Why most Careers Practitioners are Yellow

Handshake UK
August 3, 2020

It’s 2030, and the world is yellow. In this brave new yellow world, people value meaning. Humans come first, and creativity is prized. Fairness, ethics and social good are core values of the yellow people who live here. Unlike a blue world, where company comes first and pressure to perform is unrelenting, yellow workers take a more people-centred approach to their jobs. 


2030 might seem unknowable, but at the Global Careers Services Summit, we caught a glimpse of four possible futures imagined as four different colours. It all began with this quiz from PWC to identify a person’s workplace values and spark discussion around how universities might best prepare students for the uncertainty that lies ahead.


And among other things, the quiz results taught us that most careers and employability practitioners firmly belong in the yellow camp! Surprised? Perhaps not, considering that the role is profoundly human-centred and often collaborative. 


We learnt that in this yellow world, lifelong learning is essential, and HR an anachronism. Here, people’s strongest loyalties don’t lie with their employers, but to other workers with the same skillset or mission. Yellow people prize fairness. Yellow communities rely on trust. Yellow organisations respect their workers. After all, this is not a red world, where innovation and speed to market come first. It is not even a green world that puts sustainability first. 


Many noted that the current ‘Gen Z’ cohort skews ‘green’ in outlook and that students are increasingly looking to ethical organisations that emphasise sustainability. Handshake’s in-app career interest survey supports this observation, showing that social responsibility trumps a company’s size, reputation for innovation, and stance on social issues.  In fact, 20% of all students who completed the survey reported that they’re looking for work with ‘socially responsible’ organisations.


Some of our careers practitioners feared that in a blue world of intense competition, hierarchy and corporate values, many students would be left behind. After all, in any workplace that rewards only ‘high performers’ with permanent employment, the ‘leftovers’ will need to compete for ‘gig work’. Cue lively discussions around: ‘What is high potential anyway?’ and ‘How can we bring out everyone’s best potential?’


But while ‘gig work’ has picked up some undesirable connotations, over 50% of students using Handshake state that ‘flexible working’ is important to them, suggesting a wish to move away from the 9-5 office-based jobs of earlier generations. As innovative academic departments move towards flexible curriculum delivery - technology-enhanced teaching, remote collaboration, flipped learning models - it’s probably prudent to consider how we can continue to equip students for the future of work ahead of them. 


Higher education would need fundamentally to change, everyone agreed, to prepare students for a red world of innovation, uncertainty and speed. Universities would need to adapt to stay relevant in this volatile, fast-changing new world, shaking off their old reputation as careful and slow-moving. The curriculum would become multi-disciplinary with students as active co-creators. They’d link even more closely with industry to identify new trends, advancements and skills shortages. 


In this type of world, all university staff would become highly skilled ‘mentors’, ‘facilitators’ and ‘super connectors’ rather than instructors who impart knowledge. Some pointed to best practices already happening in careers and curriculum, like schemes for encouraging entrepreneurship, agile working and risk taking. Another referenced a programme where students undertake project-based work with different sets of peers. 


And the least appealing future world of work for careers practitioners? A blue world where capitalism reigns supreme! Though many noted that this was the most probable of the four worlds.


Whatever the future may hold, forward-looking universities can now use Handshake to help students find jobs that align with their core values. If a student wants to work with an organisation that is ‘supportive’ and ‘high performing’, Handshake can help them find a role within a team that prioritises these values. Students can match with the most intrinsically rewarding opportunities and employers, in turn, can  reach out to any student who looks like a good organisational fit.


While nobody can know what 2030 has in store, we left the Global Careers Services Summit feeling energised, challenged and inspired. The future may or may not be yellow, but a human-first approach to supporting students will never go out of style.

To find how Handshake is helping 14million students worldwide find their next opportunity, sign up now for a webinar.