The expectations final-year students have of their first job are still high. Good communication with their colleagues, a sociable atmosphere and plenty of opportunities for training are at the top of the list. What is more, these millennials prioritise career security over job security. They consider their relationship with their first employer to be temporary, expecting to work for a whole range of different companies during their working life. However, the Covid-19 outbreak has toned down their optimism about the future. Now afraid that fewer jobs will be available to suit their skills and qualifications, they are once again attaching greater importance to job security.
The Centre for Excellence in Strategic Talent Management at Vlerick Business School has conducted its tenth large-scale study of final-year students’ expectations of the employment market and their career. 614 students who were due to graduate in June 2020 took part in the survey, of whom 294 were Masters students and 320 Advanced Masters. The research focuses both on their career plans and on what these ‘millennial’ graduates expect from their first employer. Last but not least, the study also contains important insights for companies hoping to recruit recent graduates.
People entering the employment market for the first time expect a job in a pleasant working environment where they can develop their talents to the full and get attractive opportunities for further professional development. Good communication with their colleagues, a sociable atmosphere and opportunities for training are at the top of the list. Companies that can offer this are more likely to attract and retain graduates than companies that cannot.
For 90% of respondents, an attractive career means lifelong learning. For millennials, this is an absolute priority in order to extend their skills and knowledge and keep them up to date. So it comes as no surprise that the final-year students surveyed want a vertical career path (76%) rather than a horizontal one (50%).
They clearly have a cosmopolitan vision for their careers: 58% expect to work for a wide range of different companies over the course of their working lives. They tend to see their first job as a stepping stone to something better at another company and view the relationship with the first employer as temporary. Almost 50% do not plan to work for their first employer for longer than three years. That is why they do not see long-term job security as a priority: the promise of job security only matters to 17% of respondents.
Other notable findings include:
Dirk Buyens, Professor of Human Resources at Vlerick Business School: “Given the outflow of older workers, the battle for the most suitable talents is still being fought. So attracting and retaining the best millennials is crucial to any company’s future. That makes it very important to gain insight into their views on careers and employment. Furthermore, it seems that millennials are prepared to do more than merely work hard and step up their efforts when necessary. If they are satisfied with their job, they will also be strong ambassadors for your brand and business.”
At the time of the survey, 70% felt positive about their future financial situation and the number of jobs available on the employment market. However, Covid-19 has put a spanner in the works. An additional survey of the Advanced Masters students in June showed that optimism about the economic situation and the number of jobs available to suit their skills and qualifications has fallen sharply.
Professor Dirk Buyens confirms that the employment market for graduates has changed somewhat: “In general, we are noticing that the decision-making process is slower in terms of recruitment and selection. There is a great deal of uncertainty and the real consequences of the crisis are not yet clear. Other companies have opted to stop recruiting for the time being or to fill vacancies internally. This means that there are fewer opportunities for graduates. However, these profiles still have an advantage on the market: rapid digitisation is fuelling demand for this target group. We can certainly recommend that recent graduates start looking for work in good time!”