So it’s official. More young people are now going to university in the UK than ever before, according to new figures from the Higher Education Statistics Authority. There are obviously several positives to this; however it also means that competition for good employment opportunities is becoming more intense.
Additionally, the world of work is changing at such a rapid pace that even those of us already in it frequently struggle to imagine how roles, companies and industries might change in five, let alone ten, years’ time. Digital disruption is impacting every industry and corner of the workplace, often with unforeseen consequences. It’s hard for those in work to keep up – even those at the very top – and more challenging still for university careers services as they seek to offer the very best advice and guidance to the next generation of graduates.
This is where CEO for a Day comes in. Launched by Odgers Berndtson, a global executive search firm, the idea is to give undergraduates the chance of a lifetime – to spend a working day one-to-one with someone currently at the very top of their organisation. Twenty three chief executives from household name organisations, ranging from Sainsbury’s and Welsh Rugby to Barnardo’s and Visa, are taking part this year and UK undergraduates have until 28 January 2019 to apply.
If you are a second or third-year undergraduate, perhaps wondering what you might like to do, you should apply for a place on this initiative. Whether or not you succeed in being paired with one of the CEOs, the process involves a job application and full assessment very similar to what you’ll face when you do apply for jobs, particularly in larger organisations, and this is great practice.
But those who do succeed, and have taken part on previous years, have told us they found the experience to be an incredibly useful eye-opener into how organisations work, what leaders do, and what new roles and opportunities are now on offer. Take Vikesh Mistry, for instance, who was studying at De Montfort University and shadowed Hadyn Mursell, the CEO of Kier Group for a day last year and is now on the company’s graduate training scheme.
Or Lakechia Jeanne, who was studying biomedical science at Hull University when she won a place on the first UK CEO for a Day programme in 2016.
“It was an incredible experience. I was paired with Ian Filby, CEO of DFS, and our matching was perfect, as he had studied chemistry at university,” she later told us. “I was really able to understand how he used science to create a unique career path and grow in his field.”
Lakechia has recently started in working in Government Policy. She also founded an Initiative called GirlsInScience.co.uk, connecting scientists to work with schools to change perceptions of science careers, particularly for young women and girls.
Across our firm, we have expanded CEO for a Day into 12 countries, with almost 1,000 chief executives and young people so far taking part. Almost 20,000 students globally have applied – all gaining a taste of what it takes to apply for full time, high-level jobs and also what success can look like should they reach the top of their organisations many years later.
Most young people who participate tell us that they’re also surprised by how people-orientated chief executives usually are. For their part, most of the leaders we speak to who take part are immensely encouraging and want to support a younger generation. As one of them recently put it – we all started somewhere. Why don’t you start by applying for CEO for a Day in the UK this year?
All content provided by Peter Viqueira. Viqueira is a partner in the Education Practice at Odgers Berndtson UK.