Graduated and ready to fly in ... or is it not so easy after all? Are the post-covid period, high inflation and the turbulent global socio-economic context affecting how recent graduates experience their first steps in the job market?

Staffing specialist Walters People recently conducted research among young professionals with 1 to 3 years' experience, asking them about their experiences as juniors on the job market. 

First job 

About the search for their first job, starters have little negative to say. According to Walters People's recent survey, 73% of respondents found their first job within 3 months of graduation. As many as 47% even managed to sign a contract before they had effectively completed their degree.  

Parallel to these figures, 54% of respondents said that the search for their first job went smoothly and without any problems. In contrast, almost a quarter of young workers found that most of the jobs they applied for required a certain level of experience. 

"Despite increased caution among organisations, there is still a clear shortage of talent in various specialities - think accounting or financial profiles, for example," says Jens Spittael, Associate Director at Walters People. Employers recognise that young talent can help overcome this shortage, provided the necessary efforts are made in terms of training and development opportunities and a solid retention policy. Especially students who already gained relevant work experience during their studies through a student job have an advantage and a good chance of getting a concrete job offer even before graduation." 

Confidence in the future 

Young professionals appear to have a healthy dose of self-confidence: 78% feel that their education has adequately prepared them to step into the job market. They also see the future as bright. Of all respondents, 82% believe we are facing a favourable labour market in the next 12 months, with many to very many job opportunities. With this, young employees are a lot more optimistic than their senior colleagues: when we open the question to employees of all age categories, only 51% show the same positive view on the coming year. 

Jens: "We notice an interesting trend among the younger generation of employees in the way they make their job choices."

"Much more than previous generations, they emphasise job enjoyment, the social values of the organisation, as well as well-being and work-life balance." 

Beyond national borders 

In neighbouring France, we see a similar sentiment: there, 70% of young professionals see their professional future in a positive light. This feeling is reinforced by their education, which 73% believe has enabled them to enter the labour market with confidence. This confidence can also be explained by the fact that the majority (66%) found their first job before the end of their education or in the three months after. 

When we cross the channel and look at the UK figures, however, we see a different story. For half of recent graduates, the search for a first job takes at least six months. 72% of graduates surveyed in the UK believe that their degree does not offer an advantage in the job market and 45% say they did not learn the right skills during their education. "The difficulties that many students in the UK are currently experiencing are caused by a mix of factors: a drop in the number of job vacancies, salaries that are not commensurate with the cost of living and the availability of remote international talent are all issues that certainly play a role in the sentiment of young professionals - and which Belgian students are currently suffering significantly less from," Jens concludes.


Want to know more?

Explore our graduate survey to find out more.