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Oct 6, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

In March, my little sister received some disappointing news from her university: In-person classes would be canceled until further notice. Pack up, head home, and wait it out as the school figures out what virtual classes will look like. The process failed pretty miserably. 

Of course, universities are clearly not the only entities navigating what the new next looks like. Employers large and small have had to manage change at a rapid rate and to mixed success. 

Some of the leaders at the helm of this challenge are those in talent acquisition, tasked to attract and hire a generation of students whose personal and emerging professional lives have never felt so influx. If figuring out how to do this was difficult before, the pandemic has only made it harder.

Yet with influx and uncertainty comes an opportunity to rewrite the playbook on how we think about our approaches to talent attraction. Tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 2pm ET, I’ll be presenting a webinar — Show and Tell: How to Attract Early Talent in a Covid World — that will delve into some of the tactical ways that companies have approached this challenge. All of which starts with mindset.

Gen X, Y,  Z…We Were All Young Once 

Regardless of what we call each generation, we all share the experience of embarking on our first job or internship. The newness of it all. The coaching and mentorship that helped us wrap up our heads around new tasks and environments. It’s about putting ourselves into the shoes of our younger selves.

To go even further, it’s imagining our young selves in this day and age. What would 21-year-old you be thinking if you were entering the job market right now? What would your anxieties, ambitions, and aspirations look like? Yes, being young comes with challenges. But it can also mean freshness and optimism.

Put Yourself in Candidates’ Shoes

Exercising empathy is at the core of designing a human-centered candidate experience. So now that we can rewrite the playbook, think about the questions that young talent is having right now. Think about which questions you would have as a candidate if you were just entering the workforce:

  • What does work look like right now at the company? 
  • How have expectations of me changed?
  • What would I have to do to be successful in this company during this time?
  • What are my remote-work options, if any? 
  • How did the company treat their employees during this time? 
  • How has this company responded to [insert myriad of controversial topics]? 

Get Deep and Specific

Think of each of the above topics (among others) as relevant stories to tell. While you may feel the inclination to be broad in your approach to answering these questions, right now calls for more specifics. And considering how often you will be repeating yourself in recruitment conversations, putting some investment into the stories and experiences that matter today will demonstrate just how “with it” you are with the times. 

Be Real, Not Gloss

This raises a question: How “with it” is your company willing to get? This could be as simple as pushing back on your leaders when they want you to capture and portray stale imagery of your colleagues hanging out and high-fiving without a mask or social distancing. Or worse, not producing any kind of content because you’re waiting for that opportune time when the world is going to get back to normal.

The fact is, this way of life is going to be around for a while, and the sooner we lean into that, the better. While things may eventually resemble “pre-COVID” times, they’ll never look exactly the same. Expect residual changes to how we all work, not a return to 2019.

Remember, this is a generation that is highly tuned to faux representation on social media and, like all of us, craves rawness. Stories that don’t reflect the realities of today are going to be sniffed out quickly. 

Extend Grace

There has been no better time to rethink and try new approaches than now. Why? Because we’re all basically figuring it out as we go.

And we all expect to fail…forward.

From experimenting with a new video technology to reimagining a virtual internship, we should all expect that there will be kinks. However, we can and should be more upfront about that from the beginning. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised since the reaction is more likely to be more positive than negative. It also demonstrates that we’re all people, after all. And that talent, young and old, works for other people, not companies. 

Register here for Show and Tell: How to Attract Early Talent in a Covid World.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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