She told me stories about how crazy most of the people interviewing her at big companies seemed to her to be. She came to the conclusion that most companies are just looking for young people without much experience whom they can mold into the sorts of employees they want. For example, last month a big international consulting company organised a massive seminar for young people who wanted to join the firm. The main thing they taught, it seemed, was that you had to forget everything you knew and learned in school and spend a long time refilling your head with the way the company does things. You also had to get ready to earn very little money. And so it seems to go at most corporations. Lilia also in- terviewed for a PR manager position with the telecommunications company Telenor, where she was asked, “Are you ready to sit here in the evenings and ignore your private life for the sake of our brand?” Lilia loves to work, but this was too much. So if you are young and want to join a big brand-name company you have to realise that you’re selling yourself lock, stock, and barrel, and that for a while most of your life energy will go to building up the company’s reputation as much as you can. On the other hand, you’ll be paid well in a big private corporation. Lilia found a lot of jobs in government or cultural structures in which you’re paid something like $300 a month, and everybody still has a piece of you. Some of these old institutions, like the regional councils in Kyiv, don’t even have Internet access. The only hope here of getting ahead is taking bribes. Then Lilia decided to find a part-time job to work while she decided whether she’s ready to give her all to a company. The optimal way here is to find a project that lasts for a couple of weeks – you get paid for the services you render, not for your time. Here we encounter the endless debate between those who sell their time and those who sell their skills. In the Internet age there are a lot more chances to work part-time and freelance, and a whole culture of people who work that way has developed. People stay at home and decide when they want to work
Do something interesting, not for the salary, and maybe think about whether it’s a job that gives something back to society
and what work they want to do. Of course, there are minuses as well, because you can’t really count on tomorrow and you may not find something interesting for a while. There’s a lot of downtime. Another thing is that work at home can be enervating. Working and sleeping in the same place can be a problem. But you’re your own person.
The Smoking Business
At the end of the March I attended Career Day at Sports Palace, where there were lot of resources for students and recent graduates. There were some good opportunities on display. British American Tobacco, for example, offers a very attractive two-year post-graduate programme called ‘We Challenge You’ in which you can learn about the company’s business, develop your leadership skills, work with real professionals, and earn a small salary. If you prove yourself during these two years you’re given a manager’s position. Coca-Cola has a similar sort of deal. Most big companies, in fact, are interested in energetic young people who have an abiding belief in the company’s brand. There are lots of chances out there for students with degrees in economics. The booming Ukrainian credit market needs specialists and can’t hire enough of them, so that field is a good one in which to look for work. ProCreditBank, PUMB, and Nadra are particularly ready to educate interested graduates. My friend Yana, a very talented economics student at Taras Shevchenko University, went to work after graduation at a big auditing firm. There’s lots of gossip that when you work in that industry you’ll do totally different stuff than you learned to do in school. “Yana,” my friend was jokingly told, “be ready not to sleep at night and to travel all over Ukraine collecting information to blackmail people with.” On the other hand, Yana really wants to build herself a career as an economist, so this sort of experience might be invaluable for her. Good practical jobs in this area are available at Ernst & Young, KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and the like. It sometimes happens in the big auditing, financial, advertising, and PR companies that they pay interning students only for projects that turn out to be financially successful. If the project fails, too bad – at least you’ve gained experience. This indentured servitude system migrated here from the West. Recruiters from big companies visit universities and announce moneyaward contests. Then they use the eager young contestants to the extent that they can.
Where to Find the Dough
Before starting any such programme, graduates have to figure out whether they really want to spend a year or two in a company and then end up being able to work only there, having isolated themselves from other job opportunities. Whom does the employment market need? Well, Ukraine today has very few builders, sewer workers, cleaners, and other people who work in the consumer sector. In good companies you can get well-paid in these areas, no less than if you were in ad sales or some managerial capacity. But no one wants to work at these jobs – it’s a psychological thing. The publishing industry also needs people. The best-paid workers today are IT-specialists who have mastered Java, Windows Forms, JSP, C, J2EE, HTML, and other stuff. Graduates of the Kyiv Polytechnic University will always find a job, and could average about $1,300 per month. Management is another high-paying profession. You’ll need to be deeply versed in law, marketing, management, and budgeting, and be creative and know a couple of foreign languages. The tendency in Ukraine is still such, however, that big companies are still importing managers from abroad, including Russia. They average around $1200. The third best-paid job is being a department head. You’ll need to have similar skills, but many such workers are grown locally. They get around $1000. Marketing and PR specialists are also in demand in Kyiv. Every big company has a strong marketing department. They need to have media experience, financial and advertising skills, foreign language knowledge, and so on, and average about $800 a month. The fifth best-paid professions are those of HR specialists and the business trainers. Here we’re talking an average salary of about $700. Advertising and PR seem to be the hip fields for young Kyivans now, since they offer good salaries and provide a lot of useful experience. On the other hand, the main thing young people should keep in mind while they search for a job, even if they did graduate with an honours diploma (which are mostly bought in Kyiv by the parents of spoiled kids and don’t have anything to do with academic excellence), is that they should do what they want, and not what’s trendy and well-paid. Do something interesting, not for the salary, and maybe think about whether it’s a job that gives something back to society. Then you’ll always be well-paid, in the sense that you’ll be emotionally satisfied.