Career Planning

Understand your Student: What College Graduates Look for in Jobs

As college graduation approaches, parents could be in for a shock. The four years – or more – that your student worked to earn a fill-in-the-blank degree to secure a job in the same industry could likely result in a job entirely outside of what you – and even your student – expects.

Unverified reports warn Internet-roaming parents of statistics as high as 70 percent of college graduates who don’t go on to work in the field of their major. While this trend might alarm parents – especially those whose loyalty to their career and employer spans decades – it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Understanding the motives behind the possible trends will help you support and encourage your graduate.

Consider the following motivators for today’s college graduate in searching for a job:

Strong Brands

According to a recent Newsweek article, current college graduates are most interested in working for tech companies like Google and Apple and government agencies like the State Department and the FBI. These markets have reputations of being cutting-edge, successful and generally above reproach, unlike the lesser desired companies tarnished by financial industry misconduct, like Citigroup and Deutsche Bank. Graduates want to be a part of something they can be proud of.

Experience Over Security

Many members of the millennial generation value their 20s and 30s for the potential to travel, gain corporate experience, meet influential people and make a difference in their community or industry – whether this is done through traditional channels of a full-time job or as an entrepreneur or contractor. This contradicts the view that older generations had at this stage of life, to put down roots, establish a place within a company, start investing in retirement packages and secure a steady, dependable job.

Team Mentality

Today’s entry-level professional isn’t motivated by feeling like just another cog in the machine. Many new graduates will accept a job offer working with a team of like-minded colleagues toward a shared goal – even if it’s outside of their degree – over a hierarchal job in their degree that will require them to put in cubicle time to earn respect and recognition as a valuable contributor. Even when the former salary is less, for many, the benefits outweigh those of the latter.


Even if your student enters a career outside of his degree, that doesn’t mean his degree is lost. Many skills and experiences learned in one area of study transfer to others and can even make an applicant more attractive to potential employers.

A graduate with a mathematics degree, for example, might decide he wants a job with more human interaction and apply to work in restaurant management. But his degree will help in the financial side of business as well as in making the kitchen more efficient by calculating food and supplies purchased, man hours spent on various tasks and the most profitable hours and days of business.

A degree is more than a piece of paper or a title – it’s a collection of knowledge and a way of looking at the world and solving problems.

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