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Students of all Ages are Really all Alike

By Harriet Alexander Higher Education Reporter
Sydney Morning Herald -
Published: January 22, 2008

UNIVERSITY students have similar expectations for their working lives regardless of their age and career stage, according to a survey that challenges the stereotype of generation Y employees as being fickle and demanding.

Graduates want further training, interesting work and flexible hours that allow them to balance their jobs and personal lives, regardless of whether they belong to generations X or Y or are baby boomers, according to the 2007 University And Beyond survey, said to be the largest poll of university students conducted in Australia.

Gen X usually refers to those born from 1965 until the mid 1970s. Gen Y were born from the late 1970s, and the baby boomers are generally seen as those born in the decade after World War II.

Students also prize superannuation and do not expect to change jobs as quickly as employers find they do, the survey found.

Graduate Careers Australia, a non-profit organisation with representatives from employers, universities and government, surveyed just under 32,000 students from 18 universities in questions designed to familiarise organisations with the views and expectations of their future workforce.

It revealed that many of the perceptions employers held about gen Y were myths, said Cindy Tilbrook, the executive director of Graduate Careers Australia.

All three generations agreed on the factors that were most important in their working lives.

But the youngest students were more interested in opportunities for advancement than the baby boomers, who placed more importance on making a contribution to society and working for an ethical company.

The study is a companion to an earlier survey of employers, Graduate Outlook 2007, which demonstrated that there were significant misconceptions among recruiters about the hopes and fears of their new staff.

While students ranked superannuation as the third most important non-cash benefit employers could offer, only 14 per cent of employers felt it would rate among the carrots they could hold out to recruits, believing they would be more likely to jump at a performance-related bonus.

Ms Tilbrook said further work would need to be done to determine whether the graduates did not realise superannuation was compulsory, or whether they wanted more super built into their packages. The survey also showed that generation Y students were not as confident as they appeared to employers.

Ms Tilbrook said: "Graduate recruiters are seeing that generation as being really confident when they come into interviews, saying they're aggressive and over-confident, whereas when we ask the students they're not feeling that confident at all, particularly when it's a job they really want."

What they want

What students rate as most important non-salary benefit:

1. Company-paid training opportunities

2. Rostered days off

3. Superannuation

What companies think students rate as most important:

1. Company-paid training opportunities

2. Performance-related bonus

3. Rostered days off

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