A recent survey of more than 3000 final-year college students in
the US found that, for those in business studies, the top three
organisations for which they would like to work after graduation were
Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Walt Disney and Ernst & Young.
In other words, the big reliable employer brands still seem to reign
supreme. Forget the net - everything changes, but everything remains the
Well, not really, because most of these graduates are not looking to the
companies for long-term careers. Rather, they are looking for just the
opposite. They only want to stay long enough to amass the sort of useful
experience they can then use to get involved in a more exciting and
lucrative venture - probably online, and sooner rather than later.
The concept of favoured employers is changing in a way few could have
foreseen even a year ago. Some of this the companies have brought on
their own heads. There has always been certain companies in the UK which
invariably made it to the top of lists of the best places to work, but
the reputations of companies such as Marks & Spencer, British Airways,
Sainsbury’s and Shell have suffered badly for a variety of reasons, and
ironically, a lot if it is to do with bad marketing.
Even those marketing reliables, the big consumer goods companies such as
Unilever and Procter & Gamble, are seen to be far more busy shedding
people and brands than building toward a greater future.
But it goes deeper than that. Big companies are facing what could almost
be called a seismic shift in recruiting, particularly of those high
flyers needed to run their businesses tomorrow. And too few show any
signs that they have grasped this.
It used to be considered that job satisfaction was more than about money
alone. Other factors were equally as critical to encourage
But the figures being generated in the gold rush that is the internet
are turning the situation upside-down.
Talented people, given the choice of a minuscule salary but potentially
millions from share options, are not thinking twice. No matter what the
risk, anything with dot.com in its name is attractive to those who would
once have been headed for the top of the blue-chips.
Working in a traditional company with no chance of stock options until
you reach the upper echelons of management seems a bit, well,
And not nearly as much fun.
Even consultancies, which have often been the choice of those who want
to combine intellectual stimulation with the promise of partner-level
pay, are feeling the loss. They are now watching their best and
brightest defect to utterly risky ventures.
One need only look at the case of the former head of global agency
Andersen Consulting, who recently jumped ship just before retiring to
run an online grocery delivery start-up called Webvan. His reward: both
the stock options and the excitement of taking the start-up public.
Try this test. Pretend you are a high-flying young marketer ready to
take on the challenge of a new job. You flick through the recruitment
ads at the back of Marketing. There you find some great companies,
offering you the chance to be a central figure in driving a business
forward strategically, developing and delivering innovative concepts,
even playing a vital role in establishing the e-commerce platform- all
Then you see advertisements for two internet companies, say book
e-tailer Amazon. co.uk and Buy.com, a US online retailer moving into the
UK. The ads are pretty much the same in terms of opportunities and
challenges on offer. That is, until you get to the end: they too promise
competitive salaries; but here’s the kicker-generous stock options. Is
there any choice?
Laura Mazur is a business writer and author.