Advice for the Class of 2021

July 15, 2021 Share this article:

World Youth Skills Day

In honour of the UN’s World Youth Skills Day (15 July 2021), we asked some of our most experienced global executive search consultants for their advice to graduates starting out in the corporate world.

Location, location, location – if you are serious about your career, and you are lucky enough to have options, chose the most prestigious offer. It may not look or feel as exciting as winging it with a group of like-minded people working on a start-up, but it will pay dividends in the long run. Aspirant CEOs should look for high-profile companies that are strong on methodology, processes and leadership skills. They may (and often do!) pay interns a little less than their competitors but the experience will be invaluable, and you will have started off with a blue-chip name on your CV. Sandra Olive Bäcker, Buenos Aires, Bäcker & Partners/ AltoPartners Argentina

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? Interviewing is a skill – learn it! Do lots of homework. Don’t just read the official website. Google the company and read media articles about them. Know the background of the people you are meeting (LinkedIn is your friend!) If the company has experienced recent negative press, think about the questions you would like to ask in advance. It will demonstrate having done homework, ability to ask tough questions, and thinking about solutions. Also be prepared to answer questions about self-awareness such as what you would like to do better, what situations would you thrive in, where haven’t you met your potential? These, and the infamous five-year question, will come up – be prepared. In turn, always have at least three questions ready for the ‘Any questions?’ part of the interview. Liz Ewing, New York, Diversified Search USA / AltoPartners USA

Soft skills ease hard landings – Graduates who ignore so-called soft skills do so at their peril. The ability to communicate openly and honestly is the basis of all other skills necessary to operate in leadership positions. This is the time to cultivate and exploit skills that cannot be easily replicated by AI. Alongside hard technical skills, organisations require leaders who can earn an organisation’s social right to operate, display intercultural sensitivity, establish bonds of trust and build networks to act collaboratively. Murat Kaan Güneri, Istanbul, MKG & Partners / AltoPartners Turkey

Do your time; slow and steady wins the race – Armed with your degree and into the first few months of your job and you think you’re ready to lead that client pitch, team meeting or big presentation? You’re not. And it’s not because you don’t have the talent or the passion, you just don’t have enough on-the-job experience. Don’t burn through the crucial stages during your first years of work – every substantial career has a solid foundation. Business is a marathon not a sprint - pace yourself and have the stamina to succeed long term. Sorin Popa, Bucharest, Accord Group ECE / AltoPartners Romania

Learn how to give (and receive) feedback – Dare to give positive feedback – even (or especially!) if you work remotely. Your success will depend on people willing to nurture, mentor and guide you. Time spent briefing you or explaining where you went wrong is valuable time out of their schedules. Show appreciation to everyone who deserves it, and it will pay dividends. Natalie de Roche, Paris, Leaders Trust / AltoPartners France

Read– Most mistakes that you are about to commit have already been made. Read. Learn. With audiobooks and podcasts there is simply no excuse. Alicja Jaworska, Warsaw, Accord Group ECE / AltoPartners Poland

Embrace and accept life-long learning – Be prepared to continually upskill. That way your skills will always be relevant and in demand. Ritza Ioulianou, Johannesburg, Search Partners International / AltoPartners South Africa*

Commit – Throw yourself into challenges and commit 100% to delivering. Use every opportunity to learn something. Take chances, push yourself to do your best and approach everything with a positive attitude. Lauren Smith, Miami, Diversified Search / AltoPartners USA

Everyone could use a good mentor – Find someone you admire and ask them to be your mentor. They’ll be flattered and you’ll learn something. Scott Eversman, Philadelphia, Diversified Search / AltoPartners USA

Stay hungry, stay foolish – If you’re feeling like a square peg in a round hole, remember the words of the great Steve Jobs: the crazy ones that think they can change the world are the ones who do. Dr. Thomas Heyn, Munich, AltoPartners Germany

And stay true – Stay true to your values and morals. If you come up against a situation where you have to make an unethical decision, and you have no power to change it, then make the brave decision to move on to a business more aligned with your value structure. Peter Tulau, Sydney, AltoPartners Australia