AIESEC @ European Business Summit 2014: European Youth, Change Now Patiently



Written by Dries De Schutter is currently National Director for Campus Recruitment and Projects for AIESEC in Belgium


Dries De Schutter

Dries De Schutter, National Director for Campus Recruitment and Projects for AIESEC in Belgium

In only two weeks’ time the European Business Summit is happening in Brussels. In our office that means that all eyes are turning in that direction. As a youth-run organisation we are looking expectantly forward to the two-day event. It is an opportunity for us to showcase ourselves, not only as an organisation but more importantly as engage young people operating in Europe and the world. It is an important opportunity to say: “Yes, we are aware of the challenges laying ahead; yes, we have ideas on how we can change things and yes, we want to have an active role in their implementation.

Because of my role in AIESEC as an organisation, I have seen first-hand the difficulties young people are facing nowadays. People coming straight from university or college benches are struggling to get launched in life and their career. In Europe, a lot of people are proud on the quality of our education system and the opportunities we provide to students. In Europe, a lot of people are given chances in our open economy. But then why in Europe, a lot of people, especially young people, are not able to overcome the challenges there are faced with when they graduate. This is not something you can limit to either education, employment or any other field. In Europe, youth unemployment has surpassed alarming levels a long time ago but at the same time there have never been more op vacancies that companies cannot seem to find the right talent for. Are students underqualified? Are companies just a bit too picky? I don’t think so. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with this step from studies to career. If we want to repair these fundaments and create a strong basis for European youth, we do not need to discuss topic A or topic B, we need to discuss a whole alphabet of topics. Only with a diversified approach, but with a focus on the individual, we will be able to successfully prepare and help our youth to start the next chapter in their life.

Last week I was taking the train to work and was ready in the newspaper about a debate on young potentials. Since I like to consider myself a part of that category, I was of course very interested to read what these experts had to say on the topic. One remark struck me as very typical of corporate culture nowadays. Even though some companies have rebranded the HR department into Talent Management, plenty of them still see people as resources. According to one of the participants it is very important that young potentials are immediately employable. On the one hand I can understand that. We all know that the new generation changes jobs more often than wardrobe. It is a very economic way of thinking. On the other hand, this approach does not really leave much room for the development of the young potential. The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development states that only 10 percent of all learning is done in a formal way, through courses and reading, 20 percent through interpersonal relations, e.g. learning by seeing other people do it and feedback, but a staggering 70 percent comes from really experiencing though jobs. How are a young potentials supposed to do that if the only real experience they got is in heavily monitored environments, for a short period of time? Companies expect an immediate return on investment and that is a though challenge for a recent graduate. Schools and universities have been doing huge efforts to try to give the young potential as much relevant experience as possible with neglecting the theoretical side. They can do more but also companies should be more patient and invest in young potential.

The education system itself would need to adjust as well. Not only provide (the opportunity for) more practical experience but also in terms of expectation setting. When young people are at school they dream of big careers, which is such a big word. The examples that teachers and professor use in classes are from companies that speak to the imagination of students, which is normal because these examples attract attention. But it also sets expectations that reality does not match, at least not in the beginning of a career. Educators should set the right expectations of what recent graduates can expect and at the same time show all the possibilities and sectors of where you can possibly end up.

When students graduate they will always start applying at the big well-known companies for positions they know. They don’t stop and consider all possibilities. I am not saying young potentials should aim lower, far from it, but they should aim smarter and think long-term, not go for immediate satisfaction.

Finally, I would like to give some advice to the young potentials reading this. Be patient. People always say that good things come to those who wait. Plan your career carefully, step by step, and have that big goal clearly there at the end. To achieve that you need to find your own driver, your own empowerment, your own purpose. I always find that you don’t necessary need to love all the things you do, you need to love why you are doing it.

About the Author

Dries De Schutter is currently National Director for Campus Recruitment and Projects for AIESEC in Belgium. He works closely together with companies to help them with their recent graduate recruitment. With the events he manages at AIESEC he wants to close the gap between companies and students. As a recent graduate himself he has experienced first-hand the challenges for young people and the expectations university, companies and he himself have of his first steps in the corporate world.


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