Where have all the Millennials Gone?

I’ve been posing the same questions to most of the Agency Recruiters I’ve met with over the past couple of months (they are many) and it goes along the lines of “Are you finding a skills gap in the post university, couple of years’ experience under their belt, mid-twenties (ish), talent market?” and “Is it industry specific or across the board?”. The answers…yes and across the board.

I found this somewhat relieving in the one sense. As whilst I’m recruiting in the media industry the breadth and depth of roles is vast from sales & marketing to creative, IT, editorial, accounting, events, call centre, production and machine operators to name a few. So it was nice to know it wasn’t just us. I’d kind of already worked this out given for most of the role we advertise we’re (thankfully!) inundated with quality candidates and haven’t had much trouble finding talent to fill the roles.

However, when it’s come to those roles that are not entry level, need qualifications and a certain level of skill set, the next step or two up the ladder from graduate, it feels like a ghost town with tumbleweed blowing through. Now this is something of an exaggeration and I realise that – we’ve hired some awesome people in this bracket, but they’re hard to find, tough to convince, know their worth and where they’re going – and rightly so. I’m not sure what we should be calling them so forgive the broader term millennial in the heading!

I’m blaming it on the all-important OE. Something of a Kiwi tradition and coming of age, not specific to New Zealanders, but an ongoing phenomenon of our society none the less. I’m also blaming it on the OE not being the same as it used to, and the group we’re seeing in this stage of their lives now being somewhat more on to it than those who’ve gone before in terms of what they’re getting out of the OE. What was once a one to two year stint in London where you took whatever job you could get because let’s face it, the job was necessary to fund the ongoing partying in the likes of the Church and the Walkabout, house parties where 14+ Kiwi’s and Aussies were all dossing down together and jaunts around Europe whenever and wherever the funds allowed. And they were undoubtedly fun, character building and an opportunity to make friends for life and create memories you probably won’t tell your grandchildren about; but they weren’t about career. As a result when returning home to NZ these people were there to fill the gaps they created when they left in the market, and as everyone was doing it there was a continuous churn in and out.

This generation though are doing it different. They’re going over to do the partying, see the world, build character, relationships and memories; but they’ve also got career in mind. They’re arriving in London and the likes with jobs lined up in specific, strategic industries and organisations to ensure it’s a career building and development/growth exercise as well. And it’s working. Smart. These people are coming home far more experienced than when they left; they’re getting international exposure to markets much bigger and in some cases more advanced than ours (some cases not!) and on return they are no longer at the level they were when they left. In most instances they’re considerably further ahead than that in terms of skill set, experience and salary level. And here’s where the gap in the market becomes evident.

I don’t know what the solution to this is. I commend this group on their foresight and career planning. Not just career planning, they’re life planning too – coming home able to buy houses in the Auckland market which is something out of reach now for so many, but that’s another story.

I wonder what effect Brexit will have on this phenomenon, if any? A couple of people I’ve spoken with have ventured that it may strengthen the somewhat dormant Commonwealth and see a resurgence there. Others have suggested with travel getting harder for those on British passports the OE’s won’t last as long. I wonder whether we should be doing more to grow and develop these people within NZ and our organisations? Will we revert to careers here with overseas travel as holidays as opposed to the extended terms of one and two years? As I say I don’t have the answers, but I’m looking for them, so I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, experiences…..and potential solutions!

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