Career Decision-Making and Corporate Responsibility

Article excerpt

This paper seeks to investigate the extent of influence of corporate (or organisational) responsibility on university students' career decision-making. It reports on a pilot study conducted at the University of Sydney which aims to: explore students' ethical, professional and social understanding regarding corporate responsibility; determine the importance of these issues relevant to other career values in career decision-making and choice of employer; understand on what basis students currently judge employers on these issues and how these career decisions are arrived at, and finally identify gaps in current careers resources with the aim of using this information to develop relevant resources. Findings include a strong awareness of the elements of corporate responsibility regarding career decision-making with implications for employers, careers practitioners and theorists.

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Traditionally the study of values relating to career decision-making and vocational guidance has focused on such things as money, opportunity for professional development, job security, and work that provides variety or a challenge. University careers service practitioners around the country are becoming aware of a broader, more externally focused set of values of importance to a students' career-decision making: those of corporate (or organisational) responsibility (Graduate Careers, 2006). Broadly defined, corporate responsibility includes social and environmental impacts, marketplace and business conduct, ethical governance, and responsible workplace practices as defined by Business in the Community (2008).

There are a number of research findings supporting corporate responsibility as an influencer in choice of employer. In a survey conducted by High Fliers (2005) over 6,200 final year students at 12 universities in Australia selected 'socially responsible' at the top of the list of important characteristics of their first employer. Choosing from a closed list of seven characteristics, students rated the importance of the characteristics of their first employer. The percentage breakdown for those describing the characteristic as 'very important' were: socially responsible--40%; well known organisation--34%; commercially successful employer--33%; environmentally responsible--30%; give something back to the community--29%; international employer--19%; and Australian employer--14%.

In a survey of 2,000 final year undergraduates reported in the Guardian, over 70% of students said that a company's ethical track record is a crucial factor when choosing an employer (Robinson, 2006). Worklife balance was also important--a consistent finding with this age group internationally. The survey also showed that students were relying on the media to expose a company's unethical practices.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business' survey in late 2003 of more than 800 MBA graduates from leading North American and European business schools found that more than 97% of the sample were willing to forgo financial benefits to work for an organisation with a good reputation with regard to corporate responsibility and ethical standards in its practices across the workplace, environment and community (Montgomery & Ramus, 2003).

Following on from these results a pilot survey was conducted to investigate the importance of corporate responsibility as an influencer in choice of employer within the context of Australian higher education (Cervini, 2007). The following question was embedded in an exit survey of primarily final year students at the annual graduate recruitment careers fair at the University of Sydney, 2006 (where students are asked to rate their experience of the careers fair): 'Does an organisation's corporate responsibility practices and reputation e.g. environmental impact/ community or social impact/workplace practices/business conduct/ethical governance influence your interest in applying to them? …