The old vertical career ladder has been washed away by a tide of globalization and a new generation’s changing aspirations.

Employers know they need graduates with 21st-century skills to cope with the challenges constantly thrown up by a fast-moving technological environment. For their part, many graduates sense there is something out there in the future that they want to put their stamp on. Even if they don’t know what that difference is yet, these millennials want to be in a position to make it.

The challenge for an elite university today is to connect corporate anxiety about the shape of the future with the right kind of young talent to seize the initiative in any given sector. Who is going to have the next big idea that turns a whole market on its head? Where is the next Amazon or Google revolution going to strike? Will my company be able to cope with it? Are we going to lead change, or is change going to lead us to our doom?

Millennials know their worth in this volatile environment: according to a recent study by Deloitte, 44 percent are looking to leave their current jobs within the next two years; 66 percent give their position no more than five years. While careers advisors note that leading companies are still on the lookout for basic skills, knowledge and analytical prowess – especially when it comes to big data – there is an increasing emphasis on soft skills. The precise technical demands may change beyond recognition over the current century; even in traditionally conservative sectors such as engineering and banking, employers are convinced that communication and people skills will be absolutely vital.

The 2015 Bloomberg Recruiter Report found that the golden four skills which are least common and most sought-after by today’s employers are strategic thinking, creative problem solving, leadership and communication skills. The same report saw IE Business School rank an impressive 14th in the world in terms of leadership skills, as well as scoring well in communication.

The nature of leadership and communication varies slightly from sector to sector and also in geographical terms. While in North America, the ability to speak in public and be a dynamic communicator is extremely prized, the typically more hierarchical corporate structures of Asia place greater emphasis on inter-personal communication and achieving quiet effectiveness.

Innovative University

The death of Mammon?

When Goldman Sachs tells its junior investment-banking analysts not to work on Saturdays, this means that something has changed. The emergence of alternative empires in the Google age has changed how companies view their workers, and how workers view companies. Google has gone out of its way to show the world that happy employees are more creative and productive. And across-the-board OECD data backs up the idea that long hours do not make for higher productivity.

The usual suspects are still offering dazzling rewards – a UK survey of 2015 graduates’ starting salaries by London’s High Fliers research group had investment banks top with a median of £40,000, just ahead of banking and finance firms on £36,500 – but it may be that all that glisters is not gold for millennials. It is as if the alluring nature of transformative possibilities provided by new technologies has distracted their attention from the age-old attraction of Mammon. “They want to do something that matters. They want to have an impact on society and other people’s lives”, says Carlos Díez, the director of IEU’s career services and someone who sees close up the way tomorrow’s thought leaders are drifting.

It is this changing reality, as well as the competition provided by the tech giants to the Morgan Stanleys and other longstanding corporate icons of this world, which is making companies start to adapt and make room for the rounded individual, as opposed to simply connecting the latest bright spark to their established grid. A top university’s role is therefore to be the vector which seeks out meaningful work for its graduates and provides talent to those who need it most in order to roll with the times.

How is IEU faring in such a role?     

Less than a decade in, it is still early to make a definitive judgment on how IEU graduates rate alongside their peers from other elite institutions in terms of influence and impact on the world. But a start appears to have been made. According to the Times Higher Education rankings, IEU is number one in Spain, number 10 in Europe and 27th worldwide in terms of employability. Of leavers who become jobseekers, 92 percent are in work six months after graduation. But perhaps even more encouraging is that many graduates are finding themselves where they most wanted to be, with the A-list of companies where IEU alumni are currently employed including Google, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Cisco, PwC, Morgan Stanley, Oliver Wyman, Porsche and many more.

As for other graduates from the class of 2015, 11 percent became entrepreneurs or worked in start-ups, while 20 percent went straight into a Master’s degree.

IEU’s plan is to be practical. Learning must be solid, but the aim is to create flexible minds, and not merely masters of a given technique or approach. Law students, for example, are taught plenty of law. But that’s not all; they are encouraged to engage with the subject from the word go and think about how the law can be used. Away from the confines of, say, property or corporate law, students do a course called Law Unplugged from the very first year in which they have to grapple with the ideas behind the jargon in real-life simulations.

IEU aims to make sure that all students get real-life workplace experience from the very first year of their degree. Carlos Díez explains that the career service’s approach is to open students’ minds and widen their options in order to home in on a clear professional objective by the time they leave.

Connecting the leaders of tomorrow with a new corporate environment

Yearly placements and internships are arranged through first-class corporate contacts, a positive spin-off from the IE Business School’s strong position in its market. Part-time during term time, or full-time over the summer, internships or a workplace lab, where a student might, for example, shadow an employee at a leading firm, are viewed as research by both sides – companies also appreciate getting an early look at the talent of the future and the direction in which these millennials’ thinking is going. According to the 2015 High Fliers report, recruiters now say that 31 percent of entry-level positions go to university leavers who have already worked for their organizations as interns or doing vacation work.

Half of 2015’s batch of graduates did their final placement at banking or consultancy firms, with the other 50 percent choosing a variety of options among NGOs, consumer goods companies and social impact organizations. For a student whose research and work experience is not helping to define a career path, the career office has time for individual sessions and will seek out mentors in possible areas of interest from the alumni network for a face-to-face meeting or a Skype chat. Even after the new leaders of tomorrow have technically flown the nest, monthly surveys keep the careers office up to date on their progress. The alumni network also means that IEU students continue to benefit from the contacts established in Madrid and Segovia long after they have gone out into the world.

**Written by: The Report Company