Saturday, July 6, 2013

Job Prospects for College Grads are Tough but Looking Up

by Josh Bersin, Linked In:

The last few years have been pretty rough for college graduates.

According to Accenture's latest college graduate survey (completed in April), 59% of 2011 and 2012 college graduates believe they will not earn the salary the want to earn and only 53% claim they found jobs in their desired field of study.

One could argue (and many have) that the days of college degrees being a ticket to a great career are over.

Well lots of research shows that college degrees are not as differentiating as they once were, but things are looking up. Here are some important findings to consider:

1. 41% of the people who graduated from college in 2011 and 2013 feel "underemployed." This is not surprising given the economy. But this number is declining.

2. College grads are not finding the training they expected at work. While 77% of grads expect to be trained during their first few years of work, only 48% got it. If you're an employer, this is a big fat red flag. Training new hires is among the most important things you can do - both for performance, retention, and long term capability development.

3. Among the grads from 2011 and 2012, 48% said they would have done better in the job market with a different major. This is an important and disappointing statistic. Colleges and universities do a poor job of occupational assessment and are not well equipped to show students the range of job opportunities available to them. McKinsey's research last year highlighted the mismatch between educational institutions and corporate employers. All major colleges and universities need to strengthen their occupational research and provide this education to incoming and ongoing students.

4. Students have slowly but steadily increased focus on science, math, business, health, and public services. The percent of graduates in the Accenture study who majored in math or science was 24% in 2013 up from 20% in 2011 and 2012. Health and medicine increased from 10% to 13%, and public policy studies increased from 4% to 6%. Social sciences showed a dramatic decrease, from 22% in 2011 and 2012 to only 13% in 2013. Students have become much more pragmatic.

5. While internships remain important in finding jobs, college grads state that they now see social networks and LinkedIn as a huge tool for finding jobs (23% rated as one of their key tools), and understand the personal and family contacts are still their best bet (42%) (LinkedIn has been investing heavily in building its college grad outreach programs).

6. College grads are starting to become more patient about their careers. In 2011 and 2012 41% of the grads stated they would only stay in their first job for 1 year or less. In 2013 this number dropped to 32% and 35% said they expect to stay in their first job five years or more. The job market is looking better so students have more confidence in their new careers.

What does this mean to you as an employer?

First, realize that college graduates (and nearly 40% are coming from 2 years schools) are now serious and more pragmatic than ever about work. If you want to attract great candidates, offer generous training and you will find people who want to stick around (there have been many anecdotal stories about GenY employees jumping from job to job - this data shows this trend declining).

Second, stake out your claim throughout the social sphere to attract candidates. Build a talent network and make sure your LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and other employment websites are up to date, authentic, and compelling.

Third, remember that all first year employees out of college (or two year school) have more potential than productivity. Today's US education system is not developing job skills, but it is attracting ambitious, hard-working people. Hire for "potential" not only for "achievement" and remember that over the first few years young people will dramatically improve their contributions to your business if you build the right environment.

Finally, understand that young people today are seeking meaning and purpose, not just a job. All our research shows a dramatic increase in "work environment" and "great people to work with" as key factors in job decisions. Create an environment that is fun and enjoyable for young people and you can attract and keep the best.

The unemployment rate for college graduates is still to high in the US (and way too high in Europe and other countries), but it's getting better and students are developing more confidence in their prospects every day.

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