European careers: how Generation Z will transform YOUR job

The challenges of 2020 have thrown up big questions about the future of work. Will working from home become the norm? Will a more ethical business world emerge from the coronavirus crisis?

European careers: how Generation Z will transform YOUR job
Photo: Getty Images

This year has also intensified the focus on questions related to existing trends, such as whether flexi-time will become the norm in the future. 

You may be one of hundreds of millions of people globally with an interest in the answers. As the pandemic increases the pressure for businesses to change, a new generation of ‘digital natives’ is ready to take advantage of new opportunities as they finish their studies and begin their careers.

The world is already changing around them – and soon they’ll be further transforming it themselves. Here, The Local, in partnership with the prestigious ESCP Business School, takes a closer look at Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s until the early 2010s) and the ways in which they could change companies and workplaces. 

Find out how ESCP Business School can prepare you for your future career

Connections that are personal (not only digital!)

The colleagues you once saw every day may have become increasingly distant over the course of this year. It’s easy to feel that digitalisation is taking over everything – and that the next generation will want it that way.

Not according to Karima Belkacemi, careers advisor coach at ESCP Business School, who says the students she works with thrive on “face-to-face connection”. In fact, they’ll expect deeper relationships with their bosses than earlier generations, she says. 

“They want managers who act as mentors,” she says. “That’s what real leadership means to this generation: a person who will always be there for you. They want a personal relationship with a manager who will focus on their development and be willing to help explain things.”

So, your future workplace might see much more personal connection – not less.

Work from anywhere – not only from home

Today’s students had to rapidly adjust to studying online from home due to the pandemic. Many students on ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) also ended up doing internships lasting three or four months remotely from home.

Leading in a changing world: find out more about ESCP’s Bachelor in Management

While this gave them a chance to let their digital skills shine, they would have preferred to physically attend. “While the school has provided the best possible transition to distance learning, the change has meant students now understand even more clearly the value of working in close collaboration with other people,” says Belkacemi.

She says young people want to shape the world to give them both work-life balance and the option of working from anywhere, not only at home.

Photos: Karima Belkacemi of ESCP/Getty Images

Promoting fun, flexibility and fluidity

Until now, only a lucky few have turned up to work expecting to have fun. But the new generation aren’t too concerned about how things worked in the past.

Growing up as ‘digital natives’, they see entertainment and experimentation as crucial aspects of life – and work.

“Our students really want managers with a gift for making their work fun,” says Belkacemi. “This generation loves to test stuff out and learn about new things.” 

Asked what they most want from their employer, almost half (47 percent) of ‘Gen Z’ respondents said a fun work environment, according to a KPMG report entitled Generation Z Talent. Almost as many (44 percent) wanted flexibility in their work schedule.

The option of working ‘flexitime’ remains a notable benefit today. But amid so many wider social changes, many young people about to enter the workforce may see it as part of the ‘new normal’.

Belkacemi says Generation Z have no fear of trying different paths and companies will have to change how they operate in order to attract talent. Many young people are not only interested in working for companies or leaders who inspire them – but also in having the freedom to create their own inspirational brands. Established companies will have to respond to the challenges posed by this new wave of businesses.

“They aren’t scared of the pace of change and they all want to try entrepreneurship at some point,” says Belkacemi. “The working environment is really important too – if they work for a company, they want big open plan offices like Facebook or Google.”

An end to old school management?

Whatever happens in the business world today, its next generation of employees is watching. One slip up in a company’s social media communications could do serious harm to its image among young people.

“These students care about the values of a company they might apply to,” says Belkacemi. “I think the old style of management is over. This generation won’t want to work with you if they think your company doesn’t care about sustainability or if they don’t like your managerial practices. They’re very open about that.”

The ESCP Bachelor in Management (BSc) focuses on new ways of managing – and is designed to inspire its students with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.

Companies today must adapt and many are also making these values more central to their operations, as well as allowing more remote working via digital tools. Such actions could help a business recruit the best of Generation Z.

“Their attitude is that they want a goal to work towards, before deciding on a job,” continues Belkacemi. “Then they want the freedom to achieve that goal in the best possible way – which means flexibility in when, how and where the work is done.”

Companies that can convince young people they offer all of this will be successful, she predicts. “If someone from Generation Z loves what they do, they’ll work hard and bring you success,” she says. “They want to change the world in five minutes.”

It may take a little longer than that. But their positive impact on workplaces of the future has already begun.

Find out more about ESCP Business School and how its Bachelor in Management seeks to inspire with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.


Networking in Italy: More than just aperitivo

Networking as an expat woman means overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers - but it can be the key to success at work. Marketing and communications consultant Mary Wieder Bottaro unravels the mystery of networking Italian style.

Networking in Italy: More than just aperitivo
A female networking event in Verona. Photo: Miriam Lonardi

Many women come to Italy seeking personal or professional gratification. But while it may be easy to integrate into Italy’s many fabulous cultural aspects – the food, the wine, the fashion, the beauty of its landscape – some parts of professional life are difficult for women to overcome.

Women may find it challenging to establish and grow a professional career here, especially those who are not located in a major city.

Entrepreneurs often find it tormenting to understand the bureaucracy in setting up shop in Italy, and then find they need guidance to keep their business afloat legally and fiscally. And the task of building up professional relationships, or even a circle of friends, can be daunting. 

Italy might be known for its hospitality when it comes to food and eating, but in the professional world, women can be their own worst enemy. 

File photo: Pexels

Now, women in Italy are finally discovering that the greatest weapon they have at their disposal is each other.

Forget your average post-work aperitivo. Female Networking (rete al femminile) is on the rise in Italy. Many global networks have hubs in major Italian cities: the Professional Women’s Network (PWN) in Milan and Rome and European Women’s Management Development International Network (EWMD) in Brescia, La Spezia, Genova, Reggio Modena and recently Verona.

Sector-specific networking groups have popped up as well such as Donne Del Vino (Women of Wine), Donne del Marmo (Women of Marble), and two Veronese women have created a Women in Surgery group. So it may be easier than you think to connect with like-minded individuals who can help you build your career.

Italy has traditionally lagged behind its European (and global) counterparts when it comes to the participation of women in the workforce and equal opportunities. In a country with historic family values and a strong religious presence, women are more likely to be stay-at-home wives than have a career.

According to European Commission statistics from 2015, the percentage of women in the workforce between the ages of 15-64 is still below 50 percent – the lowest level in Europe.

So how do we change this mentality?

The goal of networking groups is to create a network of support among women, who can assist each other in achieving professional and personal objectives. These groups help women – including expats – establish new collaborations and expand their circle of colleagues and friends.

The other goal of many of these groups is to create “gender-balanced leadership” and “unconscious bias”. Some of these networking events attract a small quota of men, which helps change the mentality in the workplace and at home in the Italian culture by opening their eyes to the rescources and skillsets which women bring with them.

File photo: Pexels

The professional cultural landscape is also changing in Italy. The younger generation of women is pursuing higher education (as of 2015, the OECD estimated that 55.2 percent of university students were female in Italy), they are career-driven and looking to climb the corporate ladder or start their own businesses. 

This younger generation is also driving the entrepreneurial spirit in Italy, with one in ten new startups being driven by the under-35 demographic.

According to La Repubblica, 35 percent of Partita IVA (VAT number) holders are women, and the majority of those opening the P.IVA are younger, around 35 years old.

This changing culture can lead to many challenges for women:
– How can highly educated women who want to stay in Italy find jobs?
– Do women know the process and the rights of opening a Partita IVA?
– How can women form productive and professional collaborations?

Networking has become the “hot topic” for women in Italy to get answers to these pressing questions, allowing women to find professional opportunities, business collaborations and personal connections over a few glasses of wine.

Finding and Launching Networks in Italy

Seeing how networking was on the rise in Italy, but not able to find a group which suited my own needs, I recently created the group Verona Professional Women Networking in Verona, northern Italy.

I started this group on LinkedIn in order to maximize the growing digital presence of professionals, with the goal of creating a network of professional women who can support each other in career development and create a dialogue around diversity, gender equality and work-life balance issues.

A networking event in Verona. Photo: Miriam Lonardi

Since its creation in February 2016, the LinkedIn group has attracted over 970 members and is active on Facebook and MeetUp as well. We organize monthly networking events comprised of an aperitivo networking hour and then an informative session with activities such as roundtables, seminars and training.

If you're ready to start building a network in Italy, think about what kind of network would be best for your needs.

International networks such as PWN and EWMD have a more global and corporate focus, and many events are held in English.

Local networks or sector specific networks may find present quicker opportunities, such as the chance to meet new acquaintances or a local business collaboration. However, larger networks may give you more visibility and the chance to explore opportunities in other parts of Italy or abroad.

Define your professional and personal objectives first and then search for the networks in your area. Keep in mind most of these networks have annual membership fees and some have selection criteria and a process.

And if you can't find a network in your area or sector, you can always create it yourself!

Use online platforms such as LinkedIn to locate other professionals in your area and organize local meetups. If you are looking to create a non-profit association for your group, it’s as simple as drafting some by-laws with a mission statement and submitting it to the Agenzia delle Entrate.

Buon lavoro!

Mary Wieder Bottaro is a global marketing and communications consultant in Verona, Italy, originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania in the U.S. She has been in Italy for over six years, originally coming as a semi-professional athlete and then developing a career in international marketing and communications for two multinational companies based in Verona (CROS NT and Arithmos). She is the founder and President of Verona Professional Women Networking, a member of Professional Women's Network Milan and on the Board of Directors for Professional Women Network (PWN) Global.

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