Over half of students see company culture as most important when starting work
What do students and graduates care most about when finding work? Research from specialist student marketing agency Raptor shows that the answer might surprise you: company culture is their top concern. Here, Raptor's Emily Lowes looks at graduates' priorities post-pandemic.
In our most recent data study, we wanted to understand student perceptions of graduate opportunities post-pandemic. We analyzed what they value most when considering their first employer.
We surveyed 105 students from 36 universities in the UK. We found that company culture, hybrid work structures, and work experience were top of the list for students to feel confident in their decisions post-graduation.
Raptor considers the employment decisions and options available to new graduates.
Of the students surveyed, nearly one in four starts thinking about their career post-graduation in their first year at university; 34% begin considering their careers during their second year.
With over half of students (58%) considering their employment opportunities within the first two years of their university experience, employers must do more to support students in exploring their career options within the first stages of their university experience.
90% of students noted that internship placements were important or very important in deciding their post-university career. While 53% of students had undertaken an unpaid work placement during their time at university, only 43% had undertaken a paid placement, with students highlighting the lack of opportunity to gain paid work placements as a key pain point when approaching a competitive graduate market. There's a clear necessity for employers to offer paid placements, allowing students the opportunity to gain experience without sacrificing their opportunity to take on part-time work to fund their time at university.
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We asked our student network to consider the most important factors when choosing post-university employers. Over half ranked company culture as the number one priority when exploring post-graduate opportunities.
With a movement from care-free youthfulness toward value-based consumption, students have taken the pandemic as a cue to think about what they believe in and what’s important to them (finding an employer that shared their values). Only 22% said that salary was the most important factor: gen Z are more focused on their wellbeing and happiness than gratification and monetary reward.
Post-pandemic, many companies have adopted a hybrid approach to work, giving employees the opportunity for greater flexibility in their roles. 58% of students surveyed would consider taking a job that was fully remote, juxtaposing recent data studies suggesting that Gen Z are leading the charge in a return to the office. 59% of students noted that they felt confident in interviewing for a job via Zoom. As digital natives, students are looking for the flexibility to pursue their passions within a setting that suits them.
Hybrid working is clearly here to stay, and students are embracing it. To attract graduates, companies will need to offer flexible working options but also the ability to build a strong company culture. When asked what they would like to change about the current relationship between students and prospective employers, students mentioned that they’d like to see more graduate employers being transparent about the amount of experience needed for the role and their salary expectations.
Post-pandemic, students have been one of the most heavily affected demographics - from disruption to their studies through lockdowns, to the impact that the pandemic has had on mental health. 38% of students mentioned that their career aspirations have changed post-pandemic.
The reasons for change spanned various areas; the opportunity to explore digital-based careers was a popular response.
Following a digital approach to graduate opportunities, the most useful tools that students have found when looking for graduate opportunities have been LinkedIn, Otta and Bright Network. The vast majority of students mention Facebook Communities within their field as a key place they look for opportunities. The power of social networking for employment opportunities gives students the opportunity to connect and learn from industry professionals, many of whom they may not have previously ever had chance to meet, breaking existing social barriers to entry.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, students have been a demographic heavily affected by shifts in approaches to employability. However, our data study recommends that employers should take note that students are expecting more from employers.
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