Job Preference Factors of International Students

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1 Job Preference Factors of International Students Hanoku Bathula Senior Lecturer International Business Programme AIS St Helens PO Box 2995 Auckland 1140 New Zealand Phone: Extn & Manisha Karia Senior Lecturer International Business Programme AIS St Helens PO Box 2995 Auckland 1140 New Zealand Phone: Extn

2 Job Preference Factors of International Students International education has become a major phenomenon in recent times. This is mostly in the form of students from developing countries going to developed countries for higher education. They expect to gain skills that are not easily available in their home countries and look for a better career in their life. Not surprisingly one of the goals of the international students is, after completing their studies, to seek a job that is commensurate with their qualifications and skills. This study examines the skills required to find a job and factors important in choosing a job after completing business courses. The study uses questionnaire to collect data from a sample of 92 students. The findings show that soft skills such as communication and team-work are more important than academic performance, reputation of university. As regards to job selection factors, both salary and friendly work environment are found to be more important compared to status or reputation of the employer. Overall, the results imply the importance of all-round personality job seekers and a good working environment. The findings have implications for international students, employers, educators and immigration policy makers. Key words: International students, careers, job preference factors, migration. Field of Research: Management Introduction In the last few decades, there has been a rapid increase in international education, particularly in the tertiary sector. There are a number of reasons for the growth of this phenomenon. Some of them are to: gain quality education, learn new skills, opportunity to travel abroad, to expand their world view, etc. While some international students seek to gain residence in the country of their study, others plan to return to their home countries. Whatever the reason may be, the primary goal of international students appears to gain a better future career. The most important career option is to take up a professional job that is related to the qualification gained. A quality education from a reputable international university, preferably from a Western country, is likely to assure a better quality of life and opportunities for career growth. They are also likely to positively influence self-esteem and general well-being. However, the choice of a job is not quite easy as it is influenced by various factors such as values, preferences, opportunities, skills of the applicants etc. Graham and McKenzie (1995) suggest that tertiary students have a high expectation about their future career. The purpose of this study is to identify the competences of the international students that can help them in their job search and also the set of factors that influence their job search. Findings from this study would help students in future career and job search efforts, and also employers to understand factors influencing job-search by international students, as prospective employees. Literature review International education sector in New Zealand plays an important role in its economy; in 2010, it has attracted 99,880 students (Ministry of Education, 2010). 2

3 There are two aspects in this study. One is the growth of international students in New Zealand and related immigration issues and the second is about their career choice behaviour. International students face several problems in both academic and social adjustment areas (Andrade, 2006). During the period of their study, international students make many social adjustments and prepare themselves to take up careers. Both external and internal environment have impact on search and choice of firms. For many international students, English is not their first language and therefore oral communication is seen as a major barrier in their job search. Lack of proper communication skills would affect job search activities such as preparation of curriculum vitae and preparing applications, and also at the time of interviews with the prospective employer. Similarly, local work experience and social networks would be useful in a small country like New Zealand. For this reason, many international students try to gain work experience while in New Zealand and develop those links to gain jobs later on. Not surprisingly knowledge and academic performance is also very important for international students as the gaining quality education from a Western country is one of the main reasons for coming to New Zealand. So, the qualities of education, the reputation of the institution, the level of programme are likely to influence their competences and preparedness for gaining a job in New Zealand. Byars and Rue (2004) believe that international students with outstanding academic performance could help their individual performance in a business context. It is possible, that some of the deficiencies found in the area of communication can be overcome by academic performance, which may lead to better contribution to the business. Even employers would like suitable candidates for their positions to improve their company s performance. Obtaining and retaining skilled workforce is considered to be critical for organizational success in the modern world. Al-lamki (1998) observes that individuals are motivated to invest in their personal education and training and expect higher earnings in future. From this point of view, understanding the factors influencing job search behavior of applicants will help employers in matching the expectations to the extent they can. Alignment of interests of both employers and employees is expected to maximize the work contribution of new graduates, and also result in employee retention (Graham and McKenzie, 1995). This view is also supported by Dessler (2002), who suggested that new candidates must understand the process of recruitment and selection used by employers before their job search. Currently, as per the household labour survey in September 2011 (Statistics New Zealand, 2011), unemployment rates is above 6 per cent (See figure 1). This is significantly higher than compared to the years 2007 and 2008 and appears to stay high at this stage. 3

4 Figure 1. Unemployment rate in New Zealand Due to recession, many employers seek to reduce their labour costs in order to retain their current levels of profit. This creates a situation while the new graduates from universities have to compete with experienced workers who are currently unemployed. This makes it more challenging for new international graduates. Therefore, it is imperative that international students understand gain necessary competencies and also make a careful choice of job-selection. After obtaining qualification, a number of factors influence job selection process. Some international students may plan to go back to their home countries, while others may decide to stay in the country where they obtained their qualification. Similarly, some international students may desire to start their own business while others plan to take up employment. Spillan, Chaubey & Maysami (2011) suggest that the expansion of international markets has provided many opportunities for the talented, interested and capable international students to pursue work careers. Employers are also open to take up international students to work for their firms, especially if they plan to enter markets that are home countries of international students. Returning international students also contribute to New Zealand indirectly as they establish personal networks globally and may also be in a position to influence the policy makers in their home countries (Asia 2000, 2003). International students therefore examine different factors in choice of their jobs. High salary is considered particularly important as the cost and efforts to gain international education is considered to be an investment on which high returns are sought in the form of high salary. Some other factors that are considered important are the reputation of the firm, career growth opportunities, good working environment and opportunity to up-skill. These factors are expected to influence the selection of jobs. Methodology As mentioned earlier, the purpose of this study is to identify the competences of the international students that can help them in their job search and also the set of 4

5 factors that influence their job search. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used in this study. Before we finalised the questionnaire, we have reviewed relevant literature and identified some factors. We have then used a focus group to refine the set of factors and converted them into a questionnaire. The questionnaire broadly consisted of three major areas: (i) choice of profession, (ii) job enabling competences, and (iii) job selection factors. Other demographic details are also included in the questionnaire. A 7 point Likert scale was used in this questionnaire, where 1 is for not important, 4 is for neither important nor unimportant, and 7 is for very important. The population for this study is international students based in Auckland. Accordingly, we have distributed the questionnaire to international students pursuing a business degree programme in a tertiary institution based in Auckland during October- November A total of 100 questionnaires were distributed and the response rate was 92. Of these 20 questionnaires were due to a problem in responses. So, the final effective sample size is 72. It is important to mention that this study is a work in progress and some more questionnaires are being collected from international students in other tertiary institutions based in Auckland. Data analysis is undertaken using SPSS version 19. We have used both descriptive statistics and inferential statistics: means, standard deviations, and one-sample t- tests. 4. Findings/discussion 4.1 Sample characteristics Table 1: Sample Characteristics % Ethnicity Chinese 51.4% Indian 18.1% Pacifica 8.3% Others (Thai, Japan, Korea, Arab, and others) 22.2% Length in NZ < 1 year 11.1% 1 > 2 years 20.3% 3 years 30.9% 4 years 15.1% 5 years and more 22.6% Gender Males 54% Females 46% Future plans Apply for residence 40.3% Work in New Zealand and then go home 20.8% Go home after studies 19.4% Employment Part-time 44.4% Full-time 16.7% Seeking 16.7% Not looking 22.2% Table 1 shows that most of the international students are from India and China two major markets for New Zealand export education sector. In this sample, they 5

6 constitute about 70% and the rest from other countries including Pacifica region. Most of the students stayed in New Zealand for at least one year (89%) and also have work experience (61%; part-time and full-time). It can therefore be safely inferred that student-respondents have a fair understanding of New Zealand society, and that is reflected in their responses Choice of profession As the sample consisted of business students, they were asked what type of profession they would like to choose. Table 2 shows their choice of business related professions. Table 2: Choice of profession Type Frequency Percent Sales and Marketing Administration Start own business Accounting and Finance Manufacturing/operations Information Technology Warehouse/distribution Others Note: Percentage is more than 100, as respondents were preferred multiple items. It may be seen that most popular choice of the respondents is in the area of Sales and Marketing (44%), followed by Administration (34%), and Accounting and Finance (31.9%). Not surprisingly, about 33.3 percent want to start their own business. That is a significant percentage of students, given the fact that students are undertaking a graduate level study. 4.3 Competences helping in job search The responses regarding the competences that help in job-search yielded interesting results. They may be seen in Table 3. 6

7 Table 3: Job-search enabling competences Variable Mean Std. Dev. t-value sig Communications Skills Ability to work as part of a team Skills and abilities Work experience Social networks Personality Analytical capacity Knowledge Experience of living abroad Academic performance Reputation of university Experience of being a student Overseas student exchange program Table 3 shows that all the competences identified were found to score high on the scale. They identified knowledge, academic performance, reputation of the university are important in job-search. However, they are considered to be less important than the soft skills such as communication and being part of a team. These are definitely important hurdles for migrants and international students. The respondents have identified the areas that need priority for them to gain access to job market. Interestingly, of the three components that fall under competences (knowledge, skills and abilities), knowledge is considered less important than their application aspects of skills and abilities. This shows that respondents are conscious of the need for skills that need to be demonstrated to prospective employers. 4.4 Job selection preferences The respondents have two major characteristics: being students and also new to the country. With this background, choice of a job becomes very important. Over 60 percent of the respondents would like to work in New Zealand after their studies. So, what factors would influence their choice of a job? These choice factors were examined and the results shown in Table 4. 7

8 Table 4: Job-selection factors Variable Mean Std. Dev. t-value Sig Friendly working environment High annual salary Opportunity for personal development Training facilities Good social environment Opportunity to use knowledge and skills Pay is based on performance Opportunity to develop knowledge and skills High safety standards at work Good HR management policy Interesting type of work Reputation of the company/employer Provision for systemic career planning Opportunity for fast promotion Freedom in the job Company s emphasises on ethical guidelines A high status Variation in work tasks The findings reveal all the factors identified in the literature and included in the questionnaire were found to influence the job preference. However, the top two factors are friendly working environment and high annual salary. The emphasis on salary is understandable as students have invested money, time and efforts on gaining a business degree. However, it is interesting to note a simultaneous emphasis on friendly working environment. Other factors influencing a jobpreference are opportunity for personal development, training facilities, opportunity to develop knowledge and skills, etc. Work related factors such as variation of work tasks, interesting type of work, high safety standards of work scored relatively low in the compared to personal growth factors. The findings from this study show that international students are very discerning about their post-studies career issues. They have already thought through about the 8

9 type of profession, which is mostly in the area of marketing, management and finance/accounting. Having come to New Zealand for studies, a majority of them want to gain work experience, even if they plan to return to their country. Perhaps, they feel, gaining experience in New Zealand would improve their profile and make it easy for them to gain better employment opportunities in their home countries. Regarding the competences, international students emphasis on personal competencies such as communication and team work indicate a realistic appreciation of their limitations as migrants to this country. Further, these skills are crucial in a multicultural environment for cultural adaptation and successful organisational socialisation. A similar approach is revealed in job-preference factors, where, apart from focus on salary, factors such as friendly work environment and personal development issues are emphasised. Conclusion The study was focused on investigating intentions of international students about their post-studies preferences regarding career choice. The findings reveal that majority of students have clear idea about profession, competences that help in jobsearch and factors influencing job-preference. Though majority of the international students want to return to their country, many want to gain work experience in New Zealand. The findings could help international students in choice of courses, educators in planning their course offerings, and government agencies in designing migration policies. The major limitation of the study is that the sample, at this stage, is relatively small with an effective sample of 72 and also collected from one tertiary institution. However, the data is being collected from other tertiary institutions located in Auckland and increase the size of the sample. Future studies in the area of job preference can consider gender issues, comparison between different nationalities and also with those of local students. As nearly onethird of students want to start their own business, it may be useful to examine this area further to design appropriate courses to help students to achieve their aim to become entrepreneurs. 9

10 References Al-lamki, SM 1998, Barriers to Omanization in the private sector: The perceptions of Omani graduates, The international journal of Human resource management, vol. 9, no. 2, Andrade, MS 2006, International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors, Journal of Research in International Education, vol. 5, no. 2, Asia 2000 Foundation, (2003). The export education Industry: A world of opportunities. Retrieved 27 August 2011, from ed_nz shtml. Byars, LL & Rue, LW 2004, Human resource management, 7 th edn, McGraw Hill Irwin, New York. Dessler, G 2002, A framework for Human resource management, 2 nd edn, Pearson Education, New Jersey. Graham, C & McKenzie, A 1995, Delivering the promise: The transition from higher education to work, Education+Training, vol. 37, no. 1, Ministry of education (2010). International students enrolments, Government of New Zealand, Wellington. Statistics New Zealand (2011). Retrieved November 16, 2011, from Spillan, JE, Chaubey, MD & Maysami, R 2011, Career interest in international business: A comparative study of Peruvian, Chilean and US students, Journal of International Business Research, vol. 10, no. 1,

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