Home > Engaging Early Career Talent: A Return to Normal? Not Entirely, and that’s Good News.

Engaging Early Career Talent: A Return to Normal? Not Entirely, and that’s Good News.


Each quarter, Campus Philly’s Corporate Advisory Council, composed of business leaders, gathers together to advise Campus Philly’s work to attract and retain talent, forge increased connections among higher education and business, and help to tell the story of Philadelphia’s success as a talent hub.

In May 2021, at a time when the future first started to look a little brighter and a return to “normal” was in sight, the Corporate Advisory Council met virtually in an event sponsored by PeopleJoy, discussing the lessons learned in engaging early career talent over the last year of Zoom, virtual recruiting events, canceled or reimagined internships, and the ultimate “pivot” across every organization.

After the May 2021 convening, with more than 50 business leaders in attendance, it was clear that the expected return to “normal” will be anything but – we’ve all learned valuable lessons over the last year, and the ways in which we’ve innovated, created, and pivoted out of necessity might just be sticking around.

The insightful panel discussion, moderated by Emeka Oguh, CEO of PeopleJoy, featured these business leaders in the Greater Philadelphia region:

Each panelist shared incredible advice, lessons learned, and plans for the future of their own recruiting strategies, and three key takeaways from the May 2021 Corporate Advisory Council convening are highlighted below. Have additional insights into your strategy for engaging early career talent in a post-Covid world? Email Campus Philly Vice President of Partnerships, Ashlie Thornbury, at [email protected].

“One word to describe 2020? A fire hose… of non-stop, constant change.”

Jeannette Trout of Publicis Health Media kicked off the panel discussion with the perfect summary of the year that challenged all of us in the most difficult, but valuable, ways by forcing us all to change the way we do things… constantly.

Early career talent makes up 20-30% of workforce at Publicis Health Media, yet the Publicis Health team decided to pause its internship program in 2020, pulling back to accommodate its work force. This was never meant to be a long-term strategy, and like so many of us, Publicis Health adapted quickly, creating a virtual academy program for the fall that focused more on learning, instead of job development. Through this shift in programming, Publicis Health provided educational content about the industry and committed to helping interns with their job search, both inside the organization and at other companies. Interns were able to receive feedback from Publicis Health team members on how to be successful as a young professional in Philadelphia.

Want Feedback on What’s Working (or what’s not)? Crowdsource Information Directly from the Interns and Early Career Talent

For Jasmin Senior-Bostic of CSL Behring, she took this last year to really learn from her interns, and collaborated with them to co-create an internship program that everyone, both employers and interns, found valuable. “Zoom gloom” is something all college students experienced, and Jasmin listened to this and other feedback, and changed the way she communicated with students, putting their needs and interests at the forefront.

For Campus Philly, key demographics of the 3,400+ college students and recent graduates who registered for events over the last year, plus surveying event attendees, provided integral information about who was engaging with Campus Philly, and helped in planning future programming.

During the Corporate Advisory Council meeting, Deepika Satyadev, Manager of University Partnerships and Analytics at Campus Philly, shared some key statistics:

  • Registrants attended school all over the country, with 208 colleges and universities represented
  • Seventy-percent of Campus Philly event registrants identified as students of color
  • Forty-percent of registrants are first-generation college students

Surveys brought to light many “Campus Philly success stories,” when students shared how they landed internships and jobs through virtual recruiting events like Spark Philly or Black and Brown Students in Tech. By featuring these stories via social media, email, and on the website, Campus Philly was able to share stories that the audience found relevant and inspiring, as students were able to see their own stories and aspirations through Campus Philly’s content.

More Schools. More Talent. Increased Diversity. Increased Flexibility.

Going virtual allowed SAP to recruit early career talent from more schools, thereby reaching students that in pre-Covid times, the company may not have even had the opportunity to meet. Jenn Prevoznik McNamara, who is responsible for ensuring that SAP is positioned as the employer of choice for students and graduates, shared that in 2020, SAP was able to connect with students all over the country, expanding SAP’s reach nationally, and allowing the company to reach more diverse candidates, as well, furthering their robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy.

In 2020, SAP hired 4,000+ interns and 2,500 Early Talents, and really leaned in to the company’s hybrid foundation they had established by being a global company. Even in a post-Covid world, Jenn shared that SAP will continue to offer flexibility, as the last year has taught them that a hybrid model works. New hires will be given a three-month relocation/reintegration window, and current employees will have the opportunity to be flexible in the number of days they work each week and the hours each day. If someone wants to work four ten-hour days, that’s OK with SAP.

In a survey of all Corporate Advisory Council attendees, Campus Philly found that 61% of planned internships for the fall 2021 semester are virtual, and 28% will be hybrid.

So much has changed in the last year around how employers recruit, engage and onboard early career talent, and it’s clear that some of those changes are here to stay as our region enters the next phase of our economic recovery. The last year has taught us all many great lessons that have inspired us to change our approach to recruiting and take a second look at what we’ve been doing for so long, and adapt based on what proved to be valuable in the last year.

We’ve all become more creative and innovative in the last year. Let’s see what we can all do next.

The Corporate Advisory Council convening in May 2021 was sponsored by PeopleJoy. Since its founding in 2016, PeopleJoy has provided student debt solutions for thousands of individuals, in partnership with leading institutions such as the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. PeopleJoy has an unmistakable passion for helping individuals figure out their student loans, and a strong commitment towards helping them achieve financial wellness. Contact Emeka Oguh, CEO of PeopleJoy, at [email protected]

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