Final year students enthusiastic about job prospects

Compared to previous years, final-year students are more optimistic about their job prospects. As a result, more young people choose to actually go to work instead of further study. Moreover, they prepare themselves better for it. The non-profit sector is gaining popularity and there is an increase in the use of social networking sites when looking for work. A career with a green dimension is not a priority for them. These are the main findings of a trend study into the career prospects of final-year students.

This was the eighth time a research team led by Prof. Dr. Dirk Buyens of the Centre for Excellence in Career Management at Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School mapped the labour market expectations of final-year students. Over 1100 students at Flemish colleges of higher education and universities took part in the survey, more specifically students taking degree courses which prepare them for jobs in business, with a majority studying economics courses.

Professor Dirk Buyens summarises: Young people still have high expectations of their future jobs. Their ambitions are high and they are banking on getting a lot of feedback and coaching. In exchange, they are prepared to be highly committed, but without linking this to a long-term prospect with one employer. So, the challenge for employers, both in their ‘employer branding’ and following recruitment, is to emphasise the right elements in their HR policy to keep the current generation of young people motivated and committed.’

Optimism reigns

Compared to previous years, there is once again a rise in optimism among young people about their job prospects. This trend started to grow in 2010 and clearly continues to do so this year. This optimism translates into a high percentage of young people (65.4%) planning to take their first steps into the labour market next year. In particular, we see a strong increase among Bachelors where 60.8% want to go to work (as opposed to only 47% in 2010). One in six (16.8%) want to carry on studying for another year, a trend that continues to fall compared to previous years. Similarly to previous years, just over half of young people (58.4%) are already actively seeking work prior to graduating. 55.4% have already applied for jobs once or more and 14.9% have already secured a job.

Good preparation

What is remarkable this year is that more young people are taking specific actions to prepare themselves for the move into the labour market. Developing a relevant network is gaining importance here: 65.7% as opposed to only 54% in 2010. Young people are also spending more time keeping their CVs up to date as well as on student jobs and other activities which may come in useful at a later date: 72.6% as opposed to only 50% in 2010.

Non-profit or green?

Unlike previous years, there is a rise in interest in working in the non-profit sector, particularly among Behavioural Sciences students. In addition, employment in government administration and the private sector also score higher than in 2010.
A so-called ‘green career’ (with a limited ecological footprint) is not a priority for them. Only one in four (22.9%) indicate taking this green career dimension into consideration too when looking for a job. Work-life balance, autonomy and expertise, on the other hand, still rank high on the list.

Rise of social networks

The use of social networking sites when looking for a job is rising sharply, but this channel still remains the least used channel. The top five most used job search channels continue to be fairly unchanged over the years: (1) company websites, (2) job sites, (3) job fairs and events, (4) university or college of higher education and (5) advertisements.

Responsibility for development and career

As far as training courses are concerned, young people are clear: the responsibility rests with the employer. The majority of young people show little willingness to contribute financially to courses which enable them to grow in their career. They also consider giving opportunities to follow courses and freeing up the necessary time to do so as their employer’s responsibility.
As far as other aspects are concerned, young people do acknowledge their own responsibility more strongly, more specifically things like developing the necessary skills to be considered for promotion and identifying development opportunities within the organisation.

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