Maybe millennials aren’t such a mystery anymore.
While graduates in both the US and UK feel more prepared than ever to take on professional duties many still find themselves unemployed or working in positions unrelated to their specialty in university, according to Accenture.
The consulting firm surveyed more than 2,000 new university graduates on both sides of the pond who were entering the job market. It found that 80% of US grads and 77%of UK students feel their education prepared them well for a career.
Practicality was uppermost in the minds of recent grads, too, with 80% analysing possible job prospects before choosing a major or subject to specialise in. But it remains unclear if the 2015 graduates will fare any better than those who graduated in 2013 and 2014. Just 64% in the US and 55% in the UK ended up finding jobs related to their degree in those years.
‘Culture over salary’
The research in both countries revealed that 2015 grads, more than those surveyed in previous years, consider organisational culture at least as important as salary and benefits, or the size of the company, when choosing jobs. About 60% said that they would prefer a company with a positive office culture but a smaller salary, over a company that pays more but is not as fun.
Only one-fifth of those surveyed in the UK showed interest in working for large firms, while one-third favoured medium-sized companies. That could become problematic, according to Accenture.
“The UK’s largest companies are in danger of losing bright graduates to smaller, nimbler enterprises,” said Accenture Strategy managing director Payal Vasudeva in the report. After salary and benefits, both UK and US grads said they valued interesting and challenging work the most, followed by factors such as opportunities for rapid advancement, flexible work hours and innovative work environment.
Expectations versus reality
Of course, it remains to be seen how quickly this bunch of new graduates will find work — but they might be a little over-
optimistic: 67% of 2015 grads in the US thought it would take them one-to-six months to secure full-time jobs, but only 45% of 2013 and 2014 grads managed to do that. What’s more, 49% of 2013 and 2014 graduates in the US and 60% of those in the UK say they are underemployed or working in positions that don’t require a university degree at all, according to the research.
Still, there are some positive signals on the job market in the US. The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) spring survey on job outlook for Class of 2015 graduates reported that employers expected to hire 9.6% more 2015 grads than they did 2014 graduates. At 18% of companies surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the US, compensation for new grads will increase this year.
And in the UK, employers in the public sector, accounting and professional services firms, banking finance, retailers and the military together planned to hire more than 1,200 additional graduates in 2015, compared to 2014, according to a study by High Fliers Research Ltd.
Editor's Note (17 August 2015): In light of news of Amazon.com's working conditions, BBC Capital is bringing back this piece from our archives. A look at companies that say shorter days make for much more productive workers, and those who say it simply doesn't work.