Job choices grow

Kane Loukas

Job hunting, long a rite of passage into the business world, has recently been replaced by job shopping, a less painful equivalent.
Even with an economic malaise creeping over the globe, the U.S. job market remains as strong as ever, and business and technology students in particular have their fair share of employers from which to pick.
Choosing the perfect job and the compensation packages that accompany it, however, is proving to be uncharted territory for students. Many fail to think far enough into the future when choosing a job and most presume today’s job market to be the standard, not the exception.
The culture of the American job market has changed in the last 20 years. Gone are the days of the loyal corporate veteran who sticks with a firm from college graduation to retirement. Missing in equal measure are the college graduates who choose jobs with the long haul in mind. Instead, America is a culture of free agents playing “The Price is Right,” where short-term salary gains sway job decisions.
Such decision-making is obviously frowned upon by companies because it costs them money.
This year, 30 percent of American companies reported employee turnover rates of 20 percent per year or more, according to Manchester Inc., a California consulting firm. A 20 percent turnover means that a company of 1,000 employees rotates 200 staff per year, all of which have to be recruited and retrained.
Steve Nelson is a future contributor to the turnover rate. The Carlson School of Management senior is weighing a job offer from Ernst & Young, one of the big five U.S. accounting firms. Yet even before committing to the company, he’s not planning to stay long, despite a starting salary of about $35,000.
“I’m thinking of it more as a first stage,” said Nelson. “The big five are not very highly paid. The reason people go into public accounting is for the exposure,” to opportunities and executives at other companies.
With fatter paychecks on the horizon, employees aren’t all that concerned about the companies they’re leaving behind. But at least a few experts suggest that current employees and graduates should realize that it isn’t just a job they leave when they play professional leapfrog: Often times, it can cost them tens of thousands in lost benefits.
Decker & Associates, a Texas consulting company, conducted a workshop on campus last week about the evaluation of job offers and the most expedient way to reach financial independence — the point at which a professional can retire and maintain a constant quality of living through retirement.
The workshop concentrated on understanding benefit packages, a subject to which 82 percent of college students pleaded ignorance in a Decker survey.
“Believe it or not, most people don’t choose their job thinking about being financially independent,” said Jennifer Perez, a Decker consultant. Basically, graduates are just looking at the immediate short-term salary and not looking toward the future, she said.
Chris Gondek, another Decker Consultant, advises graduates like Nelson to take special care if they foresee a job change within five years: “If you leave a company, when you see how benefits accumulate, you may be leaving a lot on the table.”
However, the mere existence of an environment where the average student has multiple job offers, all of which have competitive pay, isn’t something that can last indefinitely. The tight employment market is a fairly recent development and the expected product of an expanding economy.
When the economy inevitably slows, the liberal arts students who Lisa Stotlar advises on job choices might get by better than others.
The adaptability of liberal arts students makes them successful in the job market, said Stotlar, the associate director of the University’s Office of Special Learning Opportunities.
“A liberal arts education is fitting for the marketplace where people move around more,” said Stotlar. Such students are more equipped to market themselves like entrepreneurs.
Clearly, job shoppers currently have to market themselves less and pay more attention to what the companies are offering. Yet when the economy heads earthward, workshops on selecting one employer from a handful will become scarce and students will again have to hunt for jobs.