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Many college grads seek work/life balance, flexibility in jobs

Here come the 2014 college graduates, flooding the highly competitive job market over the next several weeks and bringing their workplace expectations.

University of Florida graduate Stephanie Savage is one of the 11 percent nationwide who has successfully landed a full-time job. Yet, she notices an interesting trend with some of her friends who still are searching: "They're picky."

With their notably high debt from student loans, you would think new college graduates would jump at any job they could get. Instead, some of this year's crop are selective in their job searches, reluctant to be stuck in a cramped cubicle from 9-to-5 each day and looking to be wowed by the jobs they land, career experts say.

"The idea of not being in a job they love is stressful for them," says Christian Garcia, executive director of the Toppel Career Center at the University of Miami. Garcia said he has had students shy away from jobs in which they've heard the boss is difficult, the hours or commute long or the job "boring."

"They want to feel each opportunity is THE opportunity. Some can afford to be picky, but there are a lot of students who can't."

Savage, 21, who will work as a preschool teacher, sees the same thought process in her peers. "They realize the job market is horrible but they still say, 'I don't know if I want to work for someone like that' or 'I don't like the job requirements.' "

The pickiness is perplexing considering this is the sixth consecutive graduating class to enter the labor market during a period of profound weakness. However, the Class of 2014 is uniquely optimistic and expects to find positions in their chosen fields, according to an employment survey released this month by consulting firm Accenture. These graduates also are determined to find work/life balance in their jobs — or come up with ways to obtain it.

In fact, for the past few years, work/life balance has been the No. 1 career goal among students in the global surveys by Universum, which offers research and services worldwide to help employers attract talent. More than leadership opportunities, security or prestige, these college graduates seek balance. They want their jobs to reflect who they want to be and the lifestyle they want to live, one that might include training for a 5K or giving back to the community.

Fortunately for the 2014 grads, they are the first generation that can easily expect to find a telecommuting or remote job in their fields, according to FlexJobs.com, a website designed to help people find flexible work options. Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, said almost every flexible position on her website has entry position levels — and college graduates are applying for them. Many pay salaries equal to onsite positions.

"Telecommuting options are a natural fit," Fell says. "The younger generation is mobile by nature. They've grown up with technology and without having to do location-specific tasks."

In compiling the best remote jobs for college grads, FlexJobs says some of the jobs to consider are accountant or bookkeeper, online teacher, market research analyst, computer systems analyst, business consulting, data entry positions and customer service posts. "With flexible work, we're seeing a real broadening of types of opportunities available at all levels," Fell says.

Across the board, new graduates are fielding more job opportunities than last year or even last fall, college career counselors said. Some are taking jobs as independent contractors, trying to turn internships into paid positions, crowd sourcing for their startups and signing on to project work. Many are asking boldly in job interviews about work/life balance and favoring employers who paint an attractive, values-driven picture, Universum's research shows.

This creates potential for small businesses to snap up talented graduates, many with strong skills in technology and teamwork, says Mason Gates, director of business development at CSO Research. "Instead of fitting employees in boxes, smaller companies are opening themselves up to be flexible or virtual. They might get the best young employees if they are open-minded."

Gates, who works with universities' career centers, says that for new graduates, taking on debt to get the job scenario they seek doesn't scare them. "Their attitude is, 'I will borrow more to start a company if I want to.' They have a different view of their high level of debt. They can't even grasp it."

2014 college graduates

• Seventy-one percent of grads are leaving college with loans to pay off; the average size of that debt is $29,400, according to The Institute for College Access & Success.

• The average starting salary in the U.S. for new college graduates earning bachelor's degrees in the first quarter of 2014 rose 1.2 percent year over year, according to the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers' April 2014 "Salary Survey" report.

• Nationally, employers say they plan to hire 8.6 percent more Class of 2014 graduates than they hired from the Class of 2013, according to a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

• This year is expected to be a strong year for hiring nationwide, with 27 percent of employers planning to hire, according to the National Association for Business Economics.

• Only 11 percent of this year's graduates are leaving college with a job offer in hand. Meanwhile, almost half of graduates from 2012 and 2013 report they are underemployed and working in jobs that have nothing to do with their college degrees, according to an Accenture survey.

Many college grads seek work/life balance, flexibility in jobs 06/06/14 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2014 6:58pm]
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