New grad survey: anxiety, desperation and salary woes revealed

COVID-19 has cast a longer shadow on the job market than anyone expected, and new grads are still feeling the pinch. Almost a year past their graduation, a surprising 45% of the class of 2020 are still looking for work, according to a survey of 1,000 recent and impending U.S. college graduates conducted by Monster. And this year’s class expects to spend five months searching for the right job.

That’s not the only interesting finding. Monster asked this emerging Gen Z workforce about their expectations for entry-level jobs, salaries, gig work and job fit. Here’s where they stand:

Covid has set them back

Graduating from college is a hopeful time of life, but recent and impending grads are feeling the COVID slowdown. Not only is nearly half of last year’s class still looking for work, but 85% of new grads say their career goals have been set back by a month or more, and 29% expect a delay of over six months. Another 66% of grads are not very optimistic that they’ll get a job that fits their career goals.

In fact, desperation drove about three-quarters of grads (73%) and 63% of non-college Gen Zers to take a job that didn’t fit their career goals. Why the desperation? Money and experience topped the list:

Why take a job that didn’t fit your career goals?GradsNon-college
Needed money45%39%
Needed experience25%16%
Pay off student loans20%NA
Sick of searching16%14%
Parental pressure14%13%
Afraid they’d get no other offers14%14%

Grads—especially POC—are feeling pessimistic about salary potential

It’s not just lost time: College grads expect to be paying for the COVID-19 pandemic. A surprising 69% of recent and impending grads expect lower salaries as a result of COVID-19.

And the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on communities of color. More than three in four grads of color (77%) expect a lower starting salary as the result of COVID-19, significantly more than the 65% of their white peers who say the same. The gap is even starker among Hispanic grads (85%) to non-Hispanic grads (66%).

They’re worried about their resumes

With millions still unemployed, it’s a tough time to be a job seeker. And Gen Z has some concerns about putting their best foot forward: Sixty-three percent of college grads and 52% of non-college Gen Zers worry that their resumes don’t accurately represent what they bring to the table.

Grads of color (70%) are more likely than white grads (61%) to have these resume worries. Nearly three in four Hispanic grads (73%) say the same, compared to 62% of non-Hispanic grads.

More than two-thirds (68%) of college grads also believe employers will judge COVID-related resume gaps. Interestingly, 38% of employers say resume gaps aren’t the red flags they were before COVID-19, according to Monster’s Future of Work report. Despite a glut of job seekers, employers are still working to find qualified candidates with the right skills, and many more people have resume gaps now due to the pandemic.

On a positive note, Gen Z feels prepared: 79% of grads feel their degree is equal to or more valuable than real job experience. (But both non-college and college seekers know that training is the path to their company of choice.)

They have first-job fears

Gone are the days when college grads expected to start at the very bottom of the ladder. About seven out of 10 Gen Z grads say they’re overqualified for entry-level work. And 68% of graduates and 66% of non-college Gen Zers say entry-level work should last less than six months, before either getting promoted or moving to a different job.

(Conversely, 39% of recruiters say finding candidates with the right skills will be .)

Another 85% worry they’ll miss out on positive job experiences because they started work during the pandemic. When asked what they’ll miss most, they point to:

  • In-person coworker connection (40%)
  • On-site perks (36%)
  • Mentorship (34%)
  • An office setting (33%)

They’re flexible about how they find work

Job hunting doesn’t have to be the formal, buttoned-up affair it used to be. In fact, both grads (68%) and non-college Gen Zers (60%) would do an entire job search and interview by text, the survey found.

They’re also willing to go to the job, if the job doesn’t want to come to them. The majority of grad (72%) and non-college Gen Zers (58%) would relocate for a job if the search took too long.

They’re keeping their options open

Gig work is here to stay, and both college and non-college grads are into it. Nearly a third (30%) of college grads intend to take on gig, freelance or temp work until they get a full-time job—and 23% intend to keep at it even after finding a full-time job. Similar numbers of non-college grads (26%) plan to freelance until they find full-time work, and 24% will keep freelancing after that.

Refine your new grad hiring strategy

Dig into the details of Monster’s latest survey and get strategies for landing talented new grads. Download our free new grad hiring guide to learn more.