While advising a recent graduate, Rafique ul Haque (pseudonym),a senior executive working at a large corporate cautioned, "If the reputation of my company allures you to join here, let me warn you, do not go for any private job as long as you have the age to secure a government one."
When Haque joined the company as a young executive, he was full of life and ideas. "I had big dreams and plans to shine in my career. But as you grow older, continue to bear the responsibilities of your family for a decade, you will see you cannot invest as much time for your office as you once did as a young man. Each day you will understand that the money you earn does not cover your necessities."
"Besides, since the corporates always prefer to hire fresh graduates – more energetic and full of ideas – at a lesser salary, soon you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation," Haque explained why he no longer trusted corporate as the best place to shine in career; and he is not the only one who is frustrated.
There are many young corporate professionals who left their jobs because they were stuck in menial roles under complicated bosses, often overworked and underpaid; consequently, some left for jobs in the government sector, or some continued their jobs to maintain income but prepared for government jobs at the same time, while some others left the country altogether.
The Business Standard approached a couple of young recent graduates who passed out with excellent grades, yet remain willfully unemployed.
When asked why they do not try to find a job in the private sector, they mentioned various reasons.
Some said there was a family pressure to seek government jobs, some said corporate jobs offer abysmal salary packages in the beginning, some said they lost interest after listening to stories from those who joined the private sector – not enjoying their work, being overworked and receiving no promotions, exhausting work hours with little time for personal life, and so on.
However, one common reason that everyone shared with equal emphasis was job insecurity. "You can lose your job in a minute," said Showmique Haque, a recent graduate.
This insecurity has intensified especially now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, when many people have already become victims of layoffs, and salary cuts.
Moreover, companies going bankrupt are also not alien cases. Job opportunities in the private sector have also reduced.
Some of the corporate leaders and experts we spoke to admitted that there is indeed a lack of enthusiasm surrounding private jobs.
Asif Zahir, a director of Ananta Group and the managing director of Sindabad, was one of the experts TBS asked why this lack of interest existed among youths when a job itself is a golden deer.
"There is a lot of competition for getting good jobs and at the same time, young people are getting frustrated as they feel they may not have the right skills, experiences, or even connections to secure the jobs they want," Asif replied, adding, "It could be that there are not enough good corporate jobs and young people are looking at alternative opportunities."
Solaiman Shukhon, chief public affairs officer of Nagad, listed down a few reasons for the lack of interest.
Among them were a lack of visibility of lifestyles of the high end leaders in the private sector, many talented young people are leaving the field early, and too many foreigners are being appointed in the top levels of the corporates.
And above all, job security is a big issue, he said.
We asked Yasir Azman, the CEO of Grameenphone, one of the largest corporates in Bangladesh, about the concerns regarding job security.
"The private sector creates opportunities not only within the boundary of our country, but it also provides the opportunity to become a global citizen. Big corporations in the US like Google, Microsoft and many others are led by such global citizens. If today's youths can build the right skill set, values, and have the mindset to grow and compete, they should not be afraid of job insecurity," Yasir Azman told The Business Standard.
We asked the experts how this apparent apathy among a certain group of young people could be handled, and what the corporate sector can do to address the issues raised by the youths.
To boost the young people's enthusiasm, Nagad's Solaiman Shukhon emphasised on increasing visibility of the mid-level to top-level corporate officers' lifestyles.
"As young officers in the public sector often share their good works and life on social media, people get attracted to such positions. But there is a parallel lifestyle of the private sector officers – especially those in the mid to top levels – but they tend to not share that," he said, indicating that people's mindset is dictated by what they see, and the unseen are often less explored.
Besides, many private professionals go abroad leaving their careers mid-way.
"After five or six years into the job, people begin to enjoy a better lifestyle. If you leave the job way too early, before having positions like the general manager, it does not only deprive you from enjoying the real life of a top level private executive, it also paves the way for foreigners to occupy the top positions," he added.
Sindabad's Asif Zahir admitted that the private sector may not ensure job security as much as the government sector, but this sector can help in building people's career in the long run, and prepare for the future that could change the young people's perception about private jobs.
"The private sector can offer better training/skills development, faster career progression, and perhaps better benefits including working environment, and health insurance," Asif said.
He also recommended investing more in training and development throughout the career.
In reference to how young people often get stuck in menial roles, Asif asked for "a transparent recruiting process that explains clearly what attributes, experiences, and academic achievements they are looking for."
To solve the issues of becoming overworked, Asif's suggestion is "to have more 'Management Trainee' programmes to make sure the new recruits can successfully develop during the early part of their career (four to five years) instead of becoming lost or 'overworked' in menial roles."
Besides, to encourage younger people, he said, "The private sector needs to engage more with young people, particularly within universities and the early stage of career. They should sponsor more internships / training during university years as well as joint research activities with the university labs."
Against the backdrop of these young people's lack of trust in corporate, and the outcries about how our private sector is full of foreigners in the top positions, Yasir Azman sounded hopeful about the private sector's journey in the last half a century.
He said, "In 50 years of Bangladesh, we have seen all corporations like Grameenphone, Standard Chartered Bangladesh, BAT B, and many others having top executives from Bangladesh itself. Today's CEOs in these companies have been born and raised in Bangladesh. We also have leaders leading multinational companies abroad."
"I would recommend job insecurity to not be a concern for youths if they focus on developing the right skill sets and values. It is possible to win if you have the right mindset. Winning job security, it is actually in your own hands," said the CEO.