Study shows pay is less important to this generation

By Sara Hanson

When choosing a career path, money doesn’t always buy happiness.

According to a survey released by RSM Richter–one of Canada’s largest independent accounting firms–high salaries are less of a career draw for those entering the workforce today compared with a generation ago. The survey was conducted for the firm by Decima Research to find out if the factors involved in choosing a career path have changed over the years, explained RSM Richter human resources manager Lisa Fusina.

“We do a lot of recruiting from the university level and it was apparent that we needed to target our recruiting approach to our prime market for candidates,” said Fusina. “We really wanted to make sure that we knew what it is [graduates] are looking for in starting out their career. [We wanted to see] if any changes have happened over the last few generations and if we were aware of what they are looking for now, then we could appeal to their needs.”

The survey asked a random sample of Canadians under 30 and over 40 across a variety of industries to rank what the most important factors were for them as university graduates entering the workforce. Of the 259 under-30 year-olds surveyed, only 16 per cent ranked high monetary compensation as the most important factor when looking for a career, compared to 25 per cent of the 724 under-40 year-olds. However, Fusina noted RSM was not too surprised by the results.

“Intuitively [the results] were not a surprise because the economy is different today,” said Fusina. “Being more white-collared type workers, younger generations know that money will come in time. Perhaps they are not looking for it right at the start and they realize that other factors like career growth and potential will bring money down the line.”

Last spring, the University of Calgary received a survey from the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers which trying to understand what is important to Canadian undergraduates when looking for a career. The survey received 16,077 responses, 1,807 of which were from the U of C, explained career services director Voula Cocolakis.

“It’s neat to see where we sit on a national perspective and what’s important to our students,” said Cocolakis. “We want to know where our students’ heads are at.”

CACEE’s survey indicated the number-one career goal for all students surveyed across Canada was to balance their career with their personal life. The top three preferred industries for U of C students were academic research, healthcare and education/teaching, and students across Canada all chose annual base salary over health insurance and paid holidays for the number-one compensation factor when choosing a career.

Cocolakis noted this information is not only important for students making career choices, but also for prospective employers.

“We want to recruit here on campus,” she said. “If [a company is looking] to develop a meaningful work environment [for graduates], they need to know what it’s going to take to make them stay there.”

In the RMS survey, both generations ranked career growth and professional development as the most important factor when choosing a career. While Fusina agreed about the importance of development opportunities within a career, she was surprised that direct access to senior management–something she sees as a key to career growth–was not rated as an important factor.

“There was no generational difference, but it was surprising to us,” she said. “We believe that access to senior management and learning directly from them would be a great way to develop your professional attitudes.”

Cocolakis acknowledged the importance of a career’s salary for young graduates; however, she also stressed money is not the primary concern anymore.

“You don’t want to start a job where you are being ripped off,” she said. “Most companies are competitive, because they realize they have to be. [Salary] is an important factor, but it is not the deciding factor. Work-life balance is also very important to this generation, which is a big switch from previous generations.”

Career Services assists students with resumes, interviewing skills and job searches. They also host six job fairs throughout the year, which provide an opportunity for students to interact emp- loyers from different industries.

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