Career plans after university: how the priorities of Ireland’s graduates have changed

departure board

Is travel still an ambition for new graduates?

The students who took part in the recent gradireland National Student Challenge were asked their opinions on a couple of career-related subject areas, and some interesting data came out of this survey.

1,379 students from 26 universities and ITs across Ireland answered our survey. When asked ‘What is most important to you in your first graduate job after leaving university?’ the results were as follows:

Progression: 49%
Work/life balance: 25%
Money: 13%
Travel: 6%
Prestige: 3%
Other: 4%

The overwhelming preference for progression and work/life balance over money and prestige is maybe not wholly unanticipated in the current era of recession, unemployment and career instability. Yet it shows how far the priorities of Ireland’s graduates have switched since the Celtic Tiger days. A similar survey taken in 2006 and published in 2007 in The Irish Times ran under the headline ‘Final-year students looking forward to life of milk and honey’  – which could hardly be more different!

Another question asked ‘What will you do after university?’ Responses to this were:

Find a graduate job: 44%
Further study: 30%
Find a temp job: 8%
Travel/time out: 6%
Don’t know: 6%
Start up business: 4%
Other: 2%

One of the interesting elements to come from our respondents’ answers to the two questions posed above is that only 6% have pre-determined to travel. As we all know, a large proportion of Irish students do travel on graduation, but this response again highlights the pragmatic approach Ireland’s students now have towards both debt and careers. The first priority seems either to get a graduate job, to increase employability or career prospects through further study, or simply to secure some income and work experience in a tough jobs market. Travel is always an option, but seemingly not the key priority for the current generation of Irish students.

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