5 Things That Influence Why Students Choose The Careers They Do

When it comes to our job, we're all motivated by many things. It may be pay, job satisfaction, career advancement, enjoyment, challenge, the opportunity to use certain skill sets or job benefits. These motivators are broadly classified as either intrinsic or extrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are those that are supplied by the working environment – pay, working environment, career opportunities, job security and so on. Intrinsic motivators are internal motivators like enjoyment of work being done, fulfilment from meeting personal and job challenges, satisfaction from being able to utilise skill sets and overall job satisfaction.

What Are Tomorrow's Professionals Looking For In A Career?

A survey done by the MiHR in 2011 found that students interested in entering professions where their knowledge will be their major skill set are motivated more by intrinsic motivators than by extrinsic motivators in their career choices. This is a group of workers broadly classed as knowledge workers and includes 'white collar' professions like engineering, law, medicine, technology, science, academics and of course many of the mining professions (geology, geophysics, engineers etc). 

What The Survey Found

The survey looked at the motivating factors for students entering both mining and non-mining education streams and found that generally up and coming generations of knowledge workers are choosing careers where: 

  • their work will be rewarding and valued by their employer, 
  • their knowledge and training will be relevant to their job,
  • they'll be able to make meaningful progress both in their work and their careers, 
  • there will be personal development and ongoing learning opportunities,
  • their workplace will offer flexibility.
These are predominantly intrinsic considerations. Extrinsic factors like salary and job security were found to appeal to some groups of students and not to others. For example, non-mining students as a group considered job security to be important in their choice of career. Mining students on the other hand listed salary as being important.

So…. based on the findings of this survey, what does the future mining professional consider to be important when it comes to their choice of career?

Top of the list (for both mining and non-mining students) is rewarding work. Our embryonic mining (and non-mining) professionals first of all want a career that will be rewarding for them. And not just financially it seems!

Second on the list for mining students is the extrinsic motivator salary. These future mining executives make no bones about the fact that it's money that has tipped their decision to take up a career in mining rather than in one of the non-mining professions. They may be looking for rewarding careers but by the same token they also expect to be well paid. Non-mining students though typically consider that being offered opportunities to learn and develop are higher on their list of priorities than their potential salary. Which makes sense because the development of a career often comes with greater financial rewards anyway.

Next up our young mining gurus also want to experience the thrill that comes from exciting work. And there is nothing more exciting for a mining professional than the discovery of a new and economically viable ore body! Non-mining students on the other hand consider job security be more important; it's in third place for them instead of job excitement.

The opportunity to learn new skill sets, increase knowledge and develop expertise ranks fourth on the 'what's important in my career choice' list for many mining students. We've already noted that this motivator ranks second on the non-mining students list. Could it be the fact that mining students know full well a career in mining is going to offer them these things regardless that makes them downplay the importance of this motivator?

Finally, and interestingly, mining students overall seem to be less interested in having the opportunity to apply their skills on the job than they are in finding rewarding, and exciting, employment. This motivator only comes fifth on their list. In contrast non-mining students don't appear to consider this aspect of their future employment important enough to make their top 5 list at all. Instead, they'd prefer a flexible work place. 

Now compare these motivators to what the survey found motivated current mining incumbents to choose a career in mining!

Top of the list for these 'old timers' was salary. They most definitely chose their career for the money! Their second consideration was the opportunity mining offered to use their training and skills. Third was the promise of an exciting career AKA that beckoning lure of finding a viable ore body! Fourth was the chance of overseas employment and fifth was the intrinsic satisfaction of being employed to carry out rewarding and positive work.
What are the implications of this for the mining industry moving forward?

Whilst it's clear that salary is still one of the major factors attracting people to the industry, it's no longer the most important consideration for future generations of mining professionals. Therefore mining companies are going to have to come up with more than just lucrative wages if they want to catch the attention of young people on the cusp of choosing their future career. It seems that appealing to budding young knowledge workers is just as much about satisfying their intrinsic motivators as it is about satisfying their extrinsic ones. In other words they want a career that is rewarding and exciting in more ways than just fiscally. 

They also want to be challenged mentally – this is after all a generation of young people who have been brought up with technological gadgets that hadn't even been thought of 2 or 3 decades ago! Therefore technology doesn't challenge them in the same way it did / does their predecessors. These young professionals are going to take a lot of the current technology in their stride and then go looking for bigger and better challenges. The company, or the industry, that can offer them these is the one they'll probably choose. 

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Tuesday, 07 July 2020
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