🌞 Earlywork #65: What Employers Get Wrong About Grads & Interns
Lessons from a talent specialist with 10+ years experience in recruiting young talent across banking, professional services, education, sport and startups
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By and large, workplaces in Australia have never been more holistic and compassionate to graduates as they are now, whether it be health & wellness budgets, mental health support services, volunteering opportunities, and dedicated social events.
But even now, there are ‘top-down’ remnants from old-world corporate that linger in the way intern & graduate programs are designed, bound by a lack of confidence in young talent.
There’s a ‘3+ years experience required for entry-level role’ culture that underweights the learning speed and independence of early-career professionals, and if companies want to retain top young talent, there needs to be a shakeup.
When I first met Kerry Callenbach (People & Culture Specialist @ Mantel Group) through the Earlywork community, I was taken aback by her radical approach to early-career hiring:
No use of the word ‘graduate’. No university degrees required. No minimum timelines for promotion. Flexibility to rotate or specialise straight away. Traineeship programs for career switchers.
Having spent 10+ years in talent management across Deloitte, ANZ Bank, University of Melbourne, and Hawthorn Football Club, before making the move to tech, Kerry is one of the most progressive thinkers I’ve encountered in the people and talent space.
Here are the 8 biggest mistakes that she thinks employers make when hiring grads and interns:
#1: Not paying for internships 💸
I appreciate that this can be a tricky one between finding the balance between providing an opportunity to students and crunching the numbers.
But at the end of the day, hiring students for an internship brings a number of benefits to the employer; promotion of the company’s brand, fresh ideas & perspectives, and a filtered, future talent pipeline.
So paying an intern for the value they bring not only now, but the future, is the right thing to do.
If paying an intern is not something you're in a position to do right now, think about other legal alternatives where there are reciprocal benefits, such as:
Registering for a Workplace Integration Program through a university
Checking if the student can receive subject credit for the hours worked
Signing up to support student learning projects through bootcamp providers
Offering to mentor a student on a particular subject/course instead of an internship
#2: Requiring uni degrees to be in a graduate program 🎓
Don’t get me wrong, as a uni grad myself, I have experienced first-hand the benefits and breadth of learning that a degree provides.
However limiting applications for graduate programs to only those who have studied at university neglects to recognise the richness and diversity that learning through other pathways and life experiences brings:
The resilience of working part-time whilst completing a BootCamp
Self-teaching coding whilst working through the day
Juggling working with the balance of family/personal commitments or bravery of moving to another state/country to pursue study or work
These paths all display attributes and capabilities that aren’t harnessed in a lecture theatre.
💡 Tip for Employers: Instead of using a degree as a screening tool, look to see how students have harnessed skills and attributes that enable success through self-learning, work or life. Look to set up supplementary learning programs that will build their “technical” skills.
#3: Boxing graduates into roles based on what they studied 📚
Without a doubt, there are some courses that are absolutely essential to study to commence a vocation, say, medicine or law.
However, in the world of business & tech, boxing new graduates into a role based on their degree inhibits their chance to build a broad skillset, and more importantly, their ability to choose a path that’s different to what they studied.
💡 Tip for Employers: Providing graduates with an opportunity to rotate through different roles, or gain exposure to different specialisations, will allow them to make an informed decision about their career and stay with your company, rather than leaving to try a different path.
#4: Including learning clawback clauses in graduate offers 🦀
I won’t lie, this one makes my blood boil! Recruiting early talent means that you are committing to invest in developing, growing and harnessing their potential to be amazing.
They chose you to begin their career journey and give them an incredible experience… but then you want them to pay for that if they choose to leave?!
Providing learning to graduates, or any employee for that matter, isn't a benefit. It’s an expectation and responsibility you have in helping people be the best they can be.
So instead of whacking in a clause to force someone to repay you for training costs if they realise that the role or company isn’t for them, take a moment to see what could you be doing differently to make your graduates want to continue their career journey with you.
#5: Failing to invest in developing interpersonal skills 🤝
Training around the human skills that enable someone to be great at their job is often under-invested in graduate programs, yet it is these things that are predominately used to determine performance and promotions.
We have all heard the adage of the brilliant toxic jerk (technically fantastic but lacking in everything else); the onus is on employers to cultivate employee attributes that will enable future role success.
💡 Tip for Employers: Set up situation workshops to practice skills in a safe environment, provide shadowing opportunities, allocate a mentor, or set up monthly brown bags for graduates to hear from experienced team members on topics such as client communications and nailing presentations
#6: Getting labelled as a graduate for 2 years 👶
When you finish a course, you are a graduate. When you start a job you get a role title that reflects what you do.
So why do we give roles titles based on what an individual was, not what they are when they begin a job, and what they are as they demonstrate their capability over the months thereafter?
Giving someone the role title ‘Graduate’ is like asking them to wear L plates around their neck in the office.
Whilst it might provide an unconscious alert to colleagues to say “Hey, they’re still learning here”, it can subconsciously cause others to pigeonhole them.
The term fails to treat early talent like adults (because they are!) with insights, curiosity and passion that benefit organisations.
I believe there is far more value and impact to building a culture where learning happens regardless of your role or level.
Feeling safe to grow and fail without highlighting that people are through a title or tenure is when you will see people develop and flourish.
#7: Arbitrary timeframes before promotion is considered ⏳
If people have the right skills, capability and knowledge, and are performing exceptionally well, then why hold them back by an arbitrary timeframe because internal processes say that “You must be in this role for 2 years”?
This is a sure way to demotivate someone and risk losing a high-potential employee.
Tenure doesn’t equate to role success.
💡 Tip for Employers:
Spend time investing in understanding and communicating what good looks like from a skills, knowledge and attributes perspective
Provide early-career talent with opportunities to grow & show these
When an employee shows these in abundance celebrate their success with a promotion
#8: Not hiring for future potential 🔮
Having spent a number of years in the sporting industry, a very obvious approach to recruiting early talent emerged: sports clubs hire for future potential.
The basis of their recruitment wasn’t necessarily what the athlete could do now, but rather what emerging capabilities they had that, with coaching & training, could lead them to become top elite athletes.
So why don’t we take this same approach in business?
💡 Tip for Employers:
Take time to identify the skills, attributes and capabilities needed to be successful in your company.
Build support systems (training experiences, exposure opportunities, and career coaches) that enable early-career talent to grow and harness those skills over time.
🌏 Earlywork Community
🐝 The Buzz
What’s been happening in the community?
💼 Earlyworking Community & Marketing Associate applications close Friday! If you know someone who’s great at bringing people together, running events and creating memes, send this their way! Open to full-time and part-time candidates 😊
#wellness channel launch: Earlyworkers Amira Skeggs and Andrew Vo have kicked off a dedicated channel for mental health. You can catch a recording of our recent fireside chat on youth mental health here.
What Australia Can Learn from Indian Startups: A fireside chat with Utsav Somani (Partner at AngelList India) and Mayuresh Patole (Co-Founder at Chronicle) on Tuesday 19 April 6pm GMT+10.
WTF is Community-Market Fit? Mazz sat down with Earlyworker Jack Hallam to discuss Earlywork’s community-building approach on the Weird Growth podcast.
📚 Trending Topics
Our favourite reads and resources being discussed in the Earlywork community:
From Aspiring Athlete to Founding AfterWork Ventures: Earlyworker Vidit Agarwal interviews Adrian Petersen on his journey to found AfterWork.
Graduate Theory’s 25-Podcast Review: Earlyworker James Fricker discusses his most important career takeaways after interviewing 25 young leaders across tech & business.
Non-Linear Career Journey from Actuarial Student to Yogi to Tech Investor: A writeup from Tiger Financial’s Solai Valliappan on her atypical career path.
Earlyworker Alex Logan chats to Greenfluence about why carbon asset management is key to the climate fight.
🔥💼 Superhype Gig
🔥 💼 Introducing this week's Superhype Gig...
Hyper is Australia and the UK’s leading tech incubator, helping over 700 startups launch & scale, with a combined value of $400 million.
As a Commercial Strategist, you will be the first personal point of contact for incoming leads with the Hyper team.
Your role will be to interview aspiring clients, explain the Hyper Accelerate process, build a relationship with the Founder, and provide mentorship and ongoing value along their journey from idea to investment.
If you're keen to connect with new tech founders, ideas and technologies before they become the next big thing, this could be the role for you!
🔗 Apply Here
Looking for a new role or have friends on the job hunt? Check out our Gigs by Earlywork jobs board:
If you’re hiring for early-career roles in tech, startups & social impact, you can share your role on our Gigs Board for free today:
1️⃣ 🕐 💪 One Minute Hustle
We are back once again with One Minute Hustle, a bite-sized interview with an emerging Australian young startup founder or operator.
This week, let’s get inside the noggin of a young founder changing the way people with disabilities access support…
David Bookman, Co-Founder @ Buttons
⚙️ What are you working on?
Buttons is a marketplace connecting people with a disability to young support workers in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
The disability sector has been saturated with clinical processes. We are striving to build an edge in delivering what people with a disability want most. They are in need of services predicated on fun, appropriateness and authenticity.
🌱 How’d you get started?
My best mate/co-founder Ryan and I worked at an NFP in the disability sector and were support workers ourselves.
We witnessed the power youth support workers bring to the sector and understood the challenges they face.
Genuinely, all we wanted was to build a service that created value for our stakeholders.
🤔 Why do you do what you do?
We feel this industry is a place where we can be the best versions of ourselves and make a long-lasting impact.
Seeing sustainable relationships formed will forever be a special feeling and drives us and our team going forward.
Buttons is here to change the face of the disability sector and showcase a new joyful and fun energy.
Keen to share your story, or know a young founder, side hustler, or creator we should feature next?
Share your deets below or forward this to a mate, and we’ll get in touch!
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