Large Firm or Small Start-Up? New Grads’ Preferences are Changing
Meghan Brown posted on May 16, 2017 |

Engineering students base many of their education decisions on where they want to work after graduating. Some careers only need a bachelor’s degree, while others – particularly those with a lot of potential advancement – often require a master’s. 

The size of the company also has an effect. Do you want to work for a large corporation? A research institution? Or maybe a small start-up?  What new graduates are looking for when it comes time to find employment changes all the time, and the recent 2017 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study from Accenture Strategy shares what the newest grads are looking for.

19% of new grads in the Class of 2017 indicate they are interested in working for a large company. (Image courtesy of Accenture Strategy.)
19% of new grads in the Class of 2017 indicate they are interested in working for a large company. (Image courtesy of Accenture Strategy.)

“In recent years, college graduates eschewed large companies in favor of digital disruptors with a start-up culture. But it looks like the tide may be turning,” said Mary Lyons, managing director, Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization, Global Lead. “New grads are beginning to place more value on what big companies can offer, appreciating the resources and development experiences inherent in sizable organizations. This shift in desired employment provides large companies a window of opportunity they should capitalize on while it remains open.”

Lyons is speaking about the student group which was the focus of the study: the Class of 2017, and the first crop of Generation Z graduates (born between 1993 and 1999) to enter the workforce. The study found that these graduates are more interested in working for large companies, compared to last year’s grads -- 19 percent for Class of 2017 vs. 14 percent for 2016.

New graduates increasingly desire an engaging employee experience and want to take full advantage of their degree. The study also found that this generation is more prepared to enter the workforce and desires in-person interaction.

2017 Graduates Have Big Ambitions and Will Enter the Workforce Prepared

For the first time in several years, there’s an uptick in the number of graduates who want to work for large companies. 71 percent of new grads indicated they expect full-time employment in their field of study and expect to receive on-the-job training (67 percent), job shadowing (48 percent) or formal training (49 percent) in their first job.

While it’s true these graduates have high expectations for their first job, they are also entering the workforce prepared to land these opportunities.

Eighty-eight percent of new grads considered the availability of future career opportunities before deciding on their degree, and most are showing a desire to enter fields that feature lots of room for long-term growth. STEM fields overall were the most popular majors this year – up seven percentage points to 30 percent compared to last year’s 23 percent. Additionally, more new grads who completed an internship, apprenticeship or co-op saw it lead to a job post-graduation compared to last year (67 percent vs. 45 percent).

These new entrants to the job market are also flexible and loyal. Seventy-five percent of new grads indicated they are willing to relocate to a different city or state to get the perfect job – and it’s likely they’ll have to. For 2017 graduates, the current economy will likely have them looking in a different city for a job (41 percent), commuting farther (38 percent), and/or accepting the first offer they receive (38 percent). After landing a job, most of these 2017 grads (62 percent) say they expect to stay at their first job for at least three years.

Grads Are Optimistic Despite Rising Underemployment

While new graduates are prepared to enter the workforce, their expectations of their future careers do not necessarily match the reality experienced by recent graduates currently in the workforce.

This is most evident when considering salary. The 2017 grads have ambitious salary expectations compared to the actual salaries of recent graduates. Sixty-nine percent of 2017 grads expect to make more than $35,000, but only 49 percent of 2015/16 grads earn this salary. This is up for both groups from last year: 56 percent of 2016 grads expected to make more than $35,000, but only 33 percent of 2014/15 grads did.

Despite these new grads’ optimism, however, underemployment continues to rise. According to the report, 54 percent of recent grads feeling they are in a job that doesn’t require their college degree; this is a steady increase of 13 percentage points over the past four years.

New Grads Want Human Interaction with Their Peers and Co-Workers

In the workplace, two-thirds of grads (66 percent) welcome the introduction of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their workplace, believing this will enhance their work experience. However, the report indicates that face-to-face is the still the preferred method of interacting with colleagues (42 percent) followed by web tools (21 percent), email (15 percent) and social media (10 percent).

“This new generation of graduates has grown up in a constant stream of new technologies,” said Katherine Lavelle, managing director, Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization, North America Lead. “For them, adapting to technology is less daunting than mastering the softer skills, such as communication, interpersonal skills and management.”

Nearly three-quarters of new grads (73 percent) have taken some number of digital, coding or computer science-related courses during their college degree. However, most feel they need to improve their problem solving (52 percent) and communications (50 percent) skills to be more attractive to their employer.

To learn more, check out the full report here.

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