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Career Exploration

Three Tips for Preparing Students & Alumni for the Changing World of Work

NYT Bestselling Author Lindsey Pollak Shares Her Insights on How Learners Can Be Successful in Today’s Workforce The world of […]

7 min read

NYT Bestselling Author Lindsey Pollak Shares Her Insights on How Learners Can Be Successful in Today’s Workforce

The world of work is constantly evolving. Like it or not, changes are flying at companies, employees, and our educational systems at lightning speed. 

Consider the college degree, for instance. Up until fairly recently, it was a prerequisite for landing a good job. In 2010, Georgetown found more than 60% of jobs in the American economy required some level of higher education. A college degree meant a ticket to the middle class. 

Or so we thought. In the past decade, we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in learning and certification options, marketed towards students as a cheaper alternative to a college degree, notes The New York Times. And major corporations like Delta Airlines and Google have dropped the degree requirement for many jobs or created their own certifications for “in-demand” jobs. (We’ve researched and written more about this in our popular download, The Definitive Guide to Career Access: How Colleges and Universities Can Compete in Today’s Learning and Certification Market.) 

So when students do still invest in the traditional route of college, they are expecting, research shows, they’ll end up not just with a degree but fully prepared to succeed in their first job out of college. 

Enter Lindsey Pollack. A Career Expert and New York Times bestselling author (her latest: Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work), Pollak has studied and written extensively about the uniqueness of today’s job market. She joined us for a special webinar to cover some of the trends happening in today’s workplace and share ways higher ed leaders can help their learners adapt to those changes (and recalculate when necessary). 

Lindsey Pollak’s top tips for those preparing students and alumni for today’s workforce. 

#1 Remind Gen Z they are One Generation in a Multigenerational Workforce

There are five…yes, five…different generations in the workplace today.

While many of the headlines around this topic are dominated by Generation Z graduating and entering into the workforce, there are still many “Traditionalists” still working today. “There are more professionals aged 85 and older in the workplace today than ever before in history,” Pollak shared. So as a new generation takes their place in companies and organizations, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the older employees are leaving. This creates an environment where the World War II generation is working alongside social media natives.

How to Prepare Students for the Multigenerational Workforce 

“Think about it as if we were all from different countries,” Pollak said, “if I were going to give a webinar in Japan..I might have to do some things a little bit differently…that doesn’t mean that I don’t know who I am or that my opinions aren’t valid. It just means that I have to adapt a bit to a different audience.”

Each generation is like a different country, and those generations bring shared experiences and expectations to the workplace. While age is just one factor of diversity, it’s one Pollak says can help give clues as to how to best relate to and work with colleagues. What was happening in the world when your generation first graduated and you took your first job? Consider that question for members of your team, and assume new grads are now joining teams with up to four different generations on them. 

To help students build career competency skills, they’ll need to understand members of multigenerational teams communicate differently. Using clear, effective communication will be necessary to achieve common goals. And understanding how age impacts perspectives can influence the way they interact with others. 

#2 Students & Alumni: Be Perennials

Pollak encouraged the audience to be a “Perennial,” a term coined by tech entrepreneur Gina Pell. “A Perennial is someone, of any age, who knows their story and they share it and…not or, and…they keep up with the times.”   

This mindset helps relationships and learning flow in both directions. Pollak provided the example of an architect who started their career in the 80’s. When a new person joins their team, the architect makes sure that they know how to design things with the valuable and efficient tool of the pencil. “That doesn’t mean this negates the existence of technology,” Pollak said, “but he’s making sure to share his history.” In fact, the architect picks up technology and software tips from his junior colleagues as well.

How to Prepare Alumni & Students Seeking Career Development Help

Few places bring different generations together better than a college institution. When it comes to connecting grads with others who can help provide career learning opportunities, capitalizing on a multi-generational alumni network is a natural fit. “This is why PeopleGrove and alumni networks are so powerful,” Pollak shared, “we have a connection point to our university where I can share my history and how things were when I was starting out and I can keep up with the times by hearing from students about what they’re doing on campus and what’s happening now. It’s a perfect opportunity to be a Perennial.” 

#3 Give Alumni the Tools Needed for Career Navigation

Of course, things got a bit more complicated during the pandemic. Many of us, Pollak included, were suddenly stuck working from home with all our travel and work plans canceled in a heartbeat. Looking out the window of her New York City apartment, Pollak saw cars on the street and realized that — like our GPS systems when we make a wrong turn — we were all suddenly Recalculating (robotic voice implied).

“But when we make that wrong turn or hit a dead end,” Pollak said, “our GPS never says ‘Sorry, you have to go back to your driveway and start over.’ It takes all the progress you’ve made and everything you’ve learned up to that point and incorporates that in your new route to our destination.” This inspired Pollak’s latest book Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work

How to Prepare Alumni to Travel New Career Paths 

Among the powerful tips Pollak shared from her book was the idea of taking small steps. Consider anyone who is facing a career pivot or finds themselves in a position where recalculating is necessary. (This might be the very spot many recent grads are in. New workforce research expects Gen Z to change jobs ten times on average between the ages of 18 and 34.) 

Recalculating can feel overwhelming. And that might lead them to try to force a big change. And those expectations are hard to meet. Instead, think about how the small changes can build up over time. Hardly anyone is actually an “overnight success.” Instead, they reach a moment where all their small decisions pay off in a big way.

When helping learners navigate a new career – whether it’s their first one as a graduating student or an alum changing paths – encouraging small steps towards career exploration can make the recalculating experience feel less daunting. Allowing your alumni network to be a resource for networking, sharing their experiences, and providing career advice creates small, but impactful, moments of reassurance. 

Career Access in the Age of Recalculating

If there’s one thing that generations can agree on, it’s the need for constant development. “It is a myth that somebody towards the end of their career doesn’t want to continue learning,” Pollak shared. “It is a myth that people just starting out don’t care about learning. Everybody wants to develop and grow.”

That growth is at the heart of Career Access. Through Lifelong Career Learning tools and opportunities, High-Impact Experiences that help a learner earn experience and get career ready, and the Social Capital that powers it all, institutions have an amazing opportunity to meet the needs of their students and alumni like never before. 

To read more about Career Access, grab a copy of our guide for college and university leaders, The Definitive Guide to Career Access: How Colleges and Universities Can Compete in Today’s Learning and Certification Market.