Who do SMU students hope to work for?

Written by Ho Yan Yan, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. This has spurred companies to make changes to their approaches to recruitment, and to up their game in order to attract and retain the right talent for their business success.

According to the latest CareerBuilder Singapore survey, the Ministry of Education is the employer-of-choice in the public sector while Google — no surprise there for anyone who has watched the movie The Internship — remains king in the private sector. However, I had doubts that the survey results reflected my own classmates’ preferred employers, so I set out to sample a group of 62 SMU students to get their impressions on this subject.

How do we do our research?

First, I found that SMU students make well-informed choices. Their topmost method of researching possible career options is through internships. 83% of my respondents have completed at least one internship, with 45% of this group having completed two or more internships. By the way, here are some tips on how you can be a Super Intern!

The second most popular method of research is to attend career recruitment talks. At SMU, we have frequent career recruitment talks, events, and networking sessions. Our Dato Kho Hui Meng Career Centre sends out emails almost daily to encourage students to sign up for one event or the other. By the time we’ve spent four years here, we’ll have had dozens of opportunities to learn about the industry that we hope to work in.

Which are our preferred industries and employers?

In the CareerBuilder survey, the top 5 industries chosen were airline/travel, banking & financial services, education/training, consulting and healthcare/biomedical. In contrast, the SMU students I surveyed ranked banking & financial services first, followed by consulting, FMCG, advertising, and airline/travel. This could be because my sample reflected the population size of SMU’s schools and thus comprised more accountancy and business students.

Within the banking & financial sector, the sampled students picked Goldman Sachs, Barclays, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch as their top choices to work for. Bain & Co. was selected for consulting and Unilever was the clear winner in FMCG, while those keen on the advertising industry had no preferred employer in mind. Rounding up this set of statistics was Singapore Airlines for the airline/travel industry.

What are our priorities?

These are some areas that our students found most desirable in an employer: a strong and attractive corporate culture, coupled with clear career progression plans for employees. Interestingly enough, “pay” was not the main determinant: it came in at 4th place! International work opportunities were rated as less important but also had the greatest variance, meaning that opinions were divided in this area — perhaps reflecting SMU students’ different takeaways from their global exposure opportunities.

The number 1 employers-of-choice (drumroll please) are Google and Unilever! EDB came in at number 8 overall, but was the top choice for the public sector. As I expected, the results of my survey were a little different from CareerBuilder’s: they reflect the strong business-focus of all SMU schools, and affirms our preference for the private sector.

To our future employers, despite what you may have heard about us millennials, I hope this survey helps to assure you that we’re not all that different from previous generations of new entrants to the workforce! We’re eager to start our careers in places where we can contribute meaningfully while growing our skills and capabilities.