2020 has been a year like no other. The coronavirus pandemic brought normal ways of life to an abrupt halt in March, and the shockwaves have gone on to impact young people in numerous ways.

A traumatic results day in August, and uncertainty about travel and a possibility of life on campus left many rethinking plans of university, or gap years travelling abroad.

Meanwhile for those looking for work, the impact of Covid-19 on the global career entry employment market has been severe. In the UK, a survey by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that firms were planning to reduce their recruitment of graduates by 12%, apprentices by 32% and interns or student placements by 40%. 14% of firms surveyed also reported that they had reneged on job offers to emerging talent.

Unsurprisingly, Gen-Z are concerned about their future.

Deloitte’s 2020 Global Millennial Survey found that 46% of Gen-Z participants felt their career prospects were major contributors to anxiety or stress levels, 43% were stressed by their long-term financial future and 39% were anxious about their education.

But, thankfully the story isn’t all bad. This adversity appears to be a driving force in the growing trend for Gen-Z entrepreneurship.

In 2016, Santander reported that almost a third of UK students – equivalent to 518,372 in total ran or had a plan to set up their own business. Today this has rocketed to 97% of students who want to start their own business and become financially independent.

Besides financial necessity being a driving motivation, in many ways Gen-Z are perfectly positioned to be their own boss. They have a strong distrust for big business. They are more driven by a sense of individual responsibility and concern for the world around them than previous generations, and will seek opportunities to ‘fix’ the problems they see in the world. They’ve also grown up with social media, understanding how different platforms can be leveraged to launch a fledgling ecommerce business, or influence consumer audiences.

The article I’ve linked below features interviews with a series of students turned business owners. In several cases what was intended as a ‘side-hustle’ has become a viable option for a career.

Without a doubt, the self-starting, resilient and determined attitudes displayed by these business owners makes them exactly the sorts of talented young people highly sought after by big graduate recruiters.

But with so many young people turning away from big corporates - what can the early careers employers do to protect their talent pipelines and convince budding entrepreneurs to reconsider them as a career destination?

Here are a couple of things to consider when developing early careers recruitment campaigns for 2021:

  • Lead with a clearly defined and authentic purpose. Gen-Z want to understand what you’re really about. Tell the stories that show your positive impact on the world and commitment to a better future
  • Show candidates what impact they can have within your organisation. Make it clear that you value the skills and ideas that they have to offer, and how they can affect real change both inside and out of your organisation.
  • Champion employee wellbeing. Show candidates how you support your employees beyond a monthly salary. Covid propelled employee wellbeing into the public consciousness, and the way employers have responded and supported their colleagues during the pandemic will be a key differentiator in the years ahead.
  • Consider the entryways into your organisation. Covid-restrictions and financial worries are preventing more young people from considering university as a viable option. This is likely to have a seriously negative impact on the diversity of your pipeline. Could you introduce new opportunities such as degree-apprenticeships that allow school leavers to work whilst gaining qualifications, to help redress the balance?
  • Or can you embrace the trend towards entrepreneurship? Position your organisation as an incubator for entrepreneurial talent, a place where they can develop and fine tune the business skills needed to go their own way in the future.