What graduates want: Values and job security are top priorities

While male and female Irish third level students have different work expectations, both sexes agree that job security, values and a friendly work environment are among their top priorities.

Workplace practices and ethical standards are among top career priorities for female students, while males seek high future salaries and career progression, according to new research from Irishjobs.ie’s Universum group.

The research, which was conducted among 10,043 students across business, IT, engineering, natural sciences, humanities, law, and health in Ireland, reveals that male students ranked high future earnings (1st), a clear path for advancement (4th), a competitive base salary (5th) and professional training and development (6th) amongst their top career preferences this year.

“Critically, this means integrating these values into the DNA of the business in a meaningful and authentic way, as opposed to just allowing them to merely live in an employee brochure”

In comparison, female students ranked secure employment (1st), ethical standards (4th), respect for employees (5th) and having an inspiring purpose (6th) in the same positions.

A friendly work environment ranked as one of the most common considerations for both cohorts, ranking in the top three employment preferences for both groups.

Importance of job security

Job security has also become one of the most important career attributes for students this year, following the fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both male and female students ranked ‘secure employment’ in their top three career preferences this year, marking an increase in rankings for both groups when compared to 2020.

According to the data, female students are more likely to consider job security as a career preference when compared to their male counterparts, ranking it as their top consideration this year [2021: 1st place vs 2020: 2nd place]. 

However, secure employment has evidently grown in importance for males also, entering their top three employment preferences for the first time this year [2021: 2nd vs 2020: 4th].

“Our robust research, which was conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic, shines a light on the evolving aspirations of the young talent in Ireland, a cohort that employers are keen to attract,” said Steve Ward, UK and Ireland business director for Universum.

“However, as the jobs market in Ireland begins to recover, it is becoming increasingly evident that the needs and desires of this talent pool have shifted.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the main considerations for students this year is job security, with both male and female students ranking this in their top three career attributes. 

“However, despite being united on the importance of secure employment in the current environment, there is an evident discrepancy between the motivations of male and female students overall.

According to the data, female students are drawn towards workplace culture and practices, while males tend to preference salary and career progression.

“For employers who are striving to improve the gender balance in their workforce, it is important that they understand the varying motivations of both cohorts,” Ward said.

“Furthermore, implementing a compelling employer brand requires thoughtful consideration and employers who are prepared to commit resources into understanding the nuances and values of the different demographics and reflecting these nuances in their company culture. Critically, this means integrating these values into the DNA of the business in a meaningful and authentic way, as opposed to just allowing them to merely live in an employee brochure.”


2021 Top Career Preferences Among Irish Students

  All students Female Male
1) High Future Earnings Secure Employment High future earnings
2) Secure Employment A friendly work environment Secure employment
3) A friendly work environment High future earnings A friendly work environment
4) Professional training and development Ethical standards Clear path for advancement
5) Clear path for advancement Respect for its people Competitive base salary
6) Encouraging work-life balance Inspiring purpose Professional training and development
7) Respect for its people Professional training and development Encouraging work-life balance
8) Ethical Standards Clear path for advancement Innovation
9) Inspiring purpose Encouraging work-life balance Respect for its people
10) Flexible working conditions Inspiring leadership Leaders who will support my development


By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 5 July 2021