While earning a bit of cash over the summer never goes amiss, what students really value is work experience that challenges them and leaves them better equipped to land a permanent job when they leave college or university.
Money and the amount of fun they will have from part-time or vacation jobs are all important, but what counts most is dealing with challenges, getting on-the-job training or coaching and being able to take something away that will count on a CV or resume, the survey by recruitment website doctorjob.com found.
The poll of 1,271 British students and recent graduates made it very clear that work experience has become as necessary for graduates as getting a good degree.
Employers, it argued, could get the most out of work experience students by making sure they were given work that was challenging – so not just filing and making the tea – and which made the most of their talents and skills.
Students valued employers who provided good training and support and recognition for a job well done.
The findings echo studies carried out last year on both sides of the Atlantic.
Last August a study of employers by the University of Hertfordshire found almost half of employers ranked relevant work experience as one of the top three things they looked for from potential new recruits.
In fact work experience and a good work ethic were almost more important than what degree graduates had, employers stressed.
And in May last year, a U.S. study by jobs' website CareerExposure.com reported that more than nine out of 10 interns got offered a full-top job with the company they were working for following their internship.
The doctorjob.com survey found most students saw work experience as essential and were often willing to work for little or no pay because they saw the experience as its own reward.
Most found out about work experience opportunities by word of mouth. Therefore positive or negative feedback spread easily among students about whether particular employers did or did not deliver on work experience.
Most students felt their work experience (even when it had been unsatisfactory in some ways) had been a chance to gain key skills and therefore would be an essential tool to help them to find a graduate job.
Things such as improving processes or delivering great results on a project were far more memorable and important to most students than how much they had been paid for that particular job.
Chris Phillips of doctorjob.com publisher GTI said: "Providing good work experience is a real win-win situation.
"It benefits students who learn valuable skills and improve their CVs and it benefits employers who get a fast track to the best recruits. And, despite what people may think, money is not the major factor in students' minds," he added.