When you finish school and embark on a career, we expect a better Europe. These days, almost a quarter of young Europeans in the labor market are unable to find a job, according to a European Commission report last year. The same report also found that our unemployment rate in the EU is the highest in world outside of the Middle East and Africa – right now, more than 5.5 million young Europeans do not have jobs.
Of even more concern, the report found that 7.5 million young Europeans between the ages of 15 and 24 years old are not employed, not in school and not in training. Even when the European economy improves, whether you want to have a high-flying career or just a steady job, an education will remain the best way to reach your goal. If you leave school before obtaining any degrees, or if you only receive the lowest possible degree, you will hardly stand out when you look for work.
People quit school for many reasons, and the EU has embarked on structural reforms to help overcome this problem. We now understand that the overriding reason young people are having trouble advancing is that they lack skills relevant to the workplace. That is why we need more robust education-to-employment systems in Europe.
This means that, as a young European who will be looking for work in the coming years, you probably will not get your desired job immediately. Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to set yourself up for your future:
- take the opportunity to continue to educate yourself
- balance education with a profession by getting a part-time job while you study
- be flexible and ready to change, either by switching to a different company or to a different position in the same company
- believe in your own ideas and be known and appreciated by teachers and colleagues
- persevere and don’t get discouraged – employers love positive and enthusiastic people
Of course, employers must also make sure that young talent is not wasted. At UniCredit, we are trying to do our part in three different ways:
First, we are promoting studies in economics, finance, law, politics and social sciences. We do this through the UniCredit & Universities Foundation, which supports promising students and researchers, offers grants and awards for scientific publications and promotes numerous initiatives in cooperation with Europe’s main universities.
Second, to help foster the young talent among our more than 147,000 employees at UniCredit, I have also made it a priority to build a workforce based on merit. The quality of a person’s work depends on many factors, including what he or she knows and has experienced, how he or she performs in different scenarios, and how he or she manages relations with colleagues and clients. To hire or promote someone based on those traits is the definition of meritocracy.
Most big companies understand the right attitude and personality are needed to develop a true meritocracy. UniCredit hires people through an impartial process that values the knowledge and skills of the candidate, and whether he or she shares the values of our Integrity Charter: fairness, transparency, respect, freedom to act, trust and reciprocity.
With greater meritocracy in Europe, we will be better equipped to compete at the international level. In the last two decades, productivity per hour has increased by 10 percent in Spain, 20 percent in France and Germany, and 30 percent in the US. In Italy, meanwhile, productivity per hour has not changed. Clearly we must do better.
Third, to enhance the quality of work among our people at UniCredit, I firmly believe in the power of feedback. It is often difficult to hear criticism from others, but accepting constructive feedback is critical to improving yourself – it helps you to better see your strengths and pinpoint where to focus your efforts. An honest assessment is the secret to creating a meritocracy, and it is also how you can better understand what you want out of your future career.
Performance evaluations can sometimes frustrate or discourage us, but they are essential for successful development. They help give responsibility to those who deserve it, recognize potential and reward hard work. This type of feedback is so important that at UniCredit, we now conduct annual performance evaluations for both managers and staff.
When you embark on your own careers, it is my hope that you are equipped with the right competencies, hired based on your proven skills and potential, and you are comfortable giving and receiving productive feedback. Given the initiatives being planned or currently underway, I am optimistic that Europe is turning the corner, and that more employment opportunities will become available for new entrants to the job market. Success in this area is essential to ensuring Europe remains a key player on the global stage for years to come.
About the author:
Federico Ghizzoni is Chief Executive Officer of UniCredit S.p.A. with almost 150.000 employees. Since 2012 he supports the “My Europe” Initiative as a Member of the Board of Patrons for European Youth. more…
PS: Federico Ghizzoni will gladly answer all questions you might have. However, due to time constraints, he cannot do so regularly. We will collect your questions and comments that have been submitted until and including November 21, 2014, and will pass them on to him. For all questions submitted after that, we cannot guarantee an answer.