One step at a time: Modern graduates map own route to success

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Research from The Student Room reveals:

  • Graduates are committed to ‘booster’ jobs to pave way to preferred career
  • Graduates now expect multiple careers, changing both recruitment and retention thinking
  • Undergraduates are deciding on career routes before university, meaning recruiters need to target candidates from an earlier age
  • Young people’s own research and work experience is informing decisions more than recruitment ads, milkrounds or careers advisors, which recruiters need to embrace

Employers will need to change their graduate recruitment strategies as research reveals a new generation of university leavers are focused, ambitious and following long-term career paths.

And this trend is set to continue, as the next wave of graduates make their career decisions earlier still.

According to new research from The Student Room, the UK’s leading student social networking site, a majority (56 per cent) of working graduates deliberately chose their current job as it would provide a boost towards their preferred, long-term career.

Far from a stop gap role, they are taking it upon themselves to maximise their employability and get the most out of these so-called ‘booster’ jobs. Forty per cent are using their current role to hone their skills, 32 per cent to gain the experience they need for their chosen career and 21 per cent to get foot in the door to their ideal job.

Their sense of determination is reflected in the fact that eight out of 10 (83 per cent) graduates are clear that they will eventually work in their preferred career.

They are also prepared to take several steps to fulfil their long-term ambitions. Half of today’s university leavers (48 per cent) expect to have three or more careers during their working lives – and one in 20 (four per cent) more than five.

This means companies will need to change their thinking about recruitment and retention. Quality graduate entrants will no longer be 21-year-olds fresh from university, and may require may require a range of remuneration and benefits packages to remain in a job – especially if it is seen as only a stepping stone to another position.

This trend is set to continue. The Student Room research reveals that the next generation is taking it upon itself to give serious consideration to future careers, and at an even earlier age, making the traditional graduate milkround redundant.

42 percent of current undergraduates settled on a career choice before applying to university, with 67 per cent studying a degree that relates closely to their preferred job. Recruiters will therefore need to start targeting the brightest students before they even begin university if they are to reach the best graduate talent.

And young people are making their own minds up when choosing future careers. Two fifths (39 per cent) chose their career thanks to their own proactive research with one in seven (13 per cent) inspired by their own work experience – far outstripping the influence of parents (four per cent) or school careers services (four per cent).

In making their own minds up, what drives future graduates’ decisions will go beyond their monthly pay packet, with a career’s potential to be interesting (58 per cent) or rewarding (42 per cent) now bigger motivating factors than salary (27 per cent).

Consequently, university leavers are turning their backs on traditional graduate roles, such as banking and finance or the media, in favour of careers in healthcare (16 per cent), creative and cultural industries (11 per cent) and teaching (eight per cent).

Jamie O’Connell, marketing director at The Student Room, said: “Generation Y has been called the Peter Pan generation – well, Peter Pan has grown up. Grad recruiters need to be influencing the decisions of students pre-university as this is becoming the most important decision making period. The graduate jobs market is more competitive than any point in history. But the findings show that today’s students are more ambitious as ever, clear-sighted with a long-term view.

“They know where they want to be and will make calculated career choices from sixth form onwards that will get them there. They are conducting their own research to inform mature career decisions. They’re taking those decisions early, and are intent on seeing their ambitions through as graduates by choosing tactical work placements.

“All of which creates new challenges for recruiters looking to reach the best candidates. New graduate recruits could be aged from 21-31; they are likely to already be in the world of work; be progressing towards a clear career goal; and will pay little heed to conventional recruitment methods. New channels, such as social media, will become an important way in which recruiters can reach the brightest and most ambitious talent.”

Insight ( is The Student Room’s new website, giving recruiters and youth advertisers a deeper understanding of students’ and recent graduates’ attitudes, ambitions and decision making. Launched on Tuesday 30 March, it will include a graduate recruitment white paper featuring these findings in-depth, along with comment and analysis.

- Ends -

Notes to editors
Research was carried out online on The Student Room among 1,010 users in March 2010.

About The Student Room
Founded in 2002, The Student Room ( is the world’s largest student web community, with 26 million page views and 2.8 million unique users each month.

Members are predominantly young people aged 14-20+ who offer support and advice to each other via forums on subjects ranging from education and careers to health, music and relationships.

The Student Room works closely with several government departments and is the major advertising platform for higher education in the UK. It offers powerful ad targeting solutions for graduate recruiters and youth brands.

About Acumen PI
Acumen PI is the company behind the UK’s largest and fastest-growing student social network. With over 3.7 million Unique Visitors every month to its websites The Student Room and, more than doubling every year, its sites are a major resource for UK students.

Acumen PI was launched in 2002 to help fellow students share their academic and social knowledge and experiences. In 2006 Chris Newson purchased the company which has seen rapid growth year on year since.

The Student Room is the largest student website in the UK and its sister site Coursework.Info is the UK’s largest academic essay and coursework library.