As a result of the pandemic, 62% of graduates completely changed the industry they intended to work in.
More than two-thirds of recent graduates felt ready to enter the workforce, but 24% were struggling to find entry-level employment.
Despite the increase in work-from-home jobs, more graduates would prefer to work in an office (37%) than work remotely (30%) or in a hybrid work environment (24%). Nine percent said they would take whatever job they could get.
Lest we forget, the college graduates of 2022 are no ordinary graduates. While most people look back on their college years with fond memories, college students graduating in 2022 spent half of their time attending class remotely — unable to experience many of the traditional experiences college life has to offer. They’re looking back at their college years under a cloud of COVID-19 shutdowns, restrictions, and isolation. As they move forward, however, Gen Zers do have a pretty healthy assortment of career choices. So what exactly are they going to do?
From expectations to applications and salary requirements, our team at Joblist surveyed 416 graduates in the class of 2022 about their impending work lives in the post-pandemic world. They answered questions about their levels of optimism and excitement towards their career paths, their strategies for landing a job, and what’s most important for them in a career. Then, we analyzed their responses and compared them against the very same questions asked of graduates a year ago. The study ultimately gauged how graduates feel and how those emotions and realities compare with graduates of yesteryear. Read on if you’re curious about how perceptions have changed for grads since last year.
The first section of our research asked this year’s grads to share how they feel about their college years and how they’re looking forward. We gauged optimism, preparation, and excitement for entering the “real world”.
The vast majority of 2022 graduates (83%) agreed that COVID-19 had ruined their college experience. That said, something incredibly interesting happened as our respondents began to look forward. They shared an overwhelming sense of optimism and excitement about their career paths (84%) and the job market (63%) — a substantial increase in positivity compared to the graduates featured in our 2021 survey. Perhaps this optimism can be taken as an indication that we are finally emerging on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 24% reported struggling to find entry-level employment, a significant decrease from last year’s 75%.
It also reflects the sheer excitement of moving forward and anticipating life after education — not to mention the very real plethora of quality job opportunities available amid the current labor shortage. With so many positions to fill, employers are competing against one another to offer enticing benefits and salary packages. The state of the current job market is much different than that of last year, and in 2021, continuing education may have felt like a safe, known space during a time of so many unknowns. It is especially notable that 54% of 2021 graduates wanted to continue their education, whereas only 42% of this year’s grads felt the same. Perhaps current job offers are just too enticing; still, education has also become more flexible for people to pursue remotely or on the side in lieu of full time.
Industries of Interest
The next part of our study asked grads about their overall perceptions of different industries, as well as how the pandemic impacted their career paths. COVID-19 did rattle graduates: 62% changed their desired post-grad industry as a direct result of the pandemic.
Interestingly, grads’ optimism was mostly centered on careers in the education and arts, entertainment, and recreation industries, which many graduates assumed offered the most career opportunities. Perhaps the increasing amount of social media and entertainment influencers has shown this year’s graduates that being an influencer can be a lucrative career path with lots of opportunities. By comparison, last year’s respondents most wanted to go into the fields of medicine and tech, which didn’t even make the top five for this year’s grads.
According to Forbes, the top 5 growing industries are healthcare, IT, supply chain management, financial management, and statistics. This indicates a disconnect between what is perceived by students entering the workforce and what is known through socioeconomic research. Even though the current job market is hot, more than half of respondents had to totally change their industries due to the pandemic — possibly to pursue a field that’s rapidly growing.
Plans to Secure a Job
There’s no denying that the job market is very strong right now. The next part of the study asked respondents to share what their top strategies were for landing a job, whether they had succeeded in lining one up already, and what regrets they had, if any.
61% of the graduates we surveyed said they have a job lined up after graduation, which is an increase from the 15.7% of respondents in 2021. This is indicative of the job market’s recovery from the pandemic. Though the majority of respondents had a job lined up, 95% had regrets about their job search process. One of the biggest regrets among those searching for work was that they hadn’t networked enough (52%). An equal number felt they had chosen the wrong major or hadn’t completed enough internships.
Certain strategies worked better than others. Even though networking is a great way to secure a job, fewer than a quarter listed using a connection as a strategy for finding one. Instead, the most popular recourse was to update one’s resume (39%) followed by monitoring job boards (34%). Interestingly, networking on social media was the third-best strategy for landing a job, showing the increasing impact that social media has on this generation and proving that it can be used for beneficial purposes.
Career Priorities for 2022 Graduates
Most graduates were looking to enter the world of work rather than continuing their education, and many already had a job waiting for them. The final section of our research looked at their specific expectations and priorities for these roles.
COVID-19 appears to have had a lasting impact on desired benefits, with the most important benefit for 2022 graduates being medical insurance. A majority wanted this more than paid time off or flexible scheduling, but they certainly didn’t want to continue social isolation. Instead, more graduates said they would prefer to work in an office setting (37%) than at home (30%), despite the recent trend for remote work. Some had no preference for their work environment, with just under 10% willing to take whatever they were offered.
When asked what they most wanted from their job, salary was still the top priority (66%) for the majority of graduates. This focus on earning a decent income may reflect concerns caused by the current climate’s increasing rent prices, inflation, and exploding real estate market. This may be why respondents prioritized salary over happiness by nearly 10%. Similar to last year’s graduates, gaining experience was the third most important aspect of a job at 50%.
Next Steps for the Workforce
Soon-to-be graduates seemed ready for life after college. The graduates we surveyed were largely optimistic and excited about their future, even with the shadow of COVID-19 hovering over their recent past, and they had good reason to feel this way. Most of them already had jobs or further education lined up, and the labor market is embracing them with open arms. Though many economists suggest growth in industries such as healthcare and IT, grads perceive the most opportunities to be in education and the arts. No matter the work environment or industry, they agree that salary is the most important aspect of a job description.
We collected responses from 416 soon-to-be college graduates (class of 2022) using Amazon MTurk and Prolific. There was a +/- 5% margin of error and a 95% confidence level.
The main limitation of this study is the reliance on self-report, which is faced with several issues such as, but not limited to, attribution, exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping. Data are solely representative of self-reported claims by college students. This survey ran in April of 2022.
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