The Changing ABCs of Emerging Talent: Tapping the Student Value Proposition


Every year thousands of students graduate from universities with diplomas and degrees in various disciplines and venture into the world with the goal of either landing in the corporate world or continuing on and following other passions.

As such, I am one of thousands, and while all of us are different, we share common challenges in a marketplace that voices its need for talent but also perpetuates common barriers.

The Experience Paradox 

One complaint most students who are seeking work after graduating is the experience requirement. With many companies requiring one-to-three years relevant work experience even for entry-level positions. Similarly, given the volume of talent graduating each year, companies can find it overwhelming when they try to connect with and attract the best candidates.

Fortunately, strategies exist on both sides of the equation to better realize the potential for students and organizations alike: readying students to swim upstream in the talent pool and helping companies better prepare and attract the right talent from amongst the post-secondary graduates.

Interestingly, and as evinced by some of the success strategies of today’s graduates, even with all of the technological tools at our fingertips, the effectiveness of our virtual tools lies with connecting us to real opportunities and real people.

Highlighting Hallmarks Of Talent

For today’s student, universities provided nearly an unlimited amount of resources and support to help prepare students to be part of the competitive talent pool, and given the wider world of the web, that goes beyond creating a good resume.

As on social media, and in real life, students have learned the benefits of creating their own personal brand and social presence to distinguish themselves form others. Here are a few traits that have served students well and that organizations may be looking for when seeking top talent from the class of 2019:

  • Get online and make use of LinkedIn and social media to connect with employers. Learn more about your industry/profession and follow interesting potentials so you can get a sense of their work and culture.
  • Get involved on campus in your university student clubs and seek leadership positions with them.  What you learn from those roles will enhance your transferable skills.
  • Seek out the career management centre early on and make use of career advisors regarding developing your career profile and path potentials.
  • Participate in co-ops and internships as these provide the actual opportunity for professional work experience while still enrolled, providing an invaluable edge and early exposure.
  • Connect where it matters; attend networking events, employer on-campus events, campus job fairs and make a connection with employers and even request an informational interview if possible.
  • Join professional associations relevant to your field as a student member so you know more of who and what is happening in your industry, while gaining an early perspective on job and market trends and job market, to better prepare and distinguish yourself. Professional associations also offer students wonderful networking opportunities and connect emerging talent with established talent.  

The Organizational Opportunity 

Moving on to the employer side of the equation, it is clear to see how many of the points above yield to similar opportunities for organizations to create connections, uncover new talent, and help prepare and support that talent while they are still in university.

Today we live in a world, where innovation happens on daily basis, and the way we use to do things is changing constantly. As technology has evolved, so too have recruitment tools, but there is a need and opportunity to connect recruiters and employers with students and recent graduates in more meaningful and effective ways.

The days of recruiting via job boards are not gone, and still provide a 24/7 outlet for talent input, but the days of these efforts representing the entirety of the effort definitely are for non-progressive organizations and students alike.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to create a more personal touch. Companies should focus on creating a more personal/professional brand that speaks to the with current values of younger generations. With this narrative in place, organizations can then tie that into their recruitment strategies via experiential learning, mentorship, social media and, yes, job boards.

A Focus on Experiential Learning

Universities and employers can work together to integrate experiential learning components, such as real-life problems and projects, directly into the courses. Doing this provides students with the opportunity to apply their class knowledge and get a better understanding of how the real work happens. This not only provides students with the skills and knowledge essential to future job requirements, but also provides a great experience anecdote for interviews.

Similarly, such industry-aligned experiential learning also gives companies early access to both the emerging talent, as well as their development and practical skill set. Riipen, a Vancouver-based company, currently serves as a bridge between companies and universities to create and facilitate experiential learning projects into the curriculum. I certainly prospered and valued from these types of opportunities while in university.

Bring the Real-World to School

Universities might help further grow this opportunity for students and organizations alike by amending their courses to carry an equal portion of theoretical knowledge and experiential learning; to learn about the various software and hard skills in university as a part of the course would definitely allow students to better ground themselves in the “real-world” environment of their profession.

This might involve a class on recruitment and selection teaching students about the various Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), so students are trained well before entering the market. A good example is already in use at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, where mock interviews and personal branding have been worked into their Intro Marketing Course In this course, industry professionals are invited to interact with the students in various activities and provide feedback. Integrating such experiential learning into the curriculum is proven way to better prepare the emerging talent while smoothing the transition from student into the workplace.

What Else Can Employers Do?

Naturally, in this multi-platform digital age, employers need more than just a good website and a LinkedIn page. Employers seeking talent that is curious and seeking, can borrow a page from the younger generation to attract top talent from that very same demographic. Employers should look at creating social media campaigns that are unique and reach beyond LinkedIn alone. This is where organizations can showcase their culture, take people behind the scene and share a moving snapshot of what the work experience is genuinely like at their business.

Stepping back from the online, employers can also find and support emerging talent by becoming part of various professional mentorships programs. These programs, such as CPHR BC & Yukon’s own Professional Mentorship Program for aspiring HR professionals, bring mentors and proteges face-to-face in the real world. As such, investing time and energy in mentoring yields ever greater opportunities as questions are asked and answered, relationships evolve and present talent challenges become tomorrow’s shared victories.



Ali Najaf, CPHR candidate is a recent graduate from Beedie School of Business with BBA in HR and is now an active HR assistant with ICBC.  He believes life is not made by the number of days you live, but the number of lives you inspire.

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