Graduates unsure what awaits them in the world of work

Jun 10 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Students graduating from universities in Europe and the United States this year are optimistic about finding full-time jobs, but far from certain that their jobs will meet their expectations.

A survey by Accenture of recent or soon-to-be college and university graduates in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain found that six out of 10 respondents who are not working full-time said they anticipate beginning a full-time job within six months, with only one fifth believing it will take more than a year to find work.

Almost four out of 10 (39 per cent) of this year's graduates expect to travel before beginning full-time jobs, a significant fall on the figure (54 per cent) in the same survey last year.

Levels of confidence in the five countries surveyed closely mirror their economic circumstances.

Graduates in the United Kingdom are the most confident about finding a job, with almost seven out of 10 (69 per cent) confident they will find a job within six months. More than six out of 10 (61 per cent) of U.S. graduates feel the same.

In contrast, only just over (54 per cent) of respondents in Germany and Spain share the same confidence, while for French graduates, the figure is a mere four out of 10 (41 per cent).

Despite this overall optimism, only about a third (37 per cent) of all respondents are extremely or very confident that those jobs will meet their expectations.

Graduates in the United States and Germany are most optimistic, with around half (53 per cent and 47 per cent) saying they are "extremely confident" or "very confident" about finding jobs that meet their expectations.

Elsewhere, however, job expectations are much lower. Only 36 per cent of UK graduates, 27 per cent of French graduates and a mere 21 per cent of Spanish graduates are similarly confident about what awaits them in the world of work.

"While graduates are optimistic about getting jobs - and more downbeat about getting the right jobs - employers have a different concern," said Peter Cheese, managing partner of Accenture's Human Performance practice. "They are competing to get the best talent possible."

"Executives who clearly define roles and match new graduates' skills, aspirations and experience to those roles will succeed in attracting the right talent, and they will have more satisfied employees contributing at a higher level."

But graduates are unsure that their existing skills will help them find jobs. Fewer than a quarter (23 per cent) felt that the most important skills they can offer prospective employers are their people or communication abilities, while their confidence in other skills is also low.

While respondents in last year's survey said they looked for training above other factors at their prospective jobs, this year's respondents said they hope to find fair compensation.

Three-quarters of graduates in this year's survey cited fair compensation as the most important factor, compared with two-thirds last year. The change was particularly noticeable in Spain, where 95 per cent of respondents this year cited fair compensation as the most important factor - nearly double the figure for last year.

"Approachable and available management" and access to training were important factors for two-thirds of this year's graduates, while working for a company with ethical management was an issue for almost half.

But in France, fewer than a quarter (22 per cent) of respondents said that that would seek a company with ethical management - a massive fall on the 60 per cent last year and a figure which perhaps epitomises the depth of the countries economic woes.

"Graduates' focus on getting jobs as soon as possible and on obtaining fair compensation may reflect something of today's economic uncertainties," said Peter Cheese.

"But a company's leaders face broader issues and challenges when it comes to finding the right role for these graduates and ensuring that management is approachable and available.

"Managers at all levels of the organization will have to recognize the skills these graduates need to develop and provide the inspirational leadership they seek."