Pessimistic, realistic and ready to work hard: welcome to the class of 2014

GradIreland’s new Trendence Graduate Barometer finds the class of 2014 to be pessimistic about work opportunities

Tue, May 20, 2014, 02:00

The graduates of 2014 face a slightly friendlier economic climate than their recent counterparts. While things are tentatively looking up, realism is the name of the game. GradIreland’s Trendence Graduate Barometer of 2014 finds current graduates to be measured in expectations and still quite pessimistic about work opportunities.

The outward flow of young people seems to be accepted as part of the deal with graduates willing to relocate wherever the work is. Graduates may not be prepared for the practicalities of salary negotiation, and a disarming idealism shines through in responses about what is important to them in their careers.

This year’s Trendence barometer surveyed almost 8,000 graduates from areas such as business, science, engineering and technology. Students in the top 20 per cent of their class, who have taken part in extra-curricular activities and with experience abroad and in the Irish workplace, are classified as “high potential candidates”.

The stark effect of the continuing emigration brain drain comes into sharp focus with 55 per cent of the high potential business graduates saying they will leave the country for work. About 65 per cent of graduates would be willing to relocate within Europe, while 58 per cent are willing to go anywhere in the world for the right job. Fewer than 10 per cent would not consider relocating.

Graduates agree on the ongoing difficulties in the jobs market with about 60 per cent expecting it to be tough to get a job in 2014. Indeed, 60 per cent of graduates also admit to being worried about their future careers. Just 35 per cent have a definite career plan with a 10-year goal.

The message about lifelong learning and career agility has been received and understood with 90 per cent believing they must be flexible and willing to take on different roles in their working lives.

More than half use social networking in job searches and employer research, although applying to employers through career networking sites such as Linkedin was less popular. Under a quarter of business graduates and just 30 per cent of science, technology and engineering graduates, had done so.

Despite the relative gloom about prospects, most graduates expect to achieve at least the same standard of living as their parents and more than two-thirds agreed that fulfilment was more important than money in their working lives. That statistic is a good example of the idealism that infuses the survey.

Asked what was important in an employer, good career prospects came out on top. Believe it or not, prestige and a high starting salary are at the bottom of the wish-list, trumped by things such as training opportunities, a good work/life balance and opportunities for personal development. The leadership style of an employer was rated as important as was being appreciated at work, particularly for female graduates.

Starting salaries
Most expect to exceed a 40-hour week with high-potential graduates expecting to work longer hours, averaging out at about 46 hours per week. These expect a slightly higher starting salary than their peers, on average €30,000 (other graduates expect €28,000-€29,000 for a 43-hour week).

They do not believe they are well-prepared for salary negotiations. Just 34 per cent of business graduates and 37 per cent of science, technology and engineering graduates agreed they were aware of what they can demand as a starting salary.

Interestingly, when it came to high achievers in science, technology and engineering, just under 16 per cent of students knew what they could demand when it came to salary. This contrasted with high achievers in business disciplines, where less than half knew what they could expect.

Given what we know about the inequalities of salary and gender, it comes as little surprise that there was a clear divide among business graduates, with less than 30 per cent of female graduates knowing what salary they could ask for, in contrast to almost 40 per cent of male graduates.

The question about whether they believed their course provided them with the skills necessary for the labour market yielded another interesting statistic.

While almost 70 per cent of male business graduates believed it did, less than 57 per cent of female business graduates agreed. The question about whether men and women need different skills to prepare them for the workplace and whether at the moment the skills provided are more suited to male graduates is possibly worth examining.

For graduates with a high level of potential the opportunity to work independently in their careers is seen to be more important than high-class amenities such as a company car or club memberships. Three quarters of high potential business graduates and more than two thirds of science, engineering and technology agreed this was true.

The culture of internships and working for free for experience is one hangover from the recession that shows no sign of abating. The survey found well over 40 per cent of graduates are willing to work for free in a good internship.

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