Opportunity, security at top of graduates' job wish list

ON THE JOB

May 28, 2008|By HANAH CHO

What are recent college graduates looking for most in a job?

A flexible schedule? Opportunities for creativity and personal growth? High salary?

None of the above.

Instead, these 20-something workers are most interested in advancement opportunities and job security, at least according to research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The group surveyed 19,000 people from 370 schools nationwide. It asked them to rate 15 job attributes in terms of importance and then asked them to rank one attribute against another.

At the top of the list was opportunity for advancement, followed by job security and a good insurance package.

Attributes most often associated with young workers such as opportunity for self-expression, creativity and personal development were ranked in the middle of the list.

Others such as community involvement and diversity were near the bottom.

Edwin Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, says the top three attributes point to a desire by young workers to have financial security and longevity with an employer.

"What surprised me is the fact that these students are focused on security. That's counterintuitive, given their life situations," Koc says, noting he doesn't believe the recent gloomy economic news affected the survey's outcomes. "They've never really encountered a really tough job market. Even today, this year, the job market isn't as good as last year, but it's pretty good."

Companies are hiring 8 percent more new graduates than they did a year ago, according to a survey NACE conducted in February. That's half the increase companies had anticipated when they were surveyed in the fall.

The group also asked students to list their most-desired job benefits.

Instead of perks like flextime, company-sponsored social programs and telecommuting, graduates put medical insurance, annual salary increases and a 401(k) retirement plan respectively on their top-three list.

"The way the kids responded to these questions, what they were looking for is the protective environment of the big corporations of the 1950s," Koc says.

"Everything points to that: good, solid insurance packages, annual salary increases, job security and the opportunity to advance within the company."

Despite the talk about generational differences and attitudes, do we all in fact want the same things?

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On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com.

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