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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 21. 5th September 1973

What Business Graduates Look For

page 24

What Business Graduates Look For

The influx of university graduales in commerce and administration into New Zealand business is steadily increasing. Whereas now about four per cent of managers on this country hold degrees, this figure will triple by 1980. By the turn of the century, a date well within the working life of most of today's 55,000 managers, it is likely that a clear majority of company executives will be graduates. The historical trend in New Zealand has been for the percentage of graduates employed as managers to closely about the same fraction of degree holders in the general population. There is now evidence, however, that management will gradually become mainly the domain of the university-educated businessman. While this tendency mirros overseas experience, it also raises important questions about the impact of graduates on New Zealand business.

Two common questions asked by managers about the B.C.A. graduate are (a) what does he know about business, and (b) what does he want in a job. These queries are especially relevant to the business administration major because the degree in this field is relatively new and also because it is still in the process of evolution. The first question can be briefly answered through a summary description of the programme at Victoria University of Wellington, where the Department of Business Administration offers the most comprehensive course to the largest number of students in New Zealand.

The programme at Victoria provides the student with a comprehensive background in the essential elements of business while stressing a decision-making orientation. Problem-solving, case studies, and practical exercises are extensively used to interweave theory with actual business situations. Each student studies the following subjects during the three year programme; administration, accountancy, economics, quantitative analysis, marketing (two courses), organisational behaviour (two courses), business research, production and operations management, personnel administration, management theory, and management planning and control. Most graduates fully recognise their limitations in practical experience, but they feel that they have a good conceptual grasp of business problems and are eager to put their decision-making skills into practice. It is with graduates who have competed this programme in mind that this article now turns to its main theme: what does a business administration graduate look for in a job.

Attitudes of Business Students Towards Jobs
Desirable jobs Jobs to be avoided
Salary based on effort (83%) Promotion based only on seniority (81%)
Opportunities for bonus (68%) Easy, unimaginative work (70%)
Competition within company open and encouraged(63% ) Emphasis on carrying out clearly defined company policies and rules (59%)
Salary based on performance (59%) Routine work with a high salary (56%)
Company involved in heavy competition (58%) Secure job with low pay (55%)
Job security less important than pay (56%) Close supervision by superiors (52%)
Good salary but risk of failure (53%) Routine work With high community respect (50%)
Automatic salary increases based on defined Standards of excellence (51%) Persons are discharged for failing to continually improve performance (48%)
Automatic salary increases based on seniority alone (47%)
Civil service (40%)

Note: Percentages indicate the number of students who expressed strong agreement with the statement.

General characteristics.

The university student has been widely publicised as being radical and seeking change. There is evidence that some students meet this description, but it does not apply to the typical business student. Research into business students at Victoria University shows them to be highly conservative, particularly in comparison to those studying arts and humanities. They are not as resistant to change as the average New Zealand manager, a act which [unclear: 'oubted-] ly contributes to the widespread belief among executives that all graduates are likely to be liberals. The level of conservatism among business students is potentially quite a valuable asset — they are resistant enough to change the value of objectives of their employing company, but flexible enough to seek innovative ways of achieving corporate goals. The business graduate also has a relatively high need for power, a characteristic which leads him to seek positions with the potential for influencing others and ultimately to exerting some control over them. Based on these psychological measures, it would be expected that the topic business graduate would look for a job that would provide scope for decision-making responsibility, authority to implement decisions, and recognition for accomplishments. A survey of final year students in business administration at Victoria University was conducted in order to test these assumption and to provide direct information on near-graduate's attitudes toward employment.


Graduates are known to be optimistic about their salary prospects, leading some observers to comment that new degree holders expect to be hired as managing director. The average third-year student at Victoria University in 1972 expected to receive an annual $4400 salary upon receiving a B.C.A. degree. The figures (considering only full-time students and not part-time students already employed in industry) ranged from $2000 to $ 11,000. Most students do not expect to receive a high starting salary as a matter of course —they want the opportunity to prove their value to the firm and to earn their money through effort and performance. As shown in Table 1, the most sought after jobs are those which link salary to individual output. Opportunities for earning a bonus are also seen as a positive incentive.

Competition and risk.

Companies known to be involved in heavy competition and which encourage open competition for excellence among staff members are held by business student to be desirable as employers. Jobs which offer a high salary, but which carry the risk of failure are also valued, an understandable attitude for young graduates whose family and financial responsibility are light enough to permit risk-taking early in a career. Job security is held to be less important than pay. A substantial number of students say that they would avoid companies whose policies require continual improvement in performance as a condition of employment. The inference is that if a person's performance is maintained at a high level, this should be adequate effort to provide an equitable return to the employer. Overall, business graduates prefer jobs which give challenge and they are apparently willing to tolerate a reasonable risk of failure if the rewards are substantial.

Work content.

One dominating factor emerges in the description of jobs to be avoided — routine work. Having studied for several years to learn how to solve problems and how to apply analytical tools to business decisions, the business graduate will be dissatisfied with employment that frustrate the need to fulfil this challenge. Even the prospect of a high salary does not motivate the graduate to choose easy, unimaginative work. Most routine jobs which are valuable to the community, such as civil service, do not appeal to the B.C.A. graduate in business administration. The opportunity for personal autonomy in decision-making is rated highly and jobs which feature purely administrative duties closely tied to company rules and regulations are rated as undesirable. Close supervision by superiors is also seen as a negative factor in a job.


Business students say that they will avoid jobs in which promotion is based only on seniority or in which there is an inflexible wage scale directly tied to length of service. They prefer employment conditions which stress performance and in which outstanding effort can be rewarded by early promotion.

It is well know that work attitudes change as one grows older and acquires more family responsibilities. The attitudes expressed d in this survey reflect only what is seen as desirable in the eyes of business students and do not necessarily predict actual job selection. Numerous factors are included in the choice of a job and quite often the decision hinges on relatively minor points. In the full employment conditions within New Zealand, however, there is wider possible selection for graduates than exists in most countries. For this reason, offers of routine work with minimum opportunity for decision-making may prompt business graduates to decline in favour of more challenging jobs with lower initial salaries. The most attractive jobs are those that provide a chance to put problem-solving skills into action and which He salary and promotion to actual performance.

These findings should please critics university business education who argue that graduates must not be accepted merely on the basis of their degree, but most prove that they can pay their way in the firm. In cossence, the business graduate is saying that he wants a job in which he can prove himself and he values most highly work which him the maximum opportunity to do so.