Do graduates expect too much, too soon?

graduates“Graduates arrive on day one expecting they’ll be CEO in 5 years!” This is a frustration that we often hear from companies who want to recruit and develop talented graduates, but worry that they’re just exacerbating the unrealistic expectations that these graduates arrive with.

From what we’ve heard from our clients, these expectations usually take two forms – the first is around the kinds of work and level of responsibility that graduates are given, and the second is around the pace and visibility of their career progression through the organization.

Graduates arrive in their first job having absorbed a lot of information and acquired a high degree of skill in a specific area, and many of them expect to be given the opportunity to apply these skills and knowledge straight away. When they are given basic, repetitive tasks to perform, they quickly become frustrated.

The second trend – around career progression – seems to be getting more acute as organizations move to flatter structures with fewer distinct steps on their corporate ladders. Compared to an education system in which there is a visible path of progression from term to term and from year to year, the workplace can sometimes feel like a treadmill with a bad view.

The response of some employers is to throw their hands up and opt not to employ graduates, or certainly not to give them any ‘special treatment’ once they arrive. However, in the context of South Africa’s talent profile, and the competition for that talent, this surely cannot be the right answer.

Our experience (and SAGRA’s research) has shown us that two of the most important factors in successfully integrating graduates are the training and development that they receive, and the degree to which they are helped to map out a career path. In the training and development interventions that we design and implement for our clients we focus specifically on managing the expectations of graduates, as well as connecting them with mentors who can help them map out their career paths.

But, as always at Connemara, we’re still on a learning curve. Comment below and let us know what you’ve noticed about the expectations of your graduate recruits, and how you manage those expectations.