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The impact of work experience on subsequent career outcomes of New Zealand university graduates

The principal objective of this study was to ascertain whether career outcome differences exist between recent university graduates who have had differing types of work experience while completing their studies. Specifically, comparisons were made between graduates who had no work experience at all while studying (the ‘None’ group), those who had work experience unrelated to their degree (the ‘Unrelated’ group) and those who gained work experience that was related to what they were studying at university (the ‘Related’ group). Participants were drawn from alumni organisations and various websites including social media. Participants completed an online questionnaire which measured five distinct constructs: job satisfaction, career satisfaction, life satisfaction, affective organisational commitment and person organisation fit. Participants were also asked to report on their university and employment history, their current employment and their demographics. The final sample consisted of 130 participants, an overall response rate of 48.5%. Following a factor analysis, a series of one way ANOVA’s were conducted on the three groups and the above variables. The most notable finding was that graduates who had related work experience were more likely to have both applied for fewer jobs and started on a higher salary after entering the employment market than those who had no work experience at all. These graduates also felt significantly more prepared for employment, felt that their current employment was appropriate to their level of education and were more likely to report that the work experience they gained while studying was an important factor in successfully acquiring their first job as well as being useful in finding a ‘satisfying job’. These graduates were more likely to be employed full time and have a job requiring a qualification or some form of formal training than both those graduates who had unrelated work experience or no work experience. Finally, the results indicate that graduates who felt their current employment was appropriate to their level of education, regardless of the type of work experience they gained, were more likely to have higher scores on the five constructs. The results presented in this study revealed a number of significant differences between the three groups, thereby supporting the research rationale, and indicating that working while completing a university degree does have certain benefits for recent university graduates. This study has provided new evidence in an area lacking in research and becoming increasingly important as rising numbers of young people in New Zealand are achieving qualifications at universities. Students who did not work while at university had fewer opportunities available to them when entering the labour market. Therefore, the practical implications for future university graduates are far reaching as students can see, post graduation, the benefits for combining work and study. Longitudinal research into the relationship between student work experience and graduate career outcomes is recommended in order to examine the continued influence that work experience could have on areas such as wage raises and career progression. Investigation into employer’s thoughts and perceptions of university graduates with no, unrelated or related work experiences would be valuable to gauge exactly what employers look for when hiring university graduates, how they rate students who have no work experience in comparison to those who do and the extent that these differing work experiences could impact a job applicant’s employment possibilities.
Type of thesis
Tutbury, A. A. (2013). The impact of work experience on subsequent career outcomes of New Zealand university graduates (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7940
University of Waikato
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