December 08, 2000, 1:18 PM — IN A FEW WEEKS, college campuses will empty and thousands of fresh-faced new
graduates will leave academia and head into the work world. For those with degrees in
computer science, engineering, or other information technology-related field, a good
job with any number of companies is theirs for the asking. The question is, what will
win them over? Early feedback from some soon-to-graduated seniors suggests that
companies may be missing the mark when talking to young people about their futures in
One college senior, who asked not to be named, says that recruiters say anything to
get her to sign on with their companies.
"It's nice to be in demand. It's flattering to have these companies more or less
kowtowing at your feet to get you to accept their offer," says the student, a computer
science major at an East Coast university. "But at the same time, I feel like I'm just
fresh meat for businesses to chow on."
The pressure is understandable. With hundreds of thousands of IT jobs vacant in the
United States, attracting and retaining IT personnel is a top priority at most
companies. Without a supply of skilled workers, many companies would experience a
slowdown in their growth and could lose some competitive edge.
"For many companies, [college students are] the only part of the labor pool that's
growing," says Phil Gardner, director of research at Michigan State University Career
Services and Placement. "The labor pool that exists is tapped; we've got such a low
unemployment rate. [Companies are] really ganging up on anything new that's coming
in ... everything else is getting shifted around within the labor market because it's
For graduates, that makes for a job market in which companies are competing
aggressively to hire them. But picking a job after college is an important first step
in their careers, and few young people are going to be pressured into a job that isn't
exactly right for them.
Money isn't everything
Chief among graduating seniors' concerns is finding a good work environment: a
culture, co-workers, and dress code that suits them.
"It's all about where I feel most comfortable," says a student at University of
California, Berkeley. "If I'm going to be working my tail off for a company, I'd like
to be in a relaxed place and comfy clothes because it takes a little pressure off one
part of your life -- some people call it the 'fun factor.' Assuming co-workers are
decent people and the salary is competitive, I would choose the company where I feel
like I fit in. It's one of those things you just 'know' from the first on-site