The start of this week saw International Youth Skills Day and as Andrew Morris, director of Robert Half noted, employers in Australia are preparing for a fresh wave of university graduates ready to enter the jobs market.
“At a time when Australian workplaces are navigating rapid business transformation, graduates are entering a job market defined by its rate of change,” he said. “The demands of pre-existing occupations are rapidly evolving and so too are the expected technical skills required. Moreover, tomorrow’s workforce will take an agile approach to career development. They are not constrained by a ‘career for life’ mentality and will embrace multiple career changes alongside flexible working structure.”
Companies are increasingly embracing new digital technologies and automation tools, allowing professionals to focus more on strategic, innovative and customer-focused work. This trend is expected to drive emerging job opportunities and growth in IT, communications, finance, insurance and professional services.
To coincide with International Youth Skills Day, Robert Half put together its insights from placing graduates and shares five useful tips for those entering the workforce:
1. Equip yourself with in-demand technical skills
According to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide, digitisation is transforming roles and processes across a range of industries, including in the finance and accounting sector. Companies are looking for finance and accounting professionals who can demonstrate skills in areas like Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP/Oracle and are Chartered Accountant or Certified Practising Accountant accredited. In the financial services sector, the top skills in demand include IFRS 17 reporting, fund accounting and regulatory reporting. Experience comes from on-the-job training, so undertaking professional development programs and internships before finishing study can help foster this.
Within the IT industry, candidates with backgrounds in coding, especially Java, C#, C++, and in particular React are in high demand. At a minimum, new graduates should ensure they are able to read, work with, interpret and tell stories through data Identifying and matching high appetite skills allows graduates to provide tangible value to an employer and as such distinguish themselves in the pool of competing applicants.
2. Soft skills matter
Alongside technical knowledge and digital prowess, emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly valued. Soft skills such as communication and negotiation, teamwork, creative problem solving and adaptability are now considered critical to career success, due to their role in influencing organisational stakeholders and making data-driven, strategic decisions.
Take, for example, the role of an accountant. Many businesses now have access to sophisticated automation software and AI, so they’re increasingly looking for trusted advisors that are excellent communicators, not just bookkeepers.
Following the Royal Banking Commission, financial institutions are under pressure to makeover their corporate culture and are looking to hire ethical talent with excellent personal skills.
To bolster their soft skills, new and upcoming graduates have a number of options available to compensate for the lack of professional experience. Internships, volunteering, temporary/part-time work, and adopting a ‘constant learning’ mindset can all help improve their employability in a thriving but highly competitive job market.
3. Prioritise professional development
With technology evolving faster than ever before, it is necessary for professionals to upskill regularly throughout their careers. In a skills-short labour market, public and private institutions alike recognise the need to train the incumbent workforce in high-demand skills, creating a new frontier of employable candidates that can then match and offset skill areas where industries are lacking.
Australian youth skills focused programs include Microsoft’s National Skills Program, Qlik’s Data Literacy Program, and the Australian Government’s recently announced Skills Package for the VET sector.
Professionals entering the employment market would also benefit from choosing an employer who values upskilling and makes professional development and training a part of their ongoing activities. Training staff in both technical and soft skills is not only beneficial to the graduates’ careers, it also encourages them to stay with the company.
4. Job for life is obsolete
While job-hopping has been traditionally frowned upon, many Australian employers have taken a more favourable attitude towards professionals who change jobs frequently.
While the broad and diverse skills that come with multiple jobs can help accelerate career advancement, it’s also recommended that Australian professionals who are still early in their career find a comfortable balance for themselves, as taking time to ‘grow into’ a role shows a loyalty that employers may reward with promotions and pay increases later on. Generally, however, young Australian professionals should not feel shy about seeking new opportunities if they feel they are lacking in their current workplace.
5. Consider temporary jobs
Graduates should also consider temporary or project work. Working on an interim basis can help people entering the employment market learn new skills and experience and build their professional network. Through these employment opportunities, they can also determine what type of company they’d like to work for over the long term. Many employers are receptive towards hiring temporary staff as they realise the benefits offered by having a mix of both contract and permanent staff, with 72% of CFOs surveyed for the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide saying that contract workers are a key component of their department’s long-term staffing strategy.
This positive turnaround is also having a direct impact on the career paths of temporary professionals as top performers are in turn being offered permanent positions by their employer if and when there’s an available opportunity.