The Graduate Problem

I see posts on LinkedIn across all kinds of forums asking for advice on how to land a role. People offer the same advice:

  • apply for internships and volunteer your time
  • network with others in the profession
  • get your resume and LinkedIn checked out by a professional

This is what I call a band-aid fix. Why isn’t it part of all university degrees to actually do this stuff?

Universities are places where you learn to think, critically analyse stuff, recite the work of others and train your body to live on Red-Bull. Whilst the shift is happening across the education sector to move towards practical application, we have lost sight of why we go to university.

Our job seeking graduate problems started way back high-school when we are learning about what it means to establish a career. Preaching higher education is misleading, we need to be talking about the attainment of quality skills for the role you want to get. University is cloaked in prestige, your first job will not be.

University should be about building a portfolio of tools and experiences that you can sell to prospective employers. Instead, university students are walking into a flooded job market struggling to land their first role.

There will always be the portion of grads who have what I call the gift.

They are driven, resilient and were smart enough to make the university system work for them. They pursued every opportunity and made their own.

They chose part-time jobs that allowed them to pursue volunteering or gave them the ability to practice at least of some their talents. These grad won’t have too many drama’s – they will be employed pretty quickly. These are the grads that ignore the BS recruitment advertisements that say Graduate Position – must have 3 years of experience. They apply anyway because they are champions, when others will get discouraged.

thatd-be-great-meme-on-entry-level-position-jobs

But there is a robust portion of grads who don’t have this gift. It’s not their fault, we are all different with varying levels of confidence. University needs to stop selling the prestige and start delivering on the promises of education. Help students help themselves. It’s a two-way street, you can’t do the hard work for the grads, but there is little point in a degree if you can’t get a job. Grads paid between 20-50K on average for that degree, the least you could do is provide better transitional services.

I’m not saying don’t go to uni, I went to uni and I wouldn’t change a thing, I enjoyed my uni experience. But you need to be prepared to make it work for you.

Youth and young adult employment impacts us all. Without getting all down in economics we know the lower the unemployment rate the better off we are as a country. This only scratches the surface of what is a real social and economic problem driven by an education system struggling to remain relevant.

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OD is just HR grown up

Organisational Development (OD)  is what I consider the younger, cooler, more out spoken and rebellious version of HR. OD is inhabited with HR specialists who said HELL NO to boring HR practices and wanted to take on a much broader view of the business. OD specialists are problem solvers and always ask the question “should it be like this?”  and “why are you doing it that way?”.

The evolution of your HR role into an OD role comes from not blindly accepting the status quo. Any HR professional can lift their game and work in the OD space! In my opinion, you are an OD specialist if your role requires you to work accross multiple business units to make work more efficient and improve the employee experience. OD is about developing an organisation to be bigger and better than it was before. Any time you do this it will invariably require some kind of HR Development experience (whether it be knowledge of legislation, adult learning, change management etc).

If you look at OD through my definition then really I do not see that OD deserves to be a separate discipline. I think it’s just HR evolved and eventually OD and HR will be one in the same.

The days of businesses paying for HR specialists to tick boxes are on the way out. We can outsource that stuff – we are now about solving problems. If you are not solving or working on solving a problem everyday, I would start to question the value you add.

I recently read an article in the Industrial and Commercial Training Journal called – Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective. I would recommend reading it if you’ve got the time. It is written from the point of view of an OD Consultant and provides a bit of a framework for getting people to be effective OD Specialists.

It talks about the Challenger Spirit – which is about standing up against the status quo and finding out who is blocking the path to change, echoing some of my initial thoughts. Some of the qualities of the challenger include:

  • taking a broad business view;
  • understanding commercial realities;
  • being prepared to experiment and improvise; and
  • causing some kind of purposeful disturbance.

Sounds just like what HR should be doing, right?

Further Reading

lare Southall , (2014),”Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective”, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 46 Iss 4 pp. 182 – 187 – http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/ICT-12-2013-0083