Job-Seeking Students Nix Industries They Don’t Like

College students are more particular than ever when picking industries where they are willing to work.

According to my unscientific survey of communication students at five universities, soon-to-graduate job seekers have absolutely no interest in working in certain major industries, while others consistently rank high on their wish lists.

During recent visits to Penn State, Marquette, Indiana State, DePaul and Arizona State, I asked students to cite top-of-mind industries where they wouldn’t want to work. Not surprisingly, tobacco was the universal number one on their “never there” lists. When I asked grad students at DePaul why tobacco wasn’t immediately mentioned, one student said “Duh, that’s a given. Nobody would work there.”

Other industries receiving consistent negative reaction included pharmaceuticals, finance, banking, insurance, oil and legal. Three industries—agriculture, airlines and nonprofits—appeared on both pro and con lists. While free airline travel was appealing to some students, others admitted recent airline customer incidents colored their views of the overall industry. And the entire pharmaceutical industry takes a reputational hit from Millennials due to increasing alarm over opioid abuse and non-stop advertising about diseases not affecting them.

While a majority of students said they plan to begin their careers in agencies, most were picky about the types of clients they wanted to support. Not surprisingly, arts, entertainment and recreation opportunities ranked at the top of most lists. Technology-related opportunities were a close second, led by specific mention of Apple, Google and Amazon. This is consistent with Fortune Magazine’s latest list of the World’s Most Popular Companies:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon
  3. Alphabet (Google)
  4. Berkshire Hathaway
  5. Starbucks
  6. Walt Disney
  7. Microsoft
  8. Southwest Airlines
  9. FedEx
  10. JPMorgan Chase

My informal survey confirms graduates today want to work for companies that have a deeper purpose than simply making more money. One student currently working for a major corporation said her supervisor constantly talks about achieving financial goals that will maximize their potential year-end bonuses. The employee said she would prefer more vacation time, not a one-time bonus that might require several extra hours in the office each week. The employee said she hopes to move to a more purpose-driven organization after she pays off her student loans.

If, indeed, future demand for employees outstrips available talent, it is clear major industries must figure out how to achieve their bottom-line goals while attracting employees who expect both balance and purpose in their lives.  -RC

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