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Students’ views on the Future World of Work

The world of work is changing rapidly and remote working is becoming more common. Because of digitization and the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution, people have predicted the need for new skills and an emphasis on emotional and social intelligence. But from the opposite end of that equation – what do those of us just entering the job market want from our employers? To get some answers, I asked around my student community in Lund and this is what I found.

Starting out

All of us just entering the world of work know we’ve got a lot to learn, and we’re looking for opportunities and the space to do so. We really want to be able to contribute actively, or as one person put it:

At my future job, I hope to be encouraged in developing my own ideas and initiatives and supported in carrying them through.

We have a long way to go if the seventy-year career predictions are true, and we really appreciate having mentorship and guidance on the way there. The worst-case scenario looks like unpaid internships involving filing the back-catalog in windowless rooms. We’ve been there.

Purpose

Ethos was one of the themes that came up again and again. And it is supported by research that found nine out of ten people would be willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. A company’s status on climate change is a good example of this. As one person said, one is looking to work for an organisation who’re not just green on the outside.

That does not only concern sustainability students. For young people across the globe, climate change is one of, if not the, most important issue of our time. At this point, that doesn’t mean that an organisation has to be perfect.  Just that they’re making meaningful and timely change.

Of those that I talked to, there was an agreement that companies whose states purpose and values including sustainability, and who genuinely reflects this in their workplace culture, are the most rewarding to work for.

Quality of Life

Or, as someone jokingly said, a meditation zone? Quality of life encompasses everything from working hours to mental health, and was another repeating theme. The attitude to this is of course an important issue to figure out when looking for attractive employers. One interview recommendation I saw recently was to ask the interviewers what they like about their job. If their answers are related to location or benefits, that’s a bad sign. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of saying no to paid work, but the point remains that the organisations that we’re excited to work for are those with a great atmosphere.

We’re looking for mutual respect between employees, and a good work-life balance. I am personally convinced that the words work hard, play hard in a job ad, truly is a warning flag. 

For us – and a lot of others – the pandemic has reinforced the importance of flexibility. There are certainly upsides and downsides to working from home. But equally working full time in the office isn’t something any of us want to go back to. Nor do we want to work 24/7 from home. France’s right to disconnect’ laws have us intrigued. Even though we might have a reputation as a generation attached to our phones, that isn’t really accurate. Most of us, like anyone else, enjoy having the time to get outside and spend time with our friends and family.

Regardless of what the generation now entering the workplace think, the world of work will almost certainly be changing significantly within the next decade. So, I hope it will be for the better!

/Francesca Fitzgerald

Francesca is a Board Member at Hållbart Universitet, and currently pursuing her Masters in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science at Lund University.

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