How Workplace Expectations Change With Experience

While the job market is constantly changing and shifting to adapt to the economic climate and consumer and industry demands, the Class of 2013 may have a different perception of the working world than recent past grads.

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A survey conducted by management consulting company Accenture illustrates the differences between the expectations and the realities of the young working class, particularly when it comes to training, additional education and salary.

The company surveyed 1,010 students graduating from college in 2013 and entering the job market, and 1,005 participants who already graduated college in 2011 or 2012.

One commonality between both groups is their willingness to be open with their first job rather than waiting for the “perfect job,” says David Gartside, a managing director in Accenture’s Talent & Organization Practice.

“They came into this as sort of the golden generation with a set of expectations around how they’re going to [be] put to work, but at that time it had already been mismatched with how previous generations have worked,” he says.

“The Millenial generation is responding and they are responding by being more flexible, which going into this was a concern that they would not flex with the market and would actually put themselves into a worse situation.”

Here’s what experts say about the study’s findings and how recent grads can make workplace expectations more of a reality.


The survey shows that only 15% of 2013 grads expect to earn less than $25,000 a year, while one-third (32%) of 2011 and 2012 graduates who are employed report their current annual salary is $25,000 or less.

A lower salary often indicates underemployment, explains Gartside, as 41% of workers who graduated from college in the past two years say they are underemployed and working in jobs that do not require their college degrees.

“The real concern here that you’ve got 41% of those two classes not actually using their degrees and then a third of them are earning less than $25,000...because there are not enough graduate jobs and therefore people are taking up jobs below their education level,” he says.

On-the Job Training

Despite having degrees, nearly two-thirds (63%) of 2011/2012 grads say they will need more training in order to get their desired job.

But grads shouldn’t bank on employers providing the training, as more than three-quarters (77%) of 2013 college graduates expect their first employer to provide formal training but only 48% of 2011 and 2012 graduates surveyed say they received training in their first job after graduation.

Recent grads may be accustomed to the structure and resources of their university and hesitant to take the reins when it comes to getting the skills needed to master the position, says Mary Rigali, director of career services at Post University.

“When they start to work, they transfer the ‘responsibility’ of their success to the employer and assume the employer will fill the same role, guiding them to success as their parents and professors have.”

However, companies also have standards on how prepared candidates should be coming into their current position, says Gartside.

“They’ve moved their expectations to ‘we’ll find the right person who can be productive in the role they want, so we’re not budgeting to give them training,’” he says.  “Essentially the companies are saying, ‘look it’s your problem to get yourself ready for exactly what I need on day one,’ which also is an unrealistic expectation.”

The Need for a Graduate Degree

Out of 2011/2012 grads in the workforce, 42% expect they will need to pursue a graduate level degree to further their career while only 18% of 2013 college grads plan to continue their education.

While a higher degree can help grads earn credentials, getting real-world work experience under their belts can help broaden their perspective and create a better career trajectory rather than jumping back into education with abandon, say the experts.

Rigali explains that whether or not young workers decide to commit to a graduate degree program, they will need to be committed lifelong learners.

“The knowledge and skills they have today may not be what they need five years from now,” she says. “They will need to manage their skills to remain current and competitive.”

How to Create More Realistic Expectations

Staying engaged in industry forums, keeping up with corporate current events and demonstrating leadership and communication skills that employers are looking for can help grads find a good, professional fit for them.

It’s important for grads to understand a degree is not a guarantee of employment and instead be proactive in carving out their own career path, recognizing that achieving all of their goals will not accomplished overnight, says Becky Takeda-Tinker, president of Colorado State University-Global Campus.

“While you may not find yourself working your dream job right away, it can pay off to be entrepreneurial and see what opportunities there are in your organization for growth or to at least take on responsibilities that give you experience relevant to your career goals,” she says. “Keep in mind that careers are built over time and opportunities to advance must often be earned.”

When taking on any job that may be less than their ideal position, it’s important to treat it as an opportunity to showcase skills and behaviors to a future employer rather than just a way to pay the bills, says Gartside.

“As you engage more with the workplace, I think you are going to see also that people’s expectations are going to be better aligned with what’s out there in the marketplace because they spent the time engaging in this forum and they understand better what’s happening.”