There is so much hype about the explosion of entrepreneurial success and the expansion of the “gig economy” that you might be fooled into thinking that the modern-day grad has one eye on a solo career from the day that they graduate.
They crave the freedom that they had at university, they want to be their own boss from day one, and they want the licence to make decisions without the shackles of corporate politics or overbearing bosses.
That all sounds great, but a tiny minority will actually take the plunge in the first few years.
Most grads work really hard to get their degrees. They want to have a successful career after university, and many see themselves working in a corporate environment while they are cutting their business teeth. If they had the drive to go it alone, they would probably have done that before university – you don’t need a piece of paper to enjoy success as an entrepreneur, you don’t need to prove anything to the world, you simply need to go out there and make your difference.
More and more employers are starting to be suspicious of potential graduate hires who show a particular bias towards entrepreneurial activity, but this should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. The concept of “intrepreneurs” is also coming to the fore – much better to give creative and innovative thinkers space within your business to work their magic rather than have them build potentially competing businesses from the outside. In a uniquely disruptive age, you can’t afford to just take on corporate yes-men and yes-women.
The age old question of “what do you want to achieve in your career” is also becoming a little redundant. It is fair to ask them what they want to do in their first three or four years, maybe until their big first promotion, but any further than that and you get into the realms of the crystal ball. People move organisations more often these days, they will change their career multiple times, and they will probably even go from employed to self-employed at some stage (and maybe even back again).
Graduate employers have to understand that they are picking up these hugely talented people to make a difference for them from day one, but if they want to leave to do something for themselves on day one-thousand, then so be it. That is not a reason to avoid employing them in the first place – their learning and their impact will have taken their employer forward, and there is always the next hungry grad who is ready to fill their boots.
Having said this, we have so many stories of grads rising through the ranks – the CEO of John Lewis being the most recent example. The key thing to remember here is that it takes all sorts to build a successful business. If you just recruit for people who are likely to stay with you for decades, you will be missing out on all sorts of talent.