Graduates naive about life in the career jungle

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GRADUATES are increasingly keen to "get a life" as well as "get on", but they are naive about the world of work, according to an organisational psychologist.

Degree holders will be committed to their employers but they are not interested in working long hours, says Doctor Jane Sturges of Birkbeck College, University of London.

Research by Doctor Sturges to be released today at the Institute of Personnel and Developments' Human Resource Development Week, suggests that they could be in for a shock.

"They want challenge and responsibility, but seem unaware of what really matters at work - knowing how to pick your way through the political minefield for example, and the fact that long hours are often perceived as necessary to get on. They just aren't ready for the office jungle. Reality is going to bite in a big way," Doctor Sturges said. Yet the psychologist feels that graduates' idealistic views may change once they have started work: "I feel that the majority of graduates are basically naive. There is a big gap between their expectations and the realities of working life."

Preliminary findings from her research shows that even before starting work, degree holders are determined not to sacrifice their lives for their careers. "They are very committed to the companies they are working with, but they don't want to work long hours. In fact, they are more likely to be appreciated for working hard than for working around the clock."

The study showed that the graduates were less interested in money or even promotion than being intellectually stimulated, given responsibility and working with people they like. The idea of a career remained very important. "They still want the traditional things graduates have always wanted, but they appeared to have absorbed the growing message that there is more to life than work."

Dr Sturges warns employers that they will need to manage the new generation of workers carefully. It was going to be a challenge for organisations to meet graduates' high expectations or risk them leaving, she said. Dr Sturges conducted the research among some 200 graduates one month before starting work with British Airways, BT, Lloyds, TSB and Nestle.

Elsewhere, an inquiry by the Prince's Trust has found widespread cynicism among young people about the Government's flagship New Deal programme. It says the target group for the scheme, 18- to 24-year-olds who have been out of work for six months, still needs to be convinced that the scheme will help them find work.

The study, conducted for the trust by the Employment Policy Institute, showed that although young people welcomed the scheme they were not sure it would offer them a full choice of "quality options" leading to sustained employment.

In areas of high deprivation and low job creation, youngsters were particularly cynical. More than 70 per cent said they wanted to be offered a job rather than be placed on any of the other three options, which involve membership of the Government's environment task force, work with a voluntary organisation or full-time education and training. The report revealed an "underlying hostility" to previous job-creation schemes, which would be barrier the new programme would have to overcome.

The views of young people in What Works? New Deal? were gathered in seven areas throughout the United Kingdom, five of which were piloting the new scheme.

John Philpott, director of the Employment Policy Institute said there was a clear desire among young people for "proper jobs with proper pay".

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