Why aren’t graduates more satisfied with their jobs?

The paper on over-skilling also reports various forms of job satisfaction by qualification level. Counter-intuitively, though many people do a university degree to get a better job, they are less likely to score highly (9 or 10 on a 10 point scale) on most dimensions of job satisfaction than people with other qualifications.

Even on pay, where objectively graduates earn much more on average than people with other qualifications levels, graduates do not have the greatest levels of high satisfaction.



Are graduate jobs not so good after all? Or do graduates’ expectations increase in ways that the real world can rarely match? The options are not mutually exclusive, but I was reminded of Michael Dockery’s research showing that happiness decreases as people move from school/uni into the workforce. For people who are academically inclined, maybe many are never again so well matched with their circumstances as when they are studying.

8 Responses to “Why aren’t graduates more satisfied with their jobs?

  • 1
    June 16th, 2011 18:47

    When I speak to undergraduates, a very large percentage have entirely unrealistic aspirations about (a) what they are going to do; (b) how hard it will be to get there; and (c) how hard working is compared to how slack university is (every student that does work-experience for a year understands this, however). It would good to look at this function in terms of when they finished university, because perhaps reality kicks in somewhere. I also think it is unsurprising, because almost no-one working in high schools or univerisities ever tells them about reality — indeed, often they’re told quite the opposite about how smart they are etc. when it simply isn’t true.

  • 2
    June 16th, 2011 19:23

    When our first and second year students complain about how hard University is, I always tell them, that when they are working, they’ll look back at their Uni years as really easy. A common comment in first year is, “I worked really hard in VCE, I thought I could slack off a b it when I got to Uni.” I smile broadly at them and say Nope!

    Our fourth years who have come back from their year in industry, rarely if ever make this complaint.

  • 3
    June 16th, 2011 20:09

    People with degrees may be relatively unhappy, but they would be far unhappier should they get a job that requires only a high school education.

  • 4
    Rajat Sood
    June 16th, 2011 20:56

    I really enjoyed uni, especially eco honours, and found my first year of work pretty blah. But over time, work becomes more enjoyable – you become more useful and find areas that interest you. So while I can fully understand a couple of years of disillusionment, most people move on. I can’t understand the data if it relates to all graduates; it would make more sense if it related to only recent graduates, or people in their early to mid 20s.

  • 5
    Andrew Norton
    June 17th, 2011 04:43

    Rajat – The data is all male graduates, an omission in the post I have now corrected. My honours year was really good too; luckily I have never had a job I thought was ‘blah’ or worse.

  • 6
    June 17th, 2011 14:21

    First couple of years of work can be pretty dissatifying. Most people end up doing jobs that are a bit tedious since you need to learn some real world skills/information not university version of reality. I did a lot of tedious excel calculations and basic statistics. In the uni world you move onto new topics and skills often before you have time to master them. Not so in the working world where you often repeat the same processes over and over again for years.

    The other factor I think is that we all know one or two people who landed jobs that were an exact fit for their skills and personality who a two or three years in are making big bucks and getting treated well. Human envy has trouble realising that only one of our 10 comparitors is doing really well for themselves, most people trudge the grad route for a few years.

  • 7
    June 17th, 2011 14:23

    My second point really is that the peer group grads are comparing themselves to is likely to contain more talent at the top-end and that the reward scale for talent is non-linear.

  • 8
    June 19th, 2011 12:38

    ‘Cos they’re intelligent and they realise that most of the “work” that occurs in society is completely pointless.