The top 10 buzziest companies Gen Z wants to work for—none of them are in Big Tech, says new report

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The graduating class of 2023's desire for stability in an uncertain economy is dictating where they want to work most after college.

It's hard to escape unrelenting news of tech layoffs in recent months, including major staff cuts from Meta, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and many others. As a result, zero Big Tech companies are among the trending employers Gen Z college grads are most interested in working for this year, according to the latest report from Handshake, the college and new-grad career site, which analyzed search traffic on the platform in the last year and surveyed 954 students from the class of 2023.

This year's graduating class is "prioritizing stability, and they're quite turned off by the volatility they've seen in the news around Big Tech," Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake's chief education strategy officer, tells CNBC Make It. "They're gravitating toward companies that offer solid benefits, career pathing and a level of stability they've been looking for."

Here are the top 10 companies that saw the fastest growth in search interest on Handshake in the last year:

  1. Raytheon, search interest up by 209%
  2. Nike, search interest up by 103%
  3. Toyota, search interest up by 101%
  4. Lockheed Martin, search interest up by 92%
  5. Chevron, search interest up by 72%
  6. Capital One, search interest up by 64%
  7. Morgan Stanley, search interest up by 60%
  8. Boeing, search interest up by 56%
  9. Bank of America, search interest up by 42%
  10. NASA, search interest up by 29%

While search traffic from 2023 grads for major tech brands is down 15% compared to the class of 2022, interest and applications are up for jobs in retail, finance and manufacturing.

"Some of the luster has definitely come off" of Big Tech jobs, Cruzvergara adds and "this class is willing to look at tried and true companies that have stood the test of time."

Job and financial security are top post-grad concerns

That's true for Wes Yates, 21, a senior at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Fla., who'll soon move to Tucson, Ariz., to start his first post-graduation job with Raytheon soon. He learned the company had several roles open thanks to Handshake and, after just about two weeks of interviews, landed a full-time job offer by October.

Wes Yates, 21, is a graduating senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and quickly landed a job offer with Raytheon in October.
Courtesy of Wes Yates

His biggest priorities in finding a job after college were financial security to pay off his student loans, as well as job security, which he believes he'll find in the defense industry. Given his aeronautics background, he says other employers like Lockheed Martin and Boeing — also on Handshake's shortlist of desirable employers — were also on his radar for himself and among his peers.

Raytheon's ability to provide stability has been a big hiring asset, especially among some of the newest entrants to the labor force, says Steve Schultz, the company's global head of talent acquisition. Raytheon is the biggest employer in Tucson, with more than 13,000 workers at its main manufacturing campus at Tucson International Airport.

He says roughly a quarter of the company's new hires come from the new or recent college grad demographic — a share that's grown in recent years.

Most young professionals plan to pick up new tech skills for their careers

Though search interest for major tech companies dropped, Cruzvergara says today's grads are more likely than their predecessors to be interested in jobs that require tech skills. So "while the companies on this list might not be considered a tech employer, it's become an opportunity for these types of employers to hire great tech talent," she says. "The reality is, every company today is a tech company."

New college grads feel confident they have the skills they need to get the job they want but also plan to develop new tech skills on the job or after hours. Looking ahead, a majority, 60%, say generative artificial intelligence tools will impact their fields in the next decade, but 40% aren't worried it will actually have an impact on their own career.

A recent Stanford and MIT study found generative AI boosted productivity by up to 35% for new workers with less experience, and by 14% among all workers.

"I don't think the generative AI is going to replace workers, but workers who work with generative AI will replace those who don't," says Erik Brynjolfsson, the director of the Digital Economy Lab at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, and co-author on the report. 

New grads are anxiously applying to more jobs in affordable cities

As major tech players take an employer branding hit, Cruzvergara predicts future college grads will care more about employers that are dedicated to helping solve the climate crisis.

In the meantime, the class of 2023 is more anxious than previous classes about their prospects in a turbulent job market where new layoff announcements seem to come out by the day.

Nearly half, 47%, of 2023 grads say they're applying to more jobs in response to news about the economy. The average 2023 grad is applying to 14 jobs after college, up from the average 11 among 2022 grads.

And a majority, 71%, say they're willing to move to a different city for the right job opportunity.

Applications are up by 20% in Chicago, 15% in Dallas and 12% in Atlanta compared to the year prior, which Cruzvergara says could be in response to new grads hoping to beat inflation and find more affordable areas to start their post-college lives.

Young professionals also see the appeal of reporting to an office at lest some of the time as a key part of advancing their early careers: 72% want a hybrid job, 16% want a fully remote job, and 12% want to be fully onsite.

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