Lessons from NACE for Public Servants


I recently returned from the annual conference of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in Portland, OR. I was encouraged to attend by some of our G2U partners working in career services, who suggested our Network can learn from the leading professional organization working at the intersection of higher ed and employers.

They were certainly right. NACE was an energizing experience for me—and the first in-person conference I have attended in over two years. It was a clear reminder that the job market and the world have changed in meaningful ways. I want to quickly share a few takeaways relevant to public sector talent connection while they are fresh in my mind:

1.) The talent crunch is here to stay, especially at the undergraduate level. Various presentations exploring the labor market reinforced that at least in the medium term, universities will produce somewhat fewer graduates than employers will be seeking to hire. In response, employers must differentiate themselves and stay abreast of candidate expectations. They will also need to move quickly—perhaps uncomfortably so—to land promising candidates.

2.) Speaking of expectations, Gen Z talent has some unique ones. Given the stiff competition for talent, there was a lot of discussion about aligning talent connection with Gen Z’s distinguishing traits. I found Ripplematch’s State of the Gen Z Job Search survey to be particularly illuminating. Some key points include:

a. Sufficient compensation to live comfortably is the top consideration for recent graduates in taking a job, but professional development and skills building is close behind, offering an opportunity for employers with less cash. 
b. One in five Gen Z job seekers has reneged on an offer; finding an offer with better long-term goal alignment is the top reason. 
c. Despite some stereotypes, 60% of new hires plan to stay with an employer for 2.5+ years, but there is an expectation of a clear pathway to advance within the first year. 

3.) Personal relationships with trusted gatekeepers in universities pay off for recruiters. I was struck by how consistently recruiters—mostly private sector—pointed to relationships with career services leaders, administrators, and faculty as critical gatekeepers to get their opportunities out to their students. Given the chaos of searching for jobs virtually, there is a unique return on building focused pipelines with specific institutions by engaging reliable intermediaries. 

Clearly, there are implications for government employers in these takeaways. Even more than usual, agencies will need to provide forward guidance on their hiring cycles and timelines to help meet the pace of the market. They might re-emphasize the uniqueness of mission and advancement trajectories to tap alignment with Gen Z career expectations. And while governments cannot always run nationwide recruitment campaigns, they can connect with a targeted handful of proximate university partners and furnish them with up-to-date information about their employment opportunities. 

The Volcker Alliance will aim to surface valuable intel to help navigate this uncertain time for G2U partners connecting rising leaders with careers in government. Be sure to join our Resource Exchange and Network Conversation, and follow G2U on LinkedIn to stay up to date.