The Class of 2017: What They Expect from Their First Jobs

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The Class of 2017, including some of
the first Generation Z graduates to enter the workforce, expects higher
salaries than last year’s grads, according to recently released studies.

New graduates also said they most value opportunity for
growth when considering a new job and that they pay attention to compensation
and culture when researching employers.

This year’s graduates are most interested in jobs in
business (29 percent), communications (25 percent), and science and technology
(23 percent), according to the Class of 2017 Job Outlook Report published
by iCIMS, a talent acquisition software company based in Matawan, N.J. The
report was based on a survey conducted by Wakefield Research among 401 U.S.
college seniors and 401 recruiting professionals in March.

However, graduates may be willing to change their plans,
the survey results show. Regardless of what degree they graduate with, 81
percent of college seniors said they would be willing to accept a full-time job
in a field unrelated to their college major, and 82 percent of recruiters said
they frequently hire entry-level candidates whose college majors don’t directly
relate to the job position.

“Job seekers are increasingly interested in working
for companies with a mission that resonates with them, an attractive culture
and a workplace environment that they see themselves thriving in,” said
Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for iCIMS. “Having a connection to
the brand, paired with the reality that student loan debt is on the rise and
students are eager to begin paying them off, is driving young candidates to
seek employment opportunities in fields outside of their college major to get
their foot in the door.”

Employers, on the other hand, are looking for people they
believe have the right soft skills and attitude for their work environment, she
added. “It is easier to train someone to perform well in a job than it is
to train them to have the right attitude, passion and drive for it. To reduce
the risk of turnover, we have seen employers hire candidates with little to no
experience in a specific role but [who] embody the traits that align with their
core competencies.”

Salary Expectations

On average, 2017 college seniors expect to earn
approximately $53,483 at their first job after graduation, according to the
iCIMS study. More than half of those surveyed (54 percent) said they expect
$50,000 or more, a 12 percent increase from 2016.

There is a gender divide, however. Female graduates were
less confident in earning higher wages

than men, with only 49 percent of women expecting to earn
$50,000 or more, compared to 62 percent of men who expect to earn that wage.

“According to recruiters, on average, entry-level
employees can expect to earn approximately $45,361, with only 24 percent of
companies paying $50,000 or more,” Vitale said. “That’s more than
$8,000 less than what this year’s college seniors are expecting. The good news
is the salary approximations from recruiters are up more than $1,500 from
2016.”

But recently employed college grads appear to be satisfied
with their starting salaries, according to another survey of more
than 6,000 recent college graduates conducted in April by Chicago-based
staffing provider LaSalle Network. Over 8 in 10 recent grads (83 percent) said
they are making what they expected or more, the LaSalle survey results showed.

“We believe this is in part due to graduates doing more
research on compensation,” said Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of LaSalle
Network. He advised HR to use resources like Glassdoor or PayScale to determine
the compensation benchmark for open positions. “Even if the salary you
offer is lower or higher than the benchmark, at least you’re prepared going
into the conversation,” he said. “Regardless of their major, it’s
crucial to have honest and open salary conversations with candidates, find out
how they arrived at that number, and let them know what you can realistically
offer them today and down the line.”

Gimbel said employers should be prepared to face higher
salary expectations from recent graduates who have business or STEM (science,
technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees. According to the LaSalle
study, students who graduated with STEM and business degrees made up the
majority of respondents who expected starting salaries over $51,000.

Significant majorities of student respondents (97 percent)
and recruiters (88 percent) to the iCIMS survey agreed that STEM majors will
earn more than non-STEM majors for entry-level jobs. Students (87 percent) and
recruiters (88 percent) also agreed that STEM majors will have an easier time
finding a job after graduation than non-STEM majors. But while 61 percent of
recruiters said that they are most interested in hiring majors in STEM fields,
only 23 percent of college seniors surveyed are graduating with STEM degrees,
according to iCIMS.

“The increase in jobs requiring a STEM education,
whether that be in high school or postsecondary schools, is boosting the
overall salary figure,” Gimbel said. “There’s minimal wage growth
according to the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics.] But that [measure] takes
into account all geographies, and salaried and hourly jobs. College graduates
with a couple of internships and computer skills are driving up wages for all
recent college grads.”

2017 Grads Want Room to Grow, Work/Life Balance

Opportunity for growth is the top factor for candidates
when evaluating a job opening, chosen by 70 percent of respondents to the
LaSalle survey, followed by compensation (56 percent) and work/life balance (50
percent). “Recent college graduates are looking for earning potential and
to be compensated properly, but they also want work/life balance,” Gimbel
said. “They want opportunities for growth, but they may not want to put in
the hours to achieve that growth.”

He advised organizations to showcase the growth
opportunities they offer. “Whatever the path—additional projects, wider
scope of responsibility or managing a team—make sure you are able to speak to
it in interviews. Share stories of promotions from within and highlight
employees that have been at the company for a long period of time. You can even
share team goals and how they will be able to contribute.”

When asked what the most important factors were when
deciding what companies to apply to, survey participants said compensation was
No. 1 (69 percent), followed by culture (60 percent) and location (48 percent).

“Establishing your company’s culture is about
understanding your goals and creating the best environment to achieve
them,” Gimbel said. “Perks and culture are on opposite ends of the
spectrum. Authenticity is key. Don’t just focus on free food and happy hours.
Invest in employee development and training and encourage teams to learn and
grow together.”

Internships Are Becoming the Norm

Seventy percent of recruiters and college seniors in the
iCIMS survey said that internship experience is more valuable than a high
college GPA when applying for a job.

“In addition to making candidates more competitive in
the job market, internships can provide students with the chance to network,
learn new skills and gain real-world experience in the workplace,” Vitale
said. According to iCIMS, 28 percent of college seniors secured an internship
through a career fair or the career services center at their school, and another
33 percent landed an internship through a mentor or professor.

“Having an established partnership with nearby
colleges and technical schools can vastly expand your pool of qualified
applicants, provide opportunities for college recruiters and hiring managers to
network with potential interns or new hires to help fill open positions, and
will help to spread brand awareness,” Vitale said.

Additionally, if employers want to find the best qualified
interns, they need to be clear about what they are looking for when advertising
open internships, she said. “Some of the biggest mistakes that employers
make when developing job postings are using too many acronyms and buzzwords,
having more requirements than necessary, and focusing on the hard skills, rather
than soft skills and personality traits.”

LaSalle’s survey revealed that 85 percent of recent college
graduates had at least one internship, 30 percent had completed two and 15
percent had finished three.

iCIMS found that more employers are looking for an average
of three internships (35 percent) than two (30 percent) or one (28 percent).

Gimbel recommended employers look for candidates with at
least one internship, but if desirable candidates lack that, to ask for work or
volunteer experience. “These are other ways candidates could have learned
a strong work ethic and valuable soft skills such as teamwork, problem-solving
and strong communication that will help them adapt to the professional world
faster, even if they’ve never interned at a company.”

Here at Converge HR
Solutions, we specialize in all your recruiting and compensation needs. Whether
you are looking for your next candidate or wondering what to pay your next
candidate, we can help. Converge HR Solutions can help you hire your next top
employee. For more information, visit our website at https://convergehrsolutions.com/ or email us directly at info@convergehrsolutions.com or give us a call at 610-296-8550.

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