Young professionals focusing on the wrong areas for career growth, finds research

Author: Rebecca Griffiths | Date: 1 Nov 2016

Employers value working outside of your comfort zone, gaining broad experience and networking

What young people think they should be doing for career growth is often at odds with employer expectations, according to new research by management education specialists CEMS and employer branding experts Universum.
An international study was carried out among HR managers and students about to embark on their careers or further study. While 53 per cent of the students believed that developing technical experience would be beneficial to their careers, HR managers considered this to be lower down their list of priorities.
More than a third of students said that doing more than is required by the job description was the way to get ahead, whereas this was cited by only 20 per cent of HR managers.
According to HR professionals, the best ways for young professionals to develop their careers are working outside their comfort zone, gaining broad experience and networking. Over a third of employers placed greater emphasis on taking international assignments, whereas only a quarter of students thought this was important.
“Young people just setting out on their careers will come up against major political, digital, economic and environmental challenges that their predecessors did not face,” said Roland Siegers, executive director of CEMS. “To ensure that they can thrive and progress in this uncertain landscape and work successfully with colleagues across the globe, they must develop broad skills, flexibility and cultural intelligence, particularly through international experiences which challenge them and broaden their horizons.”
One thing everyone agreed on was that working long hours doesn’t help career growth, with only five per cent of employers and four per cent of students considering this helpful.
Thomas Holenia, president of Henkel Singapore, said: “Overseas assignments are an important part of leadership development for our top talents. From these experiences, they gain an in-depth understanding about international business and sharpen their management skills by learning to balance cultural sensitivities with meeting job demands.”
A recent graduate of CEMS, Summer Tang, agreed that a wide variety of experience is beneficial. “With China’s fast-paced development, talents with technical expertise are still much needed,” said Tang, who is now business development manager at technology provider Hilti MOCN. “However, the current national conditions in China - for instance, the unbalanced development levels between all regions and the large differences between urban cities and rural areas - also require young professionals with broad experience and flexibility.”