- Credit Crunch Report

Author: Graeme Wright, Work Communications

How has the credit crunch affected graduate attitudes to employment?

Most students entering their final year of study will be experiencing their first recession, but how will this affect their attitudes towards careers?

To answer this question we undertook a survey amongst current undergraduates on the week beginning 27/10/2008.


The credit crunch seems to have had a significant impact on how students view careers.

Amongst the general student population several career options - most notable Investment Banking, Finance, Sales and Retail- seem particularly less attractive. In contrast R&D, Education, Consultancy and Law seem to be the beneficiaries of the credit crunch, while there is a clear positive trend in favour of public sector careers. These general trends do however mask some interesting variations: for example, if you consider the attitudes of those actively considering a career in Accountancy they see the credit crunch as making the profession more attractive, a marked contrast to the views of the student population as a whole.

In terms of how the crunch has impacted on what students look for in a career, there seems to be little change, with students still looking for careers that offer 'stimulating work' and 'exciting personal challenges'. The only sign of new attitudes is that 'work/life balance' has declined in relative importance compared to factors such as 'good basic pay', perhaps reflecting a new realism amongst the student population.


While this survey just gives a snapshot of the mood of the market, it does suggests recruiters could benefit from the following:

  • Conducting research at target universities to get a clear understanding of their current status as an employer
  • Adapting campus messaging to reflect changes in popularity and the weaknesses/strengths of competing sectors
  • For those suffering from an increase in negative perceptions, there may be an even stronger argument to maintenance a campus communication programme that can deal with any brand negativity (even if the company is not currently recruiting) as this is liable to 'fester' if left untreated.

The Survey

In total we had 500 responses from 80 universities. 93% of respondents were finalists and 80% anticipated getting a 1st or 2:1.

What are undergraduates looking for in a Career?

To answer this we asked people what they regarded as the most important element of a job. We then compared these answers with responses from previous years.

We found that despite the credit crunch the 3 most important elements of a job were still: 'stimulating work'; 'exciting personal challenges'; and 'a good working environment'. What does seem to have happened however is that reward factors such as 'Good basic pay' have jumped in importance to a point were they are now, for the first time, more important than factors traditionally associated with Generation Y such as 'work/life balance'.

How has the credit crunch affected opinions as regards careers in individual industries?

To answer this we asked students to answer the following questions: 'In light of the credit crunch do you think the following industries have become more or less appealing as career destinations'? People where given 3 options: more attractive, less attractive and no difference. The table below show the top and bottom 5 industries in terms of attitude change.

(Figures show net results)
More (+) or
less (-) attractive
Investment Banking-56.8
Central Government+14.9
Research & Development+22.2

Within these figures there is considerable variation if we look at the attitudes of people considering particular occupations. For example if we look at the views of those considering a career in Accountancy (these individuals may be considering a number of career options) we see that Accountancy is viewed far more positively than amongst the general student population with a +36% rating, compared with a negative rating of 21% amongst the student population as a whole. However this is not replicated with every career option, Investment Banking for example has become significantly less popular even amongst those considering it as a career option.