January 13, 2016

Today’s Students Are Eying Careers in Finance and Tech – but Are Their Predictions Right?


A new survey from WikiJob, a job forum for students and recent grads, has found that many of today’s young workers think the finance and tech industries are their best bets for high-paying careers.

According to the survey, which polled more than 1000 college students and recent graduates, 39 percent of young workers believe that the banking and finance industry will pay the highest starting salaries a decade from now; 32 percent of the students and graduates polled predicted that IT/technology would have the highest starting salaries.

James Rice, head of digital marketing at WikiJob, is unsurprised by these results.

“I think finance and investment banking has been front of mind for ambitious graduates for a long time now,” Rice says. “The industry is known for paying high salaries and does much to promote the excitement of its graduate roles.”

Rice says that tech has only recently become a highly alluring industry in the eyes of young workers, but the “attraction of tech is here to stay.” The numbers support Rice’s opinion: Many of today’s MBA graduates are choosing to enter the tech industry; at some schools, more MBA graduates go into tech than into finance.

“Much of that has to do with the perception that tech firms are less stifling, more dynamic, and [more] creative,” Rice says. “Employees feel empowered and could make a lot of money if they get equity in a high-growth firm.”

Does Tech’s Popularity Spell Trouble for Finance?

The Wall Street Journal article linked to in a preceding paragraph points out that finance is “los[ing] its lustre.” While finance clings to its lead in WikiJob’s survey, there is a chance that tech could soon edge it out as the most popular industry in young workers’ eyes.

SatelliteIf finance organizations are going to continue attracting young workers at high rates, they’ll have to change up their messaging a bit, Rice says.

“Financial firms … need to do more to show that their work environments aren’t overly bureaucratic and hierarchical, as well as provide more evidence of better work/life balance than most people envisage,” Rice says.

That being said, it’s not time for tech companies to rest on their laurels just yet. Rice says he sees many tech companies “relying on their brand strength and exclusivity” to draw young workers to them. Accountancy, banking, and consulting firms do more active recruiting and outreach on college campuses than tech giants do. Unless the tech companies get more aggressive with regard to marketing to college students, the industry may never rise to become the No. 1 career for young workers.

Furthermore, while brand strength may be enough for major tech companies, it’s probably not enough for startups and other small tech ventures.

“Smaller tech firms could definitely benefit from increased campus engagement and candidate marketing … to sell the benefits of working in a tech environment, as not all graduates will be considering [that option],” Rice says.

How Much Faith Should We Put in These Predictions?

Before jumping to conclusions, we should remember that WikiJob’s survey asked students and graduates about which industries they think will offer the highest starting salaries ten years from now. The students’ predictions aren’t necessarily correct.

That being said, Rice believes the students’ and graduates’ responses do accurately reflect some important trends in talent markets.

“A look at the largest companies in the U.S. by market cap today shows the dominance of tech,” Rice says. “There’s little doubt that the tech firms are innovating faster than the banks. In reality, the investment banks and consultancy firms will probably owe much of their future revenues to servicing these new tech giants.”

Not in a Coveted Industry? Don’t Worry – You Can Still Attract Talent

Just because your organization isn’t in the tech or finance sectors, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on recruiting students and recent graduates. Campus branding opportunities and outreach efforts will likely be a major help to your organization, but that’s not all. According to Rice, “[C]ompanies that haven’t got much mind share with graduates have a range of options.”

“Getting interns or new recruits to blog about their experience at the firm is one option. Running email or brand campaigns with digital media that has an engaged graduate Trainaudience likely to be interested in their sector is another,” Rice says. “Perhaps also getting their alumni to return to their alma mater to talk to students about work [and] life in their industry and company and answer questions from potential new recruits.”

Tech and finance seem to have captured the imaginations of many young workers today, but organizations in all industries will need to tap into this talent pool if they want to succeed. Even if the odds are not in your favor, there’s a lot you can do to hook young workers.

Read more in Job Trends

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of Recruiter.com.