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It’s not exactly X-Factor, is it?

**DISCLAIMER: All thoughts expressed in this article are those of Julian Smith.**

It’s time that the next generation got serious about work. There, I’ve said it. I know it’s not a politically correct thing to say, but I’ll say it anyway. With youth unemployment at a record high across Europe, you’d expect us to be inundated with CVs, speculative and otherwise, from budding entrepreneurs, graduates and students keen to stand out from the crowd. But we’re not…

Last year, we ran a rolling advert for facilitators and interns, and we got a great response. The interns we took on last year were all phenomenal. They were serious about gaining experience in a growing and exciting company (which ours is!), and wanted to take on as much as they could. They worked on everything from social media and marketing to event organisation, from setting up IT and administrative systems to business development. We were amazed to have such a high-calibre of interns – and yet the sad thing is, none of them were British youths; they came from as far afield as Malaysia, Venezuela and the United States, via Turkey and France, and they are all part of our history! But the fact is, we didn’t get one application, email or phone call from Generation X-Factor here in the UK.

It gets worse. The Evening Standard would lead you to believe that London’s Youth spend their whole days knocking on doors asking for opportunities, and there may well be some who do, but that isn’t my experience, and nor is it the experience of many clients for whom  I recruit. One of my clients arranged 5 interviews for a c. £20K ‘stepping-stone’ role into the charity sector. All 5 candidates were British; 4 were interview ‘no-shows’, without even bothering to call or email to cancel, and the fifth was unappointable. Within a week, I put together a shortlist of hand-picked, interviewed candidates, and took time out on a Saturday and Sunday morning to have follow-up calls to ensure they were prepared for Monday’s interview. The South African and Australian candidates showed up on time and were fantastic – both appointable, both high-calibre. The 2 British candidates didn’t bother to turn up, nor even let me know that they weren’t going.

This is not an isolated example. I have recently been approached by a charity to work with a group of NEETS (Not in employment, education or training), aged between 18-25. The charity had devised a wonderful summer school full of practical tips, opportunities and learning for the group, estimated to be c.25-30 strong. Despite being a free resource for the young people, with travel paid, only 5 young people actually signed up, and by the time I was due to give a talk on the importance of networking, only 2 were still in the group, the other three having dropped out, apparently due to ‘illness’…

Ok, so these examples might seem extreme, but it’s a sad fact that there’s a lot more that young people could do to make themselves employable these days. When I graduated from university, back in (a-hem…) the early nineties, the very thought of not having some sort of work or work experience to go to would have been horrific! I’d have done absolutely anything to ensure that I could gain experience – and I had my fair share of uninspirational jobs before finding my milieu.

I realise that times are a lot tougher than when I graduated, but how do we fight the general apathy which seems to have consumed the new generation of young people?

As it happens, we’re looking for talented, bright and enthusiastic candidates to come and join the team, here at the I Am Group. We’ll take on high academic achievers and good listeners, who can communicate well both in person and in writing, and train them in the art of business development and recruitment, but so far the response has been distinctly lacking. Maybe this blog commentary will inspire a couple of strong candidates to send me their CVs and explain why I’ve got it completely wrong about Generation X-Factor. I really hope so!

Please use the comments section to debate and discuss your thoughts on this thought provoking topic!

1 Response

  1. This article really resonates with me Julian. My ‘Graduate’ soapbox is wearing out! What is really clear to me is that Universities and Colleges provide little or no advice on cv writing, job applications nor on interview preparation. CV’s are littered with spelling mistakes and typos and the accompanying emails are written in the style of a text message!
    It’s so frustrating for us as recruiters, for employers and for the grads themselves.

    We also advertised recently for an intern – we did offer to pay them – and the quality of response from UK grads was appalling. Their European counterparts however wrote better English than our own homegrown variety. Having said that, not one individual had taken the time to read the instructions and apply correctly.

    Maybe we are setting our own expectations too high? I don’t think times have changed so much in the last 25 years since you and I graduated – common courtesy (say ‘Thanks’ after meeting someone and shake their hand firmly), good English grammar, and following instructions are the same tennets that we learned. So why is it so hard to find a Grad in London when we are told by the media every day that millions of them are looking for jobs?

    If there was a higher commercial gain to recruiting and placing grads, I would love to get my hands on some of them (figuratively speaking of course) and help and support them into great jobs!

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