As a 19 year old university student, it’s safe to say the past 18 months have not been what I expected. Cancelled exams, online university and narrowed career opportunities are just a few ways the pandemic has caused havoc for young people. It’s been a worrying time, but I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I only have to ask my peers what they plan to do after university and their responses are along the general theme of: “I’ll see what the job market is like – maybe I’ll study for a bit longer while the economy recovers.”
So there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm amongst young people about their future career paths, which has been fuelled by the constant news about furlough schemes and redundancies. This is backed by recent studies by Sharp, published in PrintWeek, which show that 30% of 21-30 year olds are anxious about a lack of career opportunities, while 42% have concerns about job security.*(1)
On the surface, these statistics cause alarm bells to ring, but I think young people bring a fresh and unique perspective to the workplace – particularly the communications industry. While redundancies may have resulted in a loss of key skills across many industries, it is evident to me from recent mentoring schemes across the communications and marketing industry that there is an eager new generation of workers behind all the headlines.
The School of Marketing’s Mentoring Gen Z initiative (2), for example, has reached 500 young people already, with its aim being to help 16-28 year olds learn more about the industry. The strong levels of engagement with this scheme emphasise that young people have a desire to break into the industry and gain as much expertise as possible.
Having spent some time this summer in the communications sector, it is clear to me that young people have unique skills that the industry can benefit from. Below are a few skills, from a personal perspective, that I believe young people are adding to the communications mix.
First, the ability to thrive in a hybrid working environment. We’ve spent months switching between in-person and virtual teaching either at school or university. This has undoubtedly instilled a strong sense of motivation, flexibility and adaptability in many young people from the get-go.
As the ‘digital native’ generation, I also think we are rather good at communicating – in person but also virtually – an important aspect of communications and marketing.
Finally, we have a strong desire to learn. If anything, the pandemic has highlighted that young people are keen to learn and so long as businesses are willing to give us a helping hand and guide us in our new ventures, the future workforce will be as strong as any before us.
All of this being said, of course I understand that businesses are keen to employ people of all ages. The future of the workplace may be uncertain, but I truly believe that with the aid of the younger generation, the communications industry will remain current and continue to thrive in response to the constantly evolving world.
In the space of a few weeks, I’ve learnt far more about the ‘real world’ than I ever could have imagined, and I’m grateful to have been given an insight into what a career in the communications industry may entail. It’s been a welcome surprise to see how the skills I have gained in university are transferrable to a career in this industry, and to see how varied the work portfolio is within an agency. It seems no day is the same, and the variety of work has certainly excited me! I’m looking forward to potentially pursuing a career in the industry, post-university, and to seeing how the communications world changes over the next few years.