What do our graduates want?


In the last survey, our super-confident graduates expected to earn ¤100,00 by the time they were 30 and have a string of buy-to-let properties. That was in 2008. Now that the cold slap of recession reality has hit the class of 2011, SEAN FLYNN and LOUISE HOLDENreport on ambitions that have become more modest

IN 2008 The Irish Timeswrote of the “golden generation”, the new crop of super-confident Irish graduates poised to take on the world.They were facing into a recession but they still planned to jump between blue-chip companies every couple of years, invest in buy-to-let properties and earn €100,000 by the time they were 30.

The 2011 Graduate Barometer, also carried out by gradireland, records a totally different outlook. Now 80 per cent claim to be worried about their future and 30 per cent say they will definitely be leaving Ireland on graduation.

The average time that surveyed students expect to be searching for work here is almost six months, and they don’t expect to get a job until they have made at least 30 applications. It’s quite a change of mood from 2008, when an attitude of entitlement and jobs-on-demand prevailed.

The survey also lists graduates’ dream jobs in 2011. Teaching is now at the top of the scale for female students, and job security and work-life balance are high on the list of priorities. This wasn’t the case in 2008, when many graduates expected to change jobs four times in the first 10 years.

The majority of male graduates put Google at the top of their employer wish list this year; consultancy firm Deloitte was the overall winner.

Others topping the list of 100 leading graduate employers were PricewaterhouseCoopers, Airtricity, Microsoft, IBM, Pfizer, Ernst Young and Accenture. Those hoping for a job in the public sector favoured the HSE and RTÉ, as well as the Department of Education. Paddy Power bookmakers only featured in the male list, while Boots only appeared in the female line-up.

Most of those surveyed were business graduates, but a large number of engineering and technology graduates responded as well. At an average starter salary of €25,000, all the graduates in this survey expect to earn less in 2011 than their counterparts in 2008, who had their sights on €28,000. Women had lower expectations of what they could earn, especially in the higher wage brackets.

There is no shortage of confidence when it comes to self-assessment. To a question about how they rate their achievements, the average response was “above average”. Males were more likely than females to describe themselves as “outstanding”.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to relocate anywhere in the world to get a job, with the UK, US, Australia and Canada the most likely destinations.

The gradireland survey asked students a range of questions about their attitude to education, work and life. It turns out that only a quarter of those surveyed believe that students should pay fees for their university tuition. Males were more likely than females to hold this view, as were respondents who described themselves as “outstanding”.

Over 60 per cent of those surveyed believed that their university programme had equipped them for the world of work. However, almost a quarter of respondents did not agree that after their years of study they now had the skills required for the labour market.

More than 80 per cent agreed that it would be “tough to find a good job” in 2011. In 2008 two thirds of respondents held that view, with more than 30 per cent claiming that there were plenty of jobs to go around.

Gap years and voluntary work featured strongly on the wish lists of the 2008 survey. This is still an attractive option for some students, with one in five expressing the desire to spend some time working abroad for free.

There was no mention of buy- to-let investments in this years’ survey, perhaps because there’s no field for “snort of derision” on an Excel spreadsheet.

The mood among graduates has changed since they were surveyed about their attitudes to the future in 2008. Where are the main points of departure in survey 2011?



Graduates expected an average starter salary of €28,000.


It’s closer to €25,000



Students were confident of finding work quickly; around a third expected to find a job immediately.


The average period of job-seeking is expected to exceed six months



Graduates expected to change jobs three or more times in the first 10 years


Graduates cite job security as one of their key career priorities



Around 60 per cent of students expressed concern about finding the right job


80 per cent of graduates fear that jobs will be hard to find

The survey reveals that graduates have a clear picture of where they want to work.

The following lists the top 15 employers in 2011, according to the gradireland survey:

1 Deloitte

2 PricewaterhouseCoopers

3 Department of Education/Teaching


5  Google

6 Health Service Executive

7 Ernst Young


9 Pfizer

10 IBM

11 Accenture

12 Apple

13 Microsoft

14 Facebook

15 Airtricity

Since the economic bust, graduate attitudes to careers have changed. Gone is the guaranteed recruitment, nimble job-hopping and high starter salaries. Now graduates are expecting long job searches and more modest wages.

What do they consider important in a job today? Here are the top priorities of Irish graduates, according to the Graduate Barometer survey:

1 Work/Life Balance

2 On-the-job training

3 Secure position

4 Gaining general skills