Get Real School Leaver Insight Series – Part I

10 September 2021

The Get Real School Leaver Insight Series was created to give early careers recruiters more specific insights into School Leavers.  This is all done in partnership with our friends at Not Going To Uni.

Across the course of June and July, Jayne Cullen, our Head of Student Marketing, met with early careers recruiters at a number of organisations, including Clifford Chance, Morgan Stanley, Greene King and Astra Zeneca, to understand what insights about School Leavers would really help them.  There are were key areas:

  • Brand and attraction – how to engage students successfully.
  • Impact of the pandemic – and how this has affected choices, motivations and behaviours.
  • Black students – how organisations can better engage with students of black heritage.

For the first set of insights in the series, we surveyed over 400 students, primarily years 12 and 13, to find out their perceptions, motivations and behaviours.  We found four clear groups:


Many employers competing for Explorers and Dreamers

What’s interesting is that while ostriches are in the minority, there is a pretty even spread of Dreamers (32%), Explorers (26%) and Planners (37%).  This suggests that many employers – especially those that are not an obvious choice for Planners – are actually competing for dreamers and explorers.  This has a major impact on the content you should be using.

Men’s career capital less strong as compared to female

We found that 10% of all men and women haven’t thought about careers at all; and there are 10% more women planners than men.

The most attractive industries haven’t really changed

Many of us had assumed that there would be a significant change over the course of the pandemic in what industries students are attracted to.  Our research says otherwise.  In 2019, All About Careers reported these as the top 5 sectors:

Health and Public Services & Care

Arts, Media and Publishing

Science and Maths

Business and Law


The Get Real report has these 5 sectors topping the charts:

IT & Tech

Finance and Banking

Business and Law

Arts, Media and Publishing


In many ways, we might have thought that healthcare and pharma might have been more front of mind for School Leavers; but it seems not.  But that is the only significant change.

Interest working more important than career progression

Again we did a comparison of career motivations – 2019 v 2021.  In 2019, according to the Trendence School Leaver survey, these were the top 5 career motivators:

Career progression

Training and development


Employer reputation

Interesting job tasks

In 2021, the tables have turned somewhat with Interesting Work being the overriding career motivator:

Interesting work

Something I have always wanted to do

Career progression



Of course, we all think we do interesting work; but is it really, in the eyes of students?  That is the challenge, and many more employers will need to think about creating great stories and content (not the usual ‘no 2 days are the same’ type profiles!).

If it looks dull, students may discount your opportunity

The emphasis on interesting work becomes even more acute when students were asked what turned them off about a sector.

#1 –  Looks dull

#2 – Not enough money in it

#3 – Poor brand image

#4 – People like me don’t do those jobs

#5 – Long application process

But even when you’ve cracked the storytelling, you need to support it with a decent salary.  Students aren’t saying they want lots of money; just ‘enough’ to allow them to buy new clothes or a new phone etc.

From a diversity perspective, it’s still apparent that many people don’t apply to certain sectors and employers because they don’t see people like them doing those jobs. The challenge for employers is to address this head on – especially when they don’t have representation.

Think about channels and contents for your audiences

There are some definite channels for our target audiences.

Instagram and Tiktok for women; YouTube more so for men

LinkedIn for planners (of course!)

Tiktok for dreamers – steps to breaking into career

Instagram for explorers – why your brand makes a difference over another brand

If you also consider that Explorers and Dreamers may be the majority of people that you are trying to convince, there are some key learnings here:

  • Use Tiktok to convert dreamers by showing the steps to pursuing a potential career
  • Use Instagram to appeal to explorers by showcasing your brand; and also giving them application tips.

Competitions to appeal to lower socio-economic groups

From our experience, we’d say that a fair proportion of Ostriches may well be from lower socio-economic groups.  They have a strong appetite for competitions on social media.  So could be worth a try to grow your recruitment of lower socio-economic talent.

So what are the Get Real takeaways?

  • Our research has shown that the top sectors haven’t really changed that much during the pandemic
  • Understand the make-up of your audience by career planning stage to tailor the message
  • It’s all about the here and now (less on the longer-term career development)
  • Being transparent and “loud” about the diversity of your people – to dispel concerns that “people like me don’t do those types of jobs”
  • Instagram is a preferred channel by female explorers

We will be holding the second in our series on 7th October at 11.00am looking at the Impact of the Pandemic on Years 11-13. If you would like to come along, please sign up here.

If anyone would like specific data from this research (sector, persona, gender etc), please contact We’d be happy to share free of charge.

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