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Traditionally, when new graduates left the college scene and started looking for work, they would start with corporate positions. Working with a Fortune 500 company was the dream because this type of job provided excellent benefits, opportunities to climb the corporate ladder, and great retirement plans. Yet this is starting to change. Younger graduates, starting with Millennials, are not looking to join Corporate America with quite as much vigor as they once did. Here is a closer look at why this shift is happening and the alternatives to corporate jobs that young workers are looking for instead.

More Students Are Exploring Jobs Outside of Corporate America

Some new graduates are still heading to jobs in major corporations, but many are finding an alternative career path. For some, the goal is to find something more inspirational than simply chasing the corporate dollar. They may enroll in humanitarian positions that pay the bills, but also help them feel a sense of personal satisfaction for helping others, or they may simply embrace entrepreneurship.

In 2017, Accenture did a survey of graduates to determine where they wanted to work. The in-depth survey found a range of answers, but only 21% of new grads said they wanted to work for a large company. New graduates seemed to fear being lost in the shuffle if they joined a large company, and that fear kept them from pursuing those opportunities, even when benefits packages and other perks were good.

In the past three years, this trend hasn’t changed. Working in Corporate America is losing its appeal, and an increasing number of new grads are looking for jobs outside of Corporate America as a result. While these jobs are still available and appealing to some, others are finding fulfillment in smaller opportunities.

What Types of Jobs are Graduates Seeking?

If graduates are seeking jobs outside of Corporate American, what, exactly, are they looking for?

Non-Corproate Jobs Drawing New Grads

First, the job market is seeing a major shift toward jobs in the arts, design, and entertainment category. New graduates want to have the opportunity to show their creative sides. Among the occupations gaining interest from recent graduates, graphic design is the top role in this field, based on Other top arts and design careers new grads were seeking include:

  • Film and video editors
  • Arts teachers
  • Photographer
  • Writer and author

Working in the social work and counseling field is growing in popularity, and this is driving new grads away from Corporate America jobs, as well. Many graduates want to spend their time helping and supporting others rather than chasing corporate success. Some of the top-chosen careers in this area include:

  • Psychiatric technicians
  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors
  • Social workers

On the other hand, interest in some jobs is fading. From 2014 to 2018, these jobs lost their appeal for recent grads quite rapidly:

  • Radiation therapists
  • Statisticians
  • Speech-language pathologists
  • Dietitians and nutritionists
  • Foresters
  • Nuclear engineers
  • Economists

Companies Drawing New Graduates

Another way to look at this question is to look at the companies that are drawing the interest of new graduates. While some are still corporations, the job-seeking field is seeing a shift away from corporations ruling the day.

Every year, Universum reports its Most Attractive Employers rankings. These rankings show the top employers for new graduates based on their degree field. While many corporations, like Google and Amazon, still remain on the list, some surprising new additions hit in 2020.

For example, students who graduate with a humanities or liberal arts education valued roles with the United Nations or the FBI and CIA over roles with corporations like Google and the Walt Disney Company. Recent graduates with degrees in medicine were seeking work with humanitarian organizations, like Doctors without Borders and the American Cancer Society, rather than large corporate hospitals.

New Graduates Becoming Entrepreneurs

Another shift that has been happening over the past few years is a shift from working Corporate America jobs in favor of becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, 7 out of 10 young adult job seekers report the freedom of starting their own business would be worth more than the job security that comes from working for a corporation. Over half of new graduates say they are likely to start their own business in the future.

Why Are More Students Choosing Alternatives to Corporate Jobs?

So why is this shift happening? Why are Millennials and Generation Z graduates looking for something beyond the traditional corporate job? Here are some reasons:

Change in Focus

Today’s new graduates are finding that their personal and professional goals don’t align with the typical Corporate America job. They don’t enjoy “big business” and they are disenfranchised with the companies offering these types of jobs.

Desire for More Fulfilling Work

Second, new graduates are looking for jobs where they can work hard and see a good result. They don’t want to just get by, but rather they want to have a direct impact on the company, and soon after starting. They want to put all they can into their work and their companies. They want satisfaction for the results they achieve. This is just not possible, in their eyes, with a job in Corporate America.

Focus on Helping Others

Working for a corporation rarely has a humanitarian side. Today’s new graduates want to do more to help their communities and the people in them. In fact, 52% of the respondents in the Accenture survey said they would trade a high salary for work with a company that is committed to social impact or environmental responsibility. This desire to help others is why some of the top employers, like Doctors without Borders, are in the humanitarian world. These graduates are looking for more than just monetary rewards for their work. They want intrinsic rewards, as well. Serving the greater good is a high priority for these young adults.

Lack of Understanding from Employers

Finally, many new grads are looking for work outside of Corporate America because they have found that corporations do not understand them. Millennials are quick to be labeled as “lazy” because they want a better work-life balance, when in fact this generation is highly productive when their priorities are able to be aligned better. The disconnect between what Corporate America wants out of workers and what today’s workers want from employers is driving an increasing number of new graduates to alternative fields.

Desire for a More Positive Work Environment

In the Accenture survey, 59% of respondents said they would trade a higher salary for a more positive social atmosphere. New graduates want to work somewhere with a good work culture, and sometimes they can’t find that in a corporation.

Benefits of Non-Corporate America Jobs

So, what are some benefits that graduates can achieve by seeking work outside of Corporate America? Is it worth giving up greater benefits and potential pay for a job outside of these large companies? For many, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

First, employees are often able to achieve a better work-life balance. Smaller companies and start-ups have a greater personal interest in their team members, and as such they are more willing to work with their employees to help them achieve that work-life balance. The overall workplace culture tends to be more positive and less cutthroat, as well.

Second, non-corporate jobs give employees greater satisfaction in the work they do. They feel as though they have a unique, valuable role within the work environment. Rather than just being another number in the large company, they are personally responsible for the success of their organization. They work directly with the people they serve and help, and that brings a high level of satisfaction.

Finally, new graduates who seek jobs outside of Corporate America feel they have a better impact on society as a whole. Many of these smaller companies work in social sectors, and they are directly responsible for helping local communities succeed.

With these benefits, it’s not surprising that many 2020 graduates are seeking jobs outside of Corporate America. Millennials started this shift, and Generation Z appears to be following it. No matter their degree, seeking work outside of Corporate America is bringing big rewards.


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