want to know how candidates can add value. This often takes a level of understanding difficult to provide without having ‘been there’, to some extent at least.
Is it any wonder an apparent 75% of UK employees feel they’re in the wrong job?
And there are many disappointed 25 to 30-year olds out there who, faced with the realisation that they should be further on in their careers by now, earning better salaries with higher levels of responsibility, are regretting their decisions to pause the start of ‘serious’, career related work.
10 things employers can do to help
- Become a great place to work where people can find fun, fulfilment and enjoyment as well as a good career in the traditional sense.
- Talk to your people (and those outside your business) to find out what they think and what would make them join you.
- Make sure your culture is one of inclusivity and diversity.
- Be less hung up about qualifications and specific experience and instead look for potential.
- Look for qualities to nurture and grow – ‘hire for attitude and train for skill’.
- Make job descriptions more flexible – fit roles around good people rather than taking a traditional linear approach.
- Offer decent quality work experience, visits, careers talks and so forth.
- Mentor a young person.
- Get in touch with schools and colleges to inspire young people to ‘hit play instead of pause’.
- People want to do something they love – so help them do just that.
Bonus tip – read my best-selling book about how to be happy and successful at work – then pass it on to someone who needs it.