Growing diversity by engaging career changers

02 June 2021

Will career changers offer graduate employers better value for money in 2021-2 than 2021 graduates?

Earlier this year more than a third (36 per cent) of 2020 finalists surveyed by Prospects indicated that they plan to remain in higher education rather than start their careers. The number of students who delayed their entry into the graduate job market by opting for a “Panic Masters” will likely lead to a rise in graduate labour availability in the summer of 2021. But is the purist graduate labour market where employers should be sourcing the very best and diverse talent from? Or could engaging with Career Changers or Second Jobbers (i.e. those somewhere between 18 months and 4 years post-graduation) offer some significant value to employers and to those who have been badged as the forgotten graduate cohort?

Targeting second jobbers could diversify your talent pool

It is a well-cited fact that many undergraduate students from lower socio-economic backgrounds or from certain under-represented minority groups engage less with employability initiatives and services.  Typically these groups tend to engage in career planning or job hunting much later than other audiences. By the time they have secured their First or Upper Second Class honours the traditional milkround cart has passed them by. We interviewed one student from the University of Nottingham from a low participation neighbourhood:

“By the time Christmas holidays in my final year had come around most of my friends had jobs lined up without me even having thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life”.

This sense of being left behind by their more well-networked friends is common amongst under-represented audiences: “I want to focus on getting the best degree I can otherwise I won’t get a good job”.

With over a quarter of graduates not employed in graduate occupations, the skills mismatch of graduates offers employers the opportunity to reach a pool of talent that are currently under-employed and under-valued in the jobs market. Graduates are also more occupationally and geographically mobile, a factor that may support their employment in times of crisis compared to non-graduates (source ONS: Graduates’ labour market outcomes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: occupational switches and skill mismatch) again making them a useful target audience.

According to several careers services contacts we have spoken to, the pressure has been on many undergraduates to accept their first graduate job offers and the number of students holding multiple offers (and playing the waiting game) has significantly fallen this year. Fears over the economic impact of the pandemic may have longer term consequences of increased graduate attrition as the pent-up demand increases as the economy recovers.

There will likely be a slice of the graduate labour market who have been working in roles that aren’t meeting their expectations such as Alfie, a graduate from Leeds working for a large professional services firm:

“It’s not what I was expecting and Covid really made me realise that I wanted to do something with real impact, not stuck behind a desk working for clients that I never get to meet.”

In March 2021 the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that graduates lacked the workplace and technical skills that employers require. The overwhelming majority (78%) of ISE employers agreed that graduates who had completed an internship or work placement were more skilled than those who had not. With over a quarter fewer placement and internship opportunities this season, perhaps the second-jobber market is a good way to source the work-based soft and technical skills needed.

How to develop a second-jobber strategy?

Here are the 106 Communications ABC of top tips to engage with second jobbers:

A – It’s all about the Audience

How confident are we that we really understand the key behaviours, motivations, triggers and detractors of our Second Jobber audience? A good place to start is by getting forensic with your current applicant and hire cohort. What was their journey from first job to applying to you?

Are there any common themes that you can identify?

How do you identify the gap between what type of second jobber is out there and what type(s) you currently attract? Are you missing out on a potential source of untapped talent simply because your marketing isn’t pulling the right triggers or quashing some of the key barriers to consideration?

B- Building the right building blocks upon which to develop your campaign

A great foundation for any marketing strategy is to develop second-jobber persona groups to be able to understand the audience each of your target universities has access to?  We use social listening tools to find out what university alumni are talking about in relation to hashtags and mentions like #Alumni #Graduation #School#jobs

We also work closely with both Careers Services and Alumni teams to get a baseline of information about their alumni cohorts. It is obvious to say that a large percentage of graduates in their first jobs will not all be active job seekers: the ISE graduate retention rates vary by sector, but on average an employer retains 57% of its intake after five years. So, more graduates stay in their first jobs than leave during the first five years.

OR you could view it as 40% of the market are open to hearing about other opportunities.

In our research we have identified the following generic personas (that are not aligned to any particular graduate brand):

Mis-matched (someone who joined grad programme 12 months ago and realises their skills aren’t aligned to their chosen career)

Career Changer (someone three years into a career in The City who now wants a career with a higher purpose due to wanting to make a difference)

Second Jobber (someone 3 years post-graduation who wants a faster track to leadership)

Covid re-thinker (someone 2-4 years ppost-graduation who now wants a job with more stability)

C) Getting the Content and Channels right

Universities and Alumni teams continue to work closely with their graduates (not least because of Graduate Outcomes 15 months post-graduation) but also because of the benefits that alumni bring for incumbent students. Few things drive alumni back to their alma mater quite like the search for a new career. Collaborating with your career services department to offer training sessions for alumni is a great way to build brand value. Some of the useful training resources you could provide for your students might include advice on:

  • How to act in an interview
  • How to find a mentor
  • How to change careers
  • How to use LinkedIn to ask for an employer referral
  • How to network through social media
  • How to build your personal brand

Content creation isn’t just the domain of your employer brand team. When it comes to targeting alumni think about giving second jobbers reasons to share careers-related content within their networks… and nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool. Nothing generates nostalgia more than a personal story or picture from fellow alumni.

Building content that alumni will engage with such as UWE Bristol who built an Executive Education programme giving alumni access to life-long learning, cutting-edge research, and cross-disciplinary networking opportunities. The course was oversubscribed by 125% over just 24 hours. Employers have a great opportunity to partner with such initiatives and sharing some of the internal L&D resources with your target audience.

If you have enjoyed reading this article and would like to find out more about how 106 Communications helps ambitious brands to transform their student engagement, then drop me a line for an informal chat:


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