Early talent career influences in the AI age

How students and graduates are navigating

a shifting work and technology landscape

Key trends

Our research shows four primary trends for how students and graduates are navigating a shifting work and technological landscape.

Access to careers support is not easy for some, especially those from a lower socio-economic background

Less than 1 in 3 students and recent graduates say they’ve received support to identify career paths aligned with their strengths, and only 1 in 5 on building a professional network. Those from a lower socio-economic background report lower likelihoods of receiving information and advice.

Digital career resources are critical, but careers professionals and teachers are the most trusted

Today's students and recent graduates are tapping into a diverse blend of digital and in-person networks for career support, with black early talent more likely to rely on digital sources when looking for valuable information and advice on how to be successful in the application process. While social media career content from TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram is used by one in four, more established sources like university careers professionals, teachers, and lecturers remain the most trusted.

Flexibility, work-life balance and reviews are just as important as salary

Half of the early talent surveyed say that the availability of flexible working options is important when deciding to apply for a job, and work life balance is also important for retention. The majority of candidates would also choose not to apply for roles because of negative reviews from employees, but for nearly half of candidates a friendly and relatable team will make them more likely to accept an offer.

The rapid emergence of generative AI is sparking action but there is hesitation

Almost all are aware of generative AI, with the majority either already using and exploring AI tools or planning to experiment in the next six months. Nearly two-thirds plan to acquire new skills because of the emergence of generative AI and nearly half would be more inclined to pursue roles that provide opportunities to utilise AI tools. However, there are variations in AI usage and comfort levels with disclosing usage, especially among female students and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

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Download the full Handshake network trends report

Explore the significant influence of generative AI's impact on students and graduates, with insights from Handshake's research on 6000 individuals in Europe. Read the full report here.