Six things everyone in early careers should be considering in 2021
By Jackie Grisdale
2021 is fully underway and, thankfully, I managed to resist the temptation to write predictions for the year. That said, it’s important to reflect and learn from our experiences, so, in the spirit of sharing, here’s a few things I think those of us working in early careers should be thinking about, as we navigate the challenges and opportunities that 2021 has in store for us.
How do we continue to innovate?
When I stood presenting a session about ‘The past, present and future of student recruitment’ in October 2019, talking about the need for more innovation and a bigger shift when it comes to student attraction, never in my wildest dreams did I think a global pandemic would rock up a few months later! Granted, it has forced a much faster and more drastic shift than I was talking about, but as things begin to relax, I think it is important that we keep innovating, making sure we take forward our successes and embrace alternative approaches to our early careers activity.
How can we leave space to embrace change?
If 2020 reminded me of anything, it is that change is inevitable and we often need to adapt, at pace. With the dire economic situation we find ourselves in, along with the uncertainty that lies ahead, agility is going to be key. Especially in the way we manage the competing pressures we’re under; continuing to deliver high quality programmes, engaging with young people effectively, managing high volumes, recruiting fairly and continuing to innovate, to name a few. We’ll also need an ability to react quickly in response to business decisions, influenced by ever changing economic, political and environmental factors. So, while careful planning is fundamental, so is leaving scope for flexibility and agility along the way.
How do we achieve harmony between physical and digital?
I think we all agree that the digital only approach is not sustainable – I for one miss being ‘in person’ at the office, events, conferences and for chats over coffee! So, as we begin to emerge from lockdowns, return to the office and can meet at events, it will be important to consider carefully the balance we strike, personally and professionally. We have a fantastic opportunity to harness the many benefits of digital approaches as we plan for the 2021/22 season, but I for one still believe an in-person presence is important, so the question is, where and when do these happen?
How can we continue to improve the journey and experience?
The career journey and the experiences of young people along the way are an important consideration, I think it is especially true in these digital only times. And even more so when considering how we create inclusive and welcoming experiences, especially for those from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. At the heart of this is understanding. And through really listening, we can dig deep to understand what our audience wants, needs and values. We can identify the challenges and barriers they face, and where they would value support. I believe that only then, can we connect, support and encourage them through meaningful, positive and welcoming experiences. So, we must continue to think about how we improve the experience young people have as they navigate their career journeys.
How do we make opportunities equal?
There is no denying that the less advantaged have been hit the hardest in the last year. From digital poverty preventing access and participation, to school closures widening the attainment gap – there are numerous ways in which 2020 has further highlighted and exacerbated inequalities. We must think about how we can continue to try and level a playing field, which has unfortunately, tipped even further in the wrong direction. How can we support those who have lost ground? How can we encourage and inform those with lost confidence? And how can we reach, cut through and connect with those who we have struggled to connect with in 2020?
How can we help?
Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more. So, my final consideration is how do we be kind? To ourselves. To our colleagues. To our friends and family. And to others. Why is kindness important? Because it has been tough. It is still tough. And may be tough for a while yet. So, we need to take time to make sure we are OK. And as for the young people who are at the heart of our early careers activity, recent events are likely to have a lasting impact on them for some time. So, let’s remember to be kind to them too, by helping them on their journey to changing their futures for the better.
So, there’s my six things to think about for 2021. And, of course, if you would like our help to navigate 2021, then get in touch.