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  • Class of 2017: What Students Look for in a Job/Employer

    October 11, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    Student Attitudes
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    TAGS: branding and marketing, trends and predictions, surveys, spotlight

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    Class of 2017 students who planned to immediately enter the work force after graduation said they are most interested in jobs or employers that give them the opportunity to develop their skills, according to results of NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey Report.

    This is consistent with observations throughout the post-recession years, when the most highly preferred aspects of a job or employer provided the opportunity for growth. However, pre-recession results were different. For the classes of 2007 and 2008, for example, the opportunity for personal development was a fairly middling preference, while a high starting salary and the opportunity for rapid advancement were highly coveted.

    Members of the Class of 2017 considered 18 aspects of a job or employer and indicated they found the opportunity to develop job-specific skills and the opportunity to develop applied skills—which are broader—most important. (See Figure 1.)

    Students essentially found these aspects to be equally as important, with 84 percent indicating the importance of the opportunity to develop job-specific skills and 83 percent noting the importance of having the opportunity to develop applied skills. 

    Job security (82 percent), friendly co-workers (81 percent), and a good benefits package (74 percent) were also highly important aspects for members of the Class of 2017.

    Meanwhile, after considering all 18 job/employer aspects in terms of being the (hypothetical) deciding factor between two otherwise identical job offers, the Class of 2017 most widely cited a high starting salary (13.6 percent) as the deciding factor, even above the opportunity to develop job-specific skills (11.3 percent). (See Figure 2).

    NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey was conducted from February 15 to April 30, 2017; more than 21,000 students at colleges and universities nationwide took part, including 4,200 graduating seniors. The survey report will be available later this fall.

    Figure 1: What students look for in a job

    Aspects of a Job or Employer Percentage
    Opportunity to develop job-specific skills 84.0%
    Opportunity to develop applied skills 82.6%
    Job security 82.2%
    Friendly co-workers 81.2%
    Good benefits package 74.3%
    Recognition for good performance 72.2%
    Clearly defined assignments 69.6%
    Opportunity to improve the community 68.5%
    Clear agenda of corporate social responsibility 64.6%
    Diversity-conscious employer 64.1%
    Opportunity for creative expression 59.2%
    Opportunity for rapid advancement 56.0%
    Located in a diverse/inclusive community 54.4%
    High starting salary 53.7%
    Sustainable operations/products 49.7%
    Casual atmosphere 46.9%
    Located close to home 44.2%
    “Brand name” company 41.1%
    Source: Class of 2017 Student Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers. The percentages represent students who planned to enter the work force immediately after graduation and who indicated that the respective employee job/employer aspect was either “very” (4) or “extremely” (5) important on a 5-point scale.

    Figure 2: Deciding factor between two otherwise equal job offers

    Deciding Factor Percentage
    High starting salary 13.6%
    Opportunity to develop job-specific skills 11.3%
    Opportunity to improve the community 9.9%
    Job security 8.3%
    Located close to home 7.4%
    Opportunity to develop applied skills 7.2%
    Friendly co-workers 7.2%
    Opportunity for rapid advancement 6.2%
    Good benefits package 6.1%
    Casual atmosphere 6.0%
    Opportunity for creative expression 3.6%
    “Brand name” company 3.6%
    Diversity-conscious employer 3.2%
    Recognition for good performance 1.8%
    Sustainable operations/products 1.5%
    Located in a diverse/inclusive community 1.2%
    Clear agenda of corporate social responsibility 1.1%
    Clearly defined assignments 0.8%
    Source: Class of 2017 Student Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers