How do students feel about their future careers?

Jul 5, 2022 | Attraction & marketing

New research shows how students feel about their future careers and jobs.

Uptree, the professional network connecting young people and employers, recently published its 2022 Summer Student Survey. The survey features insights from students aged 16-21 and looks at how they are feeling about their futures.

The findings showcase how students are currently feeling about their future careers in a post-pandemic world, helping employers to better understand and support the younger generation.

Missing out on career development opportunities

When asked whether they felt they’d missed out on career development opportunities as a result of the pandemic, over 50% of students either strongly agreed or agreed that this was the case.

The pandemic has caused what some teachers within Uptree’s network are calling a ‘maturity gap’, with students significantly behind on learning about and understanding careers.

Uptree’s advice to employers is to have an active presence in schools, sharing information around their company and industry in an accessible way. If a company offers internships, degree apprenticeships or graduate roles, explain what routes students need to take to access these opportunities.

Changes in career ambitions

It’s important to acknowledge how career ambitions may have changed through the pandemic, with the pace of life giving everyone an opportunity to reflect.

Nearly half (44%) of students agree or strongly agree that they’ve experienced a change in career ambitions and 27% are unsure. For many, it’s hard to think critically and link their academic choices with their career aspirations. Students have fallen behind in the past two years, becoming isolated due to the pandemic and, therefore, are less likely to have received effective career guidance.

Covid-19 has changed perceptions of how we look to communicate, many students rely on the internet to source information and interact. Companies should look to take advantage of this, using avenues such as social media to engage students with their industry, offering bitesize information, tips, and advice.

Student confidence around their future

Students’ confidence in their futures has significantly dropped since the pandemic,

Forty per cent of students agree or strongly agree that they’re less confident about their future, whilst 31% are uncertain about how they feel. Our survey suggests that anxiety is at an all-time high in a post-pandemic society. Many students would benefit from support throughout recruitment processes as many feel uneasy about the future.

Uptree advises employers to prioritise student wellbeing and to champion their potential as they enter the workplace. Companies should make the effort to build connections with young people through a well-structured onboarding process, maintaining an accessible communication stream with those that request additional support. They should also ensure the onboarding process is inclusive and provides students with the tools and knowledge to enter the workplace comfortably.

Confidence with networking

Networking and interacting with employers is a huge part of a student’s career progression yet many are entering the workplace with limited experience, an issue that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic.

More than a third (37%) of students rated themselves somewhat confident, 16% slightly confident and 10% not at all confident with networking in a professional environment. Uptree encourages employers to look at how they’re engaging underrepresented groups that could have been disproportionately affected by the impact of the pandemic.

One student commented, “I feel excited, yet very nervous about the competitiveness and lack of insight opportunities.”

We advise companies to identify ways of alleviating anxieties for new starters. Hosting work experience events are a great way to ease students into your workplace, allowing them to experience a professional environment in a more informal way.

Applying for jobs

With job applications differing from company to company, many students are left confused and unsure of how to navigate the application process.

Our survey looked at job applications, with 38% of students finding application processes intimidating. Nearly half (46%) did not know what an assessment centre is and 44% felt too much pressure to attend. There’s a clear theme of unknown territory amongst students when it comes to assessment centres, leading to feelings of pressure and intimidation.

It’s important to try to put students’ minds at ease at the start of the application process. Look at your job descriptions to ensure they’re inclusive, for example not using gender specific language. If your company uses assessment centres, offering travel advice and providing an agenda beforehand can help students to feel more prepared. Uptree regularly works with employers and offers Application Masterclasses to support students through the process, giving them insight into what to expect.

Choosing one job over another

So what are students looking for when applying to a company? We asked them what would sway their decision from one role to another.

Three quarters (76%) stated flexible working, 40% selected a diverse workforce and 26% wanted the opportunity to meet other new starters. Students are valuing a hybrid working model more than ever post-pandemic, so it’s important to be open and clear about the company work structure and culture and ensure this is consistent across websites and social media.

Uptree urges employers to look at how they’re selecting students for positions.  Hiring for ‘culture addition’ over ‘culture fit’ can help bring fresh perspectives into the business.

Employers should also consider how they can connect their employees with students to showcase the range of pathways into their company, such as graduate and intern schemes as well as apprenticeships. A Q&A panel and an accessible email address can provide opportunities for students to ask questions and find out more about opportunities, which could be the difference between a student choosing one company over another.

Concluding tips

Students have experienced a loss of experience as a result of the pandemic. External pressures, not fully understanding application processes and workplace culture are raising anxieties when exploring their career options.

Here are some concluding tips from Uptree:

  • Wellbeing support cannot be overstated enough. Devote time to linking your existing initiatives to your pre and post application strategy, not just at the onboarding stage.
  • Communicate and start the conversation early This will mean better matched students from the outset, leading to fewer dropouts and a more diverse workforce in the long-run.
  • Human and authentic is best. Be responsive, create regular check-ins, and be mindful of different lived experiences and communicating equitably.
  • Support students with the impacts of the pandemic in mind. Address anxieties and show how your company supports its employees.

Read more student insights and data


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