Graduates with strong organisational and people skills are shying away from careers in New Economy startups, fearing they won't fit in with the stereotype of the dotcom staffer.
To work in a startup, or be a role model in the New Economy, you have to be a free-thinking extrovert with a flair for design. If, however, you're a people manager with good administrative skills, then a more traditional business is for you. At least, that's what many students have been led to believe.
Independent market research consultancy Market Tracking International surveyed 500 final-year students to compile the Graduate Recruitment in the New Economy study, which was commissioned by Hobsons, a publisher of student educational and recruitment guides.
Not one of the students surveyed said they looked up to UK internet 'heroes' such as Lastminute.com's Martha Lane Fox, or Mike Lynch, the founder of knowledge management specialist Autonomy and this year's Ernst & Young Technology and Communication Entrepreneur of the Year. Despite the media overkill, final-year undergraduates remain unimpressed.
The old ones are the best
Instead, it's the relative old timers who top the list of the most respected business people. Despite the lure of the dotcom goldmine, Sir Richard Branson is still the number one entrepreneurial role model of these undergraduates, with Microsoft's Bill Gates in second place and inventor James Dyson in third place.
The implications from a recruitment perspective are considerable, and have left doubts over whether dotcoms - seemingly the darlings of the graduate recruitment market a year ago - could end up fighting their bricks and mortar rivals in the battle for fresh talent.
The report urges dotcom recruiters to rethink their recruitment strategies because they may be failing to attract graduates with the traditional skills that are essential for business survival. At the same time, Old Economy businesses need to be careful not to lose creative, outgoing professionals seeking a more thrilling career path.
Richard Lloyd, director of IT recruitment specialist IntelliMark, said: "A year ago there was a perception of dotcoms as a funky, trendy environment for free-thinking techies. But I think some of the high-profile problems experienced by dotcoms have highlighted the need for them to employ individuals with strong business skills."
"A lot of dotcoms are re-appraising their recruitment strategies. There is a need for free-thinking characters. But there needs to be a balance, and you need people who, from the development, strategic and creative points of view, can deliver on business objectives," he added.
A spokeswoman from dotcom recruiter Boldly-go.com, said: "Dotcom employees tend to be encouraged to use their creative skills, but it doesn't mean you need a weird haircut. It just means your creativity is nurtured. There's still a need for strong administrative skills, but working in a dotcom can give you more flexibility."
The report also reveals that, despite admiring Branson, Gates and Dyson, today's undergraduates still don't plan to strike out too far on their own.
The wrong image
In fact, the survey seems to suggest that dotcoms have something of an image crisis on their hands. Despite the recent flurry of startup activity, dotcom careers appear to be losing their appeal. Nearly half of the students surveyed said they would prefer to work for blue chip companies which, they believe, provide more security and better training. Less than a quarter would consider starting up their own business.
Whatever industry they end up in, one thing's for sure: job satisfaction comes before financial considerations when graduates choose an employer. Some 40 per cent of students put career prospects first when job hunting, with a further 33 per cent influenced by an organisation's reputation. Only 26 per cent cited pay as a key incentive.
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