6 Crucial Insights For Success On Your Career Path

Alex de Vries

Nov 26, 2018

It is easy for students and graduates to undersell themselves when they step out into the workplace. After all, with little-to-no work experience, they may be anxious about asking for more.

That is precisely why we have compiled 6 key insights from the 2018 Student Pulse Survey will help you gauge your position amongst your peers.

The survey was completed by over 1,500 current students and recent graduates, outlining their expectations for entering the workforce. This included their ideas about graduate salaries in New Zealand, their expectations about degree and career pathways, and information about when and if to do an internship.

Why are the results from other students useful for you? Their answers – about what to expect with a starting salary, or how to make the biggest impact with your graduate applications - act as a metric against which you can measure your own expectations to determine whether they are reasonable or not.

So what can you learn?

1)    If you have changed your study pathway, you are not alone 

1 in 3 people change their majors over the course of their degree, while 1 in 4 change their degree.

This year’s Student Pulse results show that it is very common for students to have changed their majors or even their entire study programmes. This is an important thing to note – your interests are not fixed from the time you leave high school, and you must not be ashamed of changing your study path.

Quite often, students have a fixed idea of what they want to be and how they want to get there, yet as their study continues they realise more and more how unrealistic this goal might be.

We know that when you leave the microcosm of high school and enter the world of tertiary study, you find yourself confronted by a number of study options and job possibilities that never crossed your mind.

With all of this new information that University brings, you may be tempted to redesign your life plan. Our natural impulse when thrown into situations like University (with its wide range of options) is to begin seeking alternative opportunities. You should find comfort in the fact that you are not alone if you find yourself in this position, and realise there is no shame in changing course (and, of course, how do you really know if you are studying the right thing?).

2)    The majority of students are looking for internships

64% of students report that they have applied for an internship. So why are internships important for students? There is an obvious reason.

Internships are an excellent way to gain real-world work experience while completing your studies. Internships are usually paid opportunities that prepare you for the world of work. Internships generally serve to reconcile the theoretical learnings from university courses with meaningful practical applications.

That 64% of students apply for internships shows that the majority of students are hungry for real-world experience. This ensures that they are workplace ready and employable. And it isn’t surprising that students (such as yourself) understand that a lack of work experience renders one less employable, especially in a competitive job market. New Zealand’s graduate employment market is crowded – so it is obvious what the advantages of an internship are.

It is common for students to begin their job search in their second-to-last year of study, where students begin thinking about the possibilities beyond study. Employers are generally looking for people in their penultimate year of study for internships, ensuring that interns have at least a year’s worth of theoretical grounding before they are entrusted with workplace responsibilities.

Of those who pursued internships as part of their career pathway strategy, 71% of students who had internship experience said they found it “incredibly valuable”. This is a testament to how this type of experience not only improves employability - it also benefits students and encourages passion along their chosen line of study and work. 

And where are students finding internships? NxtStep was the preferred job site (woo!), followed by digital career services run through the university. If you have been actively searching for internship experiences, you are in the majority, with most of your peers in the same boat. And what does that mean when you get rejected from your dream internship? Apply, and apply again. Talk to your friends, your family, your growing professional network, and volunteer your time and experiences. 

3)    Students are increasingly engaging with employers on social media.

Social media is ubiquitous.

We are all on it in one form or another – including your future employer.  More and more, companies have been moving towards representation on social media to improve their profile, brand recognition and community management.

Social media is a great place to engage with these companies, particularly prospective employers. This is precisely what nearly half of respondents said they already do. These respondents highlighted LinkedIn and Facebook as the main social media platforms through which they follow and engage with employers.

Students even reported using social media to apply for jobs, citing LinkedIn as the most popular platform for job searches, increasing its lead over Facebook between 2017 and 2018.

Also interesting to note is the influence of Facebook morph. Facebook use is waning among young people, who are move away from the platform in favour of Instagram and Snapchat. LinkedIn, in contrast, reports a growing user base, particularly among university-educated people.

So why do you need to be following interesting employers on social media? Recruiters are only now catching onto the benefits of being present on social media – they can meet people, top employable talent, where they are. If you are using social media to engage with employers, you are currently in the minority – but this is likely to become the majority as more companies move towards social media for recruiting purposes. But if you are using social media to follow employers, you’ll be first to know about important news and developments, fresh products, or even brand overhauls. And this information – shared in a cover letter, or on an assessment day, will single you out as an informed, engaged candidate, who is excited to start work at this company. 

4)    Students are more selective with their applications than in previous years

1 in 3 students are clearly interested in employers’ corporate social and/or environmental policy.

3 in 4 students are interested in career progression pathway. 

The Student Pulse results show an interesting insight into student application behaviour. The “Spray and Walk Away” method of job seeking is waning. Instead, students are increasingly becoming more selective of the jobs that they apply for – and they are looking at a variety of key things in order to make their choice.

Why is this? Students are looking to see that the company fits with their values, rather than the other way around.

And what are the key indicators for students looking for an employer? Or rather, what should you be looking in an employer, to understand if they are a suitable fit for you?

These include a detailed job description, which on clear task descriptions, location, general company information, company culture and how they may progress within the company (or beyond the company).

Students are applying for less jobs in 2018 than in previous years. The main motivations for applying include how interesting the projects sound, what training and development opportunities are on offer, where they may end up working, whether they would fit into the company culture, and whether the company has a good reputation.

It is also important to note that 1 in 3 respondents were interested in employers’ corporate social and/or environmental policy. This shows clearly that younger generations are concerned about the ethical and cultural components of their future employers, and this serves the notion in today’s popular culture that reputation is gained (and lost) by association.

This shows a marked shift towards young people being consciously mindful of their personal brands and how particular aspects of the working world may come to shape other people’s perception of them and the opportunities they may or may not have access to in the future.

When choosing between two similar roles, students have outlined salary as the main factor in differentiating between these opportunities. This shows that students are conscious of their economic situation and are unwilling to undervalue their work. This is also interesting 

Ultimately, your peers are becoming more cautious and calculating in their approach to job-seeking. Spraying CVs around is out; carefully crafting applications is in. And what explains the shift? It may be that students are scrutinising company values more closely, or they changing how they value themselves, and what values they are attracted to.

How do you search and apply for jobs? What factors compel you to apply for one employer, versus another? It is worth thinking deeply about how and why you apply for the jobs you do. 

5)    Salary expectations are increasing over time

33% of survey respondents expect a starting salary of $45-50k in their first job after graduating. A further 35% of respondents expect at least $50k in their first graduate role.

When you are entering the workforce, it can be hard to know where you sit salary-wise. No one really tells you how much money you should expect to earn in a given role, particularly when you are short on experience. But that Student Pulse data shows the minimum salary expected after you graduate is growing. 

The above salary expectations show a marked increase - previous years of indicate salary expectations at in the $40-45k bracket. 

Why? The increasing expectation can perhaps be attributed to rising living costs in New Zealand, which has occurred rather dramatically over the past few years. This passes a very large responsibility onto employers who need to start meeting the needs of these students in order to ensure that they are not being undervalued for the work that they do. Furthermore, it goes to show that students value their tertiary education at or above a certain salary threshold, which employers again need to recognise. 

Salaries are always a contentious issue, particularly as the divide between public sector and private sector salaries is inconsistent, even when the work done is the same. 

What is undeniable, however, is that regardless of where students end up, they have a minimum expectation of at least $45-50k. Where two thirds of students believe that their education has prepared them for the world of work, even with a lack of work experience, this educational background qualifies them for this level of remuneration.

Lastly, if your salary expectation is below $45-50k, this data indicates you are in a minority, and are perhaps undervaluing your skills. 

6)    A majority of young people want to leave New Zealand within 5 years of graduating

55% of students plan to work overseas within 5 years of graduating

Why travel overseas for work? Gaining overseas experience (OE) is an important part of living and working in New Zealand – as indicated by the above statistic. Culturally, the OE is an important time for young people to gain international experience, new perspectives and great travel yarns. The OE is also a chance for you to translate travel into a brand new lifestyle, with new benefits.   

Our statistic, while just a small majority, shows that young New Zealanders are hungry for new experiences and new perspectives. There is a feeling among young people that international experience does well to serve one’s personal brand and improves the possible opportunities available upon returning to New Zealand. 

Traditionally the most attractive destination for New Zealanders has been London, but this answer becoming more diverse in recent years. Of the students who want to go overseas, 34% are looking to work in Australia, with the next most popular destination being the United Kingdom. This is perhaps due to cultural and linguistic proximity, yet there is a notable trend in the rise of Asian destinations, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, becoming more popular as well.

Understanding where students stand helps your own expectations about your career path.

Ultimately, knowing where your peers stand is a great way to be realistic about your expectations post-university. After all, deciding on a career pathway, a travel pathway, or a job application strategy in order to land a graduate position takes careful consideration. These insights show, broadly, what other students are thinking. This is vital information.

Every year these insights are updated as new generations show different trends in line with the economic, political and cultural changes that happen year on year. When the next Student Pulse Survey comes around, don’t miss your opportunity to have your say and see where you sit in terms of your peer group.

About the author

Alex de Vries

Alex is an aspiring musician, writer and artist.

He's spent longer than expected as a uni student, having finished his Bachelor of Arts in 2016 and now doing his Masters degree, graduating in 2018.

An Auckland native, Alex has plenty of great experiences to share about living and studying in our biggest city to share with everyone.

Post your comment

You cannot post comments until you have logged in.


No one has commented on this page yet.