High expectations, low confidence: College seniors on the post-grad job hunt

For seniors about to graduate college with low confidence in the future and no job secured, there may be comfort in knowing you’re not the only one.
Quite the contrary, actually.
Of the 949 American college seniors surveyed by Quality Logo Products last month, 84% have no job locked down for post-graduation, while 69% are either somewhat or not-at-all confident about how prepared they are for their first job.
Other key findings from the survey include:
  • 68% of college seniors listed flexible hours as their top priority in a job.
  • 40% plan to begin their first job upon graduating.
  • 12% predict they will stay five or more years at their first job.
“I think ‘only 12% anticipate staying at their first job for five or more years’ is a very surprising statistic,” Sara Hornung, one of the lead researchers of the survey, told the Deseret News.
Unrealistic expectations

The world of work has changed considerably over the years.
“When I entered the workforce as a teacher in 2018, I was surrounded by teachers who were considered ‘veterans’ or ‘tenured’ and the cultural norm among educators was to pick one school and teach there until you retire,” Hornung said.
The up-and-coming culture of young professionals suggests “doing what makes you happy” and leaving your job if you are not, she said. “It shines a light at how young professionals are viewing their job experiences and what expectations they have as they enter the workforce.”
In the survey, 61% of students reported feeling it is important to have a positive work environment and to enjoy the work they do.
That doesn’t seem to be what’s happening, contrasting sharply with the picture painted by job search assistance website Zippia. As of 2023, its survey found that 61% of Americans want to leave their job. In that survey, only 20% are passionate about their current profession.
And expectations may not be realistic. The Quality Logo study said that “despite the national average starting salary for college graduates being $41,636, merely 18% of seniors expect to earn around that amount. Instead, 43% expect to earn a mid-level salary at the get-go of at least $60,000, with 1 in 5 seniors anticipating earning between $70,000 and $100,000 in their first job.”
The economy

Though many seniors believe they won’t stay at their first job past five years, 70% anticipate enjoying the occupation. But having a solid first job may be an opportunity that gradually becomes more rare and competitive in today’s economy. According to The Wall Street Journal, fresh college graduates are less likely to be hired in the country’s current economic state.
While companies used to make offers to graduates weeks after school began, the Journal reported college career offices said employers are now slow to approach graduating seniors.
CNBC News said earlier this year, “These young professionals will enter a job market that even the most seasoned experts can’t quite explain: prominent layoffs are in the news even as unemployment numbers remain historically low, and more than a year of recession warnings have yet to materialize while millions of jobs go unfilled.”
The Deseret News has previously reported on large companies experiencing massive employee layoffs, including Disney, Meta and Amazon. Reasons range from a decline in consumer demand to today’s overall unpredictable economy.

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