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What 2024 Grads Want in a New Job

The newest college graduates are hitting the job market. These 2024 grads are realistic about their prospects, and they’ll need to be: Hiring projections have fallen 5.8% from last year, according to a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Monster’s 2024 State of the Graduate report found that 2024 grads believe employers have the upper hand as they compete for fewer jobs. More than half (52%) assume they won’t be able to find a job at the company of their choice. But it’s still essential to put your best foot forward to attract top talent, and those prospects have expectations you might not expect. We scoured studies like Monster’s to uncover their top wish list items.  

Job Stability

Most 2024 grads value job stability above all other factors. According to a recent Handshake survey, 76% of new college graduates indicated that job stability would make them more likely to apply for a job. Over half worry about covering basic expenses, and at least 30% are concerned about paying down student loans.  This trend is consistent with findings from other studies, where job security remains a top concern, especially in an uncertain economic climate.

Location and Relocation

Handshake found that 75% of graduates emphasize location in their job search. In fact, about 46% of students graduating in May now consider their job’s location as the main factor in their decision. “This is up from last year when location didn’t make the top five reasons students took jobs,” Forbes’ Maria Gracia Santillana Linares reflects, adding that 79% said they’re willing to relocate, up from 71% in 2023. It’s great news for Austin-area employers.

While Austin has lost some momentum, it’s still considered a deeply desirable destination for young professionals. As CNBC points out, based on Gusto data, “New York’s average starting salary of $64,134 could feel like just $28,479 when adjusted for the Big Apple’s high cost of living… Alternatively, salaries in Austin, Texas, stretched the furthest in a comparison of the country’s major cities. There, the cost of living is 1% lower than the national average, and the average new grad earns $57,418.”

In-Person Work

We wonder if these findings relate to another revelation: Most 2024 grads want to work in person, in the office, with their coworkers. You heard that right. With so many other workers seeking remote positions and fighting to work from home, recent grads have a very different viewpoint. Most started their college years remotely due to the pandemic and fully understand the critical importance of face-to-face collaboration, at least part of the time. Many researchers noticed the shift with last year’s graduating class. In every study we’ve seen, less than one-third (and as few as 7%) prefer fully remote work.

Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

That being said, flexible work arrangements and work/life balance are also highly valued. While most 2024 grads want to be connected to the office, hybrid arrangements and flexible schedules are also important. Handshake found that 69% of 2024 grads are more likely to apply to a job that offers a flexible schedule. A profound worry is burnout, something that most experienced during their pandemic-era undergraduate years. An overwhelming 80% are concerned that burnout will be a factor once they start their new job. To counteract this, 66% will look for indications that work/life balance is vital to a potential employer. Roughly 63% will also seek defined perks like employer-provided mental health days.

Employer Reputation and Politics

Employer reputation is another critical factor, with 72% of 2024 grads likely to apply for a job based on the employer’s reputation. The work environment, including the political and cultural alignment of the company, is increasingly important.

Let’s take a deeper dive: Monster found that 67% of graduates said they wouldn’t work for a company that openly supports a political topic, issue, or candidate they do not. Another 70% said they won’t work for a company if their CEO openly supports a candidate they don’t support. Nearly two-thirds also said they aren’t comfortable working with those with different political beliefs. Take those stats as you will since employer reputation as it relates to politics is entirely subjective. Just something to remember as we enter another heated election season.

Skills and Professional Development

The classic disconnect between how prepared grads feel they are for the job market and how prepared employers think they are is also ever-present this year. But there’s good news: 2024 grads want to learn. Half say they’re more likely to apply to a company that provides employer-sponsored upskilling resources. They may also be able to teach you a thing or two. Many are already familiar with AI tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E, and half (64% of tech majors and 45% of non-tech majors) say they plan to develop new skills in light of the emergence of generative AI.

They also understand the importance of working hard. Handshake found that one-third spent their summers pursuing internships, 37% had part-time jobs, and 27% had full-time jobs. Almost one-third are prepared to do gig or freelance work on top of their full-time job if they need the extra income.

Overall, 2024 grads are entering the job market with specific expectations and preferences shaped by recent economic uncertainties and shifts in work culture. They prioritize stability, location, employer reputation, flexibility, financial security, and opportunities for professional growth. These factors are crucial for employers to consider in snagging the best of the best recent graduates.