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Trends & Insights

What are 9 Million College Students Searching For?

Search terms rising in popularity on Handshake reveal how global trends are influencing students’ career exploration process.

At Handshake, we have the unique perspective of being able to see from the vantage point of an aggregate of 9 million students from more than 500 universities across the United States. In listening to their collective voice, we have learned a number of insights about what matters to this generation.

As part of our Annual Campus to Career Report, we explored keywords and search terms that have been on the rise on Handshake. We are finding compelling alignment between certain terms on the rise and corresponding current events, emphasizing that larger, global trends are playing a major role in shaping Gen-Z.

Let’s take a look at a few notable examples of search terms that saw a spike in frequency between May 2017 and May 2018:

‘Remote’ | Growth: 6x

College students today are the first truly global, digitally native generation. Thanks to the rise of new, collaborative office technologies like Slack and Google Docs, many jobs can easily be done from anywhere, anytime. Students are jumping on this trend and searching for internship and job opportunities that can be done from the comforts of their dorm room.

“For Gen Z, there is no such thing as an appointment. Every moment is prime for interaction, free of time zones. 91% say they have devices in bed, often toggling across five screens, always connected.” (Pew Research Center)

‘Work Study’ | Growth: 4x

A work study enables students to work part-time while attending school, and they are increasing in demand as tuitions rise. Handshake’s 2018 Student Insights Survey (full results coming out summer 2018), which investigates over 1,000 students across more than 300 Handshake Universities, revealed some interesting insights around students working while in school:

  • 61% of students are employed while attending school
  • 12% of students are employed full-time: 40 hours/week on top of classes
  • 32% of students are fully responsible for covering their own college costs
  • 78% of students are at least partially responsible for their college expenses

‘Startup’ | Growth: 3x

A testament to Gen-Z’s inclination to pursue untraditional, nonlinear, entrepreneurial career paths, the word ‘startup’ is at the tip of every college graduate’s tongue. Students are interested in a work culture that is more creative and less bureaucratic. They want to dig into work and climb quickly, wear many hats and explore a variety of roles — and a startup is a great place to do that.

‘Data Analysis’ | Growth: 3x

With data playing a large part in this generation’s lives — from music suggestions to a date for Friday night — students recognize its power and want to influence how it’s wielded. We took a look at the most popular job functions on Handshake by exploring where applications were going. Data and analytics roles topped the list — accounting for where 6% of all Handshake applications are going, across all industries.

Additionally, we’re seeing that in every industry, data roles fall within the top 5 most popular entry-level roles. Students recognize that companies and organizations rely on a data-driven approach more than ever to engage customers, forecast sales, and develop strategic approaches to company growth.

‘Politics’ | Growth: 2.5x

Are you surprised? Coming to age in a world of real-time breaking news and during the most controversial election in modern American history, students are primed to be politically active, or at least curious.

Gen-Z has also experienced an alarming rate of gun violence, first-hand — an extremely political topic. How much of an impact will the gun issue have on them as they age into the electorate?

“Experts who study voting behavior say it’s too early to predict how much this moment will define Generation Z, but they point to the fact that events that occur when we’re young tend to have an outsized impact on shaping our politics as we get older.” (NPR)

‘Mental Health’ | Growth: 2x

Public perception — and acceptance — has helped elevate the conversation around mental wellness. Support for those suffering from illnesses like anxiety and depression has been brought to the forefront in the workplace.

“Mental health is the next frontier of diversity & inclusion.” — Kelly Greenwood, CEO of Mind Share Partners

External factors such as volatility of the news cycle, the increase in gun violence, or the tremendous rise in the use of social media could also be contributing to the rising prevalence and curiosity around this topic.

“Seven in 10 said Instagram made them feel worse about body image and half of 14–24-year-olds reported Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety. Two-thirds said Facebook made cyberbullying worse.” (BBC)

‘Machine Learning (ML)’ | Growth: 2x

According to the Handshake’s 2018 Student Insights Survey, 58% of students believe that ML/AI is an important technological trend to take into account when making career path decisions for the next 3–4 years. Even more revealing, ML was seen as more important and relevant than all other technological trends mentioned, including virtual reality (VR), cryptocurrencies (such as bitcoin), and autonomous vehicles.

So what does this mean for employers today?

These search trends indicate that college students are exceedingly in tune with the world at large. As an employer, maybe you were considering offering remote work opportunities to your new grad hires? Maybe you’re wondering how to showcase your politically-active culture to this new class of movers and shakers? Handshake has deep insights that can help you understand and reach this new generation of the workforce.

Recruiting young talent has become increasingly competitive as students have more avenues to explore than ever before. Technology has given students immediate access to all employers and jobs on the market. In addition, it has enabled mobility amongst the young workforce, making the idea of moving across the country for a job possible, even exciting. Handshake is helping to tear down these traditional knowledge and geographic boundaries for employers and students, alike.

Reach out

Get in touch to learn more about how Handshake is helping employers reach students where they are — effectively and relevantly.

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