They say variety is the spice of life. Hard to know who ‘they’ are exactly, but we like it. Because same same? Yawn yawn.
And Elyssa Goodman, Atlassian’s Campus Recruitment Manager, is all about changing it up. Throughout her career, she’s covered most industries: legal, finance, consulting and government – and, of course, tech. And, even though she began her days as a lawyer and policy analyst (we told you: variety), she’s spent more than 17 years in early talent.
So as if we weren’t going to pull her in for our latest podcast series, Emerging Trends in the World of Emerging Talent.
As always, we had a good ol’ yarn. Elyssa told us what she’s seeing in new grads, how organisations can support them post-pandemic and why connection matters more than ever.
Are all industries made the same?
Clearly not. But when it comes to graduate recruitment, there’s still crossover, says Elyssa. And it’s most obvious in the grads themselves.
‘The passion and energy students have to find out more about careers…and what a job actually looks like in practice – that doesn’t change across industries,’ she tells us. ‘Also, they want to work on interesting stuff, regardless of the industry they’re in – and they want to know they’re going to have some impact.’
As for where industries differ? That comes down to the motivations behind an individual organisation.
‘Some industries are hiring grads to be the future leaders of their organisation; some are simply hiring a great junior person,’ Elyssa explains. ‘So how you assess [those candidates] quite different.’
Then, of course, you’ve got external factors to contend with. Like, you know, highly infectious viruses 🦠
Engaging and retaining grads (in a post-Covid world)
Yeeeesss. A few years back (‘cos life wasn’t complicated enough), we went and threw a pandemic into the mix.
Now, as we brush ourselves off from a life of lockdowns, Zoom trivia and obsessive hand washing, we’re also learning new ways of attracting emerging talent. Not that the talent selection process has ever been straightforward.
‘Even right throughout my career, there’s always been a question about how we assess [candidates] and ensure we’re bringing in the right people to the organisation,’ Elyssa reminds us. ‘Now, it’s about ‘how can we assess virtually vs in person?’. Because we used to do all those things in person – and now we can’t, or don’t want to do that as much.’
Of course, it doesn’t help that today’s grads haven’t had the same on-campus opportunities as their older peers.
‘They’ve [new grads] missed out on a lot of experiences to engage,’ Elyssa explains, ‘and, after 2 years of pandemic life, they want to take some time out. We’re seeing application numbers drop across industries, so that’s a really interesting challenge we’re all going to face over the next 12 to 18 months, or longer.
‘Obviously, the economic environment is quite uncertain as well,’ she continues. ‘So, as grad recruiters, [we have to consider] how to show them they can have a good life at work when they are still unsure about what that looks like. And, how do we offer those support structures to make sure they can actually transition and enter the world of work?’
It’s a lot. And yes, it’s up to recruiters to manage those expectations – for both grads and organisations.
The juggling act
We’re juggling those expectations – not struggling, right?
Nonetheless, says Elyssa, it’s on talent managers to understand what’s driving new grads – and how they’re going to fit into an organisation.
‘We’re definitely seeing a change, both in expectations of what they want from an employer and also their readiness to work,’ she says. ‘There’s always been a bit of a gap organisations have had to think through – that’s why we work with universities and career services etc – but we haven’t had the opportunity to do that as much lately.
‘So today, we’re seeing almost an entire cohort of students come out of those degrees not having had those experiences. That means we’re having to go back a bit further [and teach them] stuff we might normally have taught…[via] campus sessions during the onboarding process instead.’
And, to absolutely no one’s surprise, expectations are increasingly focused on the work / life balance – even for employees just starting their careers.
‘A lot of them want more flexibility [and to be able to] seamlessly integrate their life with work,’ Elyssa tells us. ‘We’re still trying things, but I don’t think anyone is claiming to have all the answers yet!’
That said, Elyssa believes a culture of connection is one sure-fire way to nab some brownie points on the graduate recruitment circuit.
The importance of connection
New grads want purpose, along with genuine connection to their cohort, team and the wider organisation.
‘What I’m seeing with grads is that real need for connection,’ Elyssa remarks. ‘There’s that need to connect 1 on 1 (face-to-face ideally, but virtually if that’s not possible) to…feel like part of something bigger.
‘We took that for granted pre-Covid and I think that’s the piece they’re crying out for now.’
But, hang on…is that realistic in a place like Atlassian where many people now work exclusively from home?
Absolutely, says Elyssa.
‘We have a lot of things going on at Atlassian to ensure that connection is still felt by everybody in the organisation – regardless of whether you’re a grad or not,’ she tells us. ‘We have an intentional togetherness team to ensure employees feel like they’re not just part of their own team, but the bigger community and company.
‘For example, we have a bunch of team activities, as well as broader company initiatives – like our quarterly innovation challenges.’
Like Atlassian wasn’t cool enough!
Hybrid work, remote learning and grads
There’s a lot to be said for office osmosis. You know, all those bits we pick up simply by being near our workmates, managers and mentors.
But what if you’re a new grad learning the ropes where WFH is the norm? All entirely do-able, Elyssa assures us.
‘I don’t think grads have to miss out on connection and learning, just because they work remotely,’ she says. ‘I actually think it’s really important they’re treated like adults – like the rest of the workforce – so they have the opportunity to decide how they work best.’
However, Elyssa does have some words of wisdom to offer.
‘What I do think they need to learn in order to be able to [work flexibly] is how to have a really good conversation and really open communication with the people they work with,’ she advises. ‘And that’s a skill we’re trying to nurture a bit more.’
More advice coming in hot for emerging talent experts: encourage new grads to have a career plan.
‘I always say to grads ‘be really deliberate about what your career’s going to look like’. Even if you don’t know what it might look like in 5 years, what’s the next little bit going to look like and what do you want to get out of it?
‘You have to drive your career and feel like that’s your job.’
And, as innocuous as they sound, simple rituals can push people towards their aspirations. Coffee cart at 9.30 am every day? That’s a ritual. Friday night drinks? Ritual. It’s all about bringing teams together to make them feel part of something bigger than themselves.
‘We encourage our teams to set rituals because if you’re part of these, you do feel part of the community,’ Elyssa comments. ‘It also helps you achieve the goals you’re trying to set.’
Show not tell
And what’s the best way to set, strive for and smash career goals? By seeing others do it.
‘It’s about showing people role models of what different careers can look like,’ Elyssa says firmly. ‘I think it’s really important because you can’t be what you can’t see.’
And, for a generation of grads who aren’t necessarily yearning for corporate life, that mantra gains even more significance.
‘Something I’ve grappled with my entire career is how do we show people who come from different types of backgrounds that there are these opportunities open to them?
The issue is complex and far-reaching (and more than we can cover in a blog), but Elyssa is certainly seeing a shift away from run-of-the-mill approaches.
‘There are lots of things we need to tackle…but for a lot of organisations, it’s more about ‘do you have the potential to learn?’…[and] it doesn’t matter so much if you have a degree or not. And that’s why I don’t call myself a graduate recruiter anymore; I talk very much about early careers.
‘It’s a really exciting time to be part of the industry,’ she concludes.
Early careers: ever-changing, ever-exciting
Graduate recruitment is an incredibly satisfying place to be – but it’s never been for the fainthearted. And, it’s fair to say, recent…situations have upped the ante (but really, what’s a pandemic, talent war and uncertain economy among friends? 😳)
If you’re feeling the fallout of a funny few years, tune into our latest podcast series: Emerging Trends in the World of Emerging Talent. There’s loads of advice, tips and tricks from the best in the business – and it’s waiting for you here!