University students are burning out. Students are encouraged to excel and get the best grades possible, get valuable work experience, internships, placements then apply for graduate jobs.
Like a company car, promotions, a corner office, burnout was something executives had to work years to achieve. But millennials are now getting there sooner than their parents.
Graduates are putting themselves under immense pressure to succeed, find a well-paid job and gain personal fulfilment often in junior, less rewarding roles. These pressures are even surfacing at the bid for the perfect internship, which many students use as a platform to start their career in the many admired jobs like accounting, consulting and banking.
The Harvard Business Review found that people aged between their twenties and thirties experience a sharp increase in on-going stress and were in a negative state of mind. When asked about their long-term goals, Millennials, more than any other age group mentioned goals related to their career. They mentioned finding new jobs with better benefits, more pay, better hours, better career progression prospects and a better work/life balance.
The death of Moritz Erhardt in 2013 while working at Bank of America in London as a summer intern, promoted employers to change their tactics. Erhardt’s death was caused by an epileptic seizure, but a coroner’s inquest found that work overload and stress could have caused his fit.
In response, BofA has increased their number of junior staff in an attempt to improve work/life balance for its young bankers. Other companies have focused their internships and graduate schemes on personal growth, offering more mentoring and buddy schemes for students, aiming to bridge the gap between university and working life.
In 2012, Bogdan Costea of Lancaster University Management School and colleagues analysed recruitment advertisements in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. The analysis concluded that there is an ethos of work which fails to recognise human limits, makes false promises about freedom, or the ideal work/life balance. Thus, it becomes a tragic proposition for the individual.
These companies and firms encourage students to “invest in yourself” (Herbert Smith, Law Firm), “get ready and fulfil your potential” (EY) and state that “we’ll help you open doors” (RBS). In a later paper, Professer Costea set Erhardt’s death in the context of this “culture of work focused on intensely and unremittingly on the self, a culture which becomes obligatory from the very early stages of careers, so much so that internships themselves become a kind of testing ground for the mettle of individuals”.
More than ever, students are forced to compete, to be the last one at the office, to revise more hours or to earn the most money.
Although millennials are aware that sleep and exercise helps to tackle stress, they must also consider their all-for-nothing mindset and devotion to the workplace which could be a shortcut for ruin. At the other end of the spectrum, employers should take their time, consider the health of their employees and provide care, especially concerning mental health and stress.