African Ivy League grads – it’s a war!

Whether you’re Google or a small business, hiring managers will all say the same thing. It’s a war for talent.

As executive recruiters we hear this daily, and we also know where the biggest battle-fields lie. A battle field where the demand for talent so far outstrips supply that it sometimes feels entirely elusive, for the most part.

The battle-field I’m referring to is the one where companies based in Africa (and this is not a geographic generalisation…I mean, any country in Africa!), attempt to hire African Ivy League graduates.

These extremely bright, ambitious professionals, are scattered amongst the hallowed halls of institutions like Stanford, Berkley, Wharton, MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, et al….reading for undergrad degrees, or – more likely – completing MBA’s and similar business programmes.

They are elite performers, with their eyes set on global exposure, global careers, and global earnings. And here lies the challenge encountered by organisations throughout the African continent when they attempt to recruit them for roles ‘back home’:

  1. African companies are not considered global enough AND
  2. African companies are unwilling (or unable) to take over the (massive) student debt, or pay the kinds of salaries expected by Ivy League grads

Let me unpack this a little.

By the time a student (any student, regardless of nationality) has completed their degree from a top international university or business school, they will likely have accumulated somewhere between $40k and $120k in student debt. Sometimes more. So their expectations – and needs – when considering their first job post studies are that their student loan will be covered by their employer, and that they will start earning a pretty high salary, in USD!

Secondly, they are – at least in the short term – focused on working at companies that have a strong global brand – in their international offices or H/Q’s. Granted, there may be branches or franchises of many of the  top  global firms dotted all over Africa, but it’s absolutely not the same as being close the action at H/Q.

For these two main reasons, recruiting the Ivy Leaguers may, in the short term, be a fruitless war, unless pockets are extremely deep!

But if you consider this a medium to long term play, where you spend time building relationships, and you are ready with the right opportunity at the right price at the right time… might just win this particular battle.  

Go forth and armour up!

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