London, London United Kingdom (PressExposure) November 21, 2008 -- When asked which factors were important when choosing an employer, most Oxbridge students cited four core factors as important: Work / Life Balance (74% of respondents), Ethical Business Practices at (72%), Variety of Work (72%) and Location (64%). Surprisingly for high achievers, early responsibility, rapid advancement and an entrepreneurial environment all rated very low on the list of priorities.
Top Employers Ltd, a recruitment media firm, today announced the release of a telling survey conducted to assess the career choice trends of Oxbridge students looking for UK graduate jobs.
It is that time of year again. As the graduate recruitment season begins, penultimate year students are thinking about what to do when they graduate and employers have started the gears turning on another recruitment campaign.
Over the course of the last year, over a thousand Oxbridge students provided their views on employment, career prospects, jobs sectors and what they were looking for in their careers. Many of the results were surprising.
When asked about the priorities that the students made when choosing graduate jobs, Top Employers Director, Sebastian Donovan responded:
"Well, I was surprised at the lack of importance placed on factors such as entrepreneurial environment and rapid advancement for high achievers. Even salary seemed to be a fair way down the priority list. The good news is that this seems to explode the myth that Oxbridge grads are all expecting to hop on the train to the City and sign up for the work hard, play hard bonus culture that has come under fire recently. They are far more interested in their day-to-day lifestyle and the company that they work for."
Controversially, more in line with the stereotype was the lack of importance placed on diversity. Two-thirds ranked diversity as less than important and over one-third would rather work in a traditionally Oxbridge environment. Furthermore, since respondents are often shy about this issue, the real figure is likely to be higher than this.
Seb Donovan, a Cambridge graduate himself, remembers the talk of the undergraduate canteen, known as of the "Buttery":
"We were divided into those who talked animatedly about careers and had a diligently planned road map, especially into Consulting and the City, and those like me who just thought that we had better pass our exams but otherwise didn't really give it a huge amount of thought."
Given those pinstriped stereotypes, it is perhaps a surprise to find that by far most popular careers sectors cited were Public Service and the Media. 17% of respondents listed each of these as sectors that they "wished to work in" whereas most other sectors received 8% or below. The good work / life balance, wide range of choices and stability of a Civil Service career, the ethical attraction of working for an NGO and the fashionable draw of the media industry all appear to sway more Oxbridge graduate applicants than any other sector out there.
Students may be clear about what type of career they wish to pursue, but the vast majority have little idea about which firms to apply to. A huge 84% of respondents knew which sector they aspired to work in by the end of their 2nd year but about two-thirds found it hard to differentiate between employers.
Top Employers conducted the survey to assist recruiters with their efforts to attract the nation's brightest. The firm specialises in producing publications and running websites which are read by the UK's top students. The company reports a massive 70% increase in advertising sales for 2008 and believes that the war for talent is intensifying. Seb Donovan explains:
"The difference to an employer when it hires a stellar performer, who really stands out from the crowd, can be enormous - but the firm must attract enough top quality applicants in the first place."
A credible job proposition is just one piece of the recruitment puzzle. Getting enough students to read about the opportunity is a major challenge. Whilst there are a dizzying number of employment options being juggled in the mind of the average student, investing the time to read about an employer's graduate scheme significantly increases the likelihood that the student will apply to the firm. Given that "long applications" were cited as one of the big three turn offs for Oxbridge students, being able to generate applications is a valuable advertising service.
In the turmoil of the continuing financial crisis, it is perhaps a good thing that today's Oxbridge graduates are not won over by bigger pay packets and corporate reputation. Business ethics, variety of work and a work-life balance are now top of the agenda.