They had their lives mapped out. Having won and completed ultra-competitive summer internships at Lehman Brothers. They entered senior fall with a job offer in their pocket. But as the American financial sector crumbled in September 2008, and Lehman Brothers filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, those jobs, and sturdy life tracks, evaporated. Now financial firms are still struggling to attract the greatest business and engineering talent, who are seeking careers at hipper and more beloved brands, like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony and BMW.
According to Universum's 2011 list of "The World's Most Attractive Employers," financial services firms have slipped in popularity since 2009. Universum compiles its list by sifting through the preferences of 160,000 job seekers from the U.S., the U.K., China, France, Brazil, Russia and a handful of other bursting economies, divided by job seekers with business and engineering backgrounds. The results are something of a litmus test for what brands, at this moment, are exciting the world.
The 10 Most Attractive Employers For Business
For those with both a business and engineering background, Google tops the charts for the third year in the row. This fact captures the new aspirations of young talent today.
"There's a generational gap -- while baby boomers and the generation X were highly focused on working hard to achieve material gains, generation Y is looking for a more balanced life while still wanting to achieve those gains," says Cecilia Dahlstrom, Global Marketing Director at Universum. "They seem to be aspiring for what their parents missed."
Google doesn't just offer work-life balance; the Google workplace is a great place to live your life: The rainbow-hued "do no evil" juggernaut is famous for its free haute cuisine, haircuts and on-site dry-cleaning.
The Big Four accounting firms take the next four places on the list, topped by KPMG. The company was not only one of Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" in 2009 and 2010, it was also one of its "100 Best Companies for Minorities," and is ranked as one of the best companies for LGBT equality by the Human Rights Campaign. KPMG also sat comfortably in the Top 10 of "The Working Mother 100 Best Companies" by Working Mother magazine this year, and among the best companies for multicultural women by the same publication.
It seems KPMG is dandy for everybody.
Like KPMG, PwC was one of Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" last year, and one of the best for LGBT equality too. By scanning employee reviews, Glassdoor also deemed the firm one of the "50 Best Places to Work" in 2009 and 2010.
"Great brand, incredible network, fantastic place to start a career," raved one employee on Glassdoor. "Very rewarding, best first job out of college to have and best of the big four in my opinion," chimed in another.
4. Ernst & Young
This London-based firm also made Fortune's "Best Company to Work For" in 2009 and 2010 and "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality." Boston Globe, BusinessWeek and ComputerWorld have also listed the company high on their lists, and Hispanic Business named it one of its "Diversity Elite 60."
The training is excellent, and the atmosphere diverse and collaborative. Its pay, like that among the rest of the Big Four, isn't too bad either.
This New York-based firm, like the rest of the Big Four, tops rankings for LGBT equality (Human Rights Campaign), diversity (DiversityInc), minorities (Fortune), and as a place to launch a career (BusinessWeek) and to work in general (Fortune, Boston Globe).
"World class," wrote one senior manager on Glassdoor. "A firm where career development of its people is put first," said another.
With a fun and ambitious work culture, great benefits, and the rewarding feeling of working on products used by hundreds of millions of people, it's no wonder that Microsoft, while still trailing behind Google in the fight for talent, still ranks so high.
Microsoft not only appears in most major rankings of employers, it is also one of the "Most Admired Companies in Research Science," according to Black Engineer & Information Technology, and the fourth "Most Innovative Company," according to BusinessWeek.
7. Proctor & Gamble
Employees rave about the training and opportunities at Proctor & Gamble, the maker of Gillette, Pantene, Crest, Pampers, Downy, Bounty, Tampax, Febreeze, and everything else that cleans your home and hair.
This might be why it was one of the "Best Places to Work," according to employee rankings on Glassdoor, is the fifth "Most Admired Company in the World," according to Fortune, and ranked as one of "America's Most Reputable Companies" by Forbes.
8. JPMorgan Chase
"Exhilarating," says one employee at JPMorgan Chase in New York. The training is good, the compensation nice, the benefits excellent. In 2009, you could find JPMorgan Chase on rankings for LGBT equality (Human Rights Campaign), top 500 green companies (Newsweek), best place to launch a career (BusinessWeek), "50 Most Innovative Companies" (BusinessWeek), and the "World's Most Admired Companies" (Fortune).
Apple, which became the most valuable company in the world for a brief moment in August, is the "World's Most Admired Company" according to Fortune magazine. Employees get a lot of autonomy to explore their own ideas. "Your uniqueness can shine and you can be the best you," says one employee on Glassdoor.
"Great benefits and discounts, and life experiences that are unparalleled," said one Apple specialist in Florida.
10. Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs' work hard play hard mentality attracts hardworking, smart talent, who can enjoy the company's career growth focus and collaborative culture. Last year, Goldman Sachs was ranked one of the best employers by both Fortune and their employees on Glassdoor.
"Challenging, eye-opening, and rewarding," wrote one summer analyst.
The 10 Most Attractive Employers For Engineering:
This 100-year-old technology giant is a leader when it comes to mainframe computers, nanotechnology and consulting on some of the biggest problems in the world. IBM not only ranked as one of the "Most Admired Companies in Research Science" last year, by Black Engineer & Information Technology, it was also one of the "World's Most Admired Companies" in general, according to Forbes. Fortune further blessed IBM as one of the "Top Companies for Leaders."
Employees rave about the work/life balance offered at the German luxury carmaker. Perhaps it's because Germany as a country is generally more generous with vacation time, flexibility and other perks. Employees also get a global platform through which to share ideas and network. On Glassdoor, the CEO Norbert Reithofer also wins a dazzling 100 percent approval rating.
The inventor of the world's first microprocessor offers great compensation, benefits and a lot of flexibility -- as long as you get the work done. "Challenging and up-tempo place to work," says one employee on Glassdoor, "the only limits are the ones you set."
This may be why Glassdoor named Intel as one of "Employees' Choice 50 Best Places to Work" in 2010. Intel is also well-recognized for its environmental conscience. It topped the list last year of the National Top 50 Green Companies, published by Green Power Partnership. That same year, it also made the list of the "Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations," compiled by Corporate Knights.
The Tokyo-based media corporation was among Forbes' "World's Most Admired Companies in 2009," and BusinessWeek's "50 Most Innovative Companies" that same year. "If you're a lover of music, there is no better place to be," wrote one summer intern on Glassdoor.
8. General Electric
Corporate Knights ranked this American multinational at the top of the list of "Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations" last year. That same year, Black Engineer & Information Technology selected it as one of the "Most Admired Companies in Research Science." Employees rave about the way they are nurtured within the company.
"GE develops its people and works with unyielding integrity," says one employee.
This German engineering conglomerate provides employees with good work/life balance, excellent benefits, flexibility and a knowledge-driven work environment. Siemens also made it into the top 200 of Forbes' Global 2000 in 2008, and is one of an increasing number of German companies making it onto Universum's list.
10. Proctor & Gamble
For job seekers trained in maximizing returns, financial firms have gradually fallen off their short lists, except for JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, which remain only slightly less coveted destinations than two years ago. J.P. Morgan fell from seventh to ninth in 2010, and recovered one spot this year. Goldman Sachs stayed put at No. 10, still a ways from its place at No. 4 in 2009.
Engineers were even more punishing to the financial sector in 2010. In that year, Morgan Stanley dropped from 30th to 50th, J.P. Morgan from 28th to 41st, and Goldman Sachs from 23rd to 34th. But interest in those jobs have recovered more significantly this year. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs inched up by 4 places, and J.P. Morgan by 5.
According to Karl-Johan Hasselström, the Global Account Director of Universum, financial firms have begun to focus more on an engineering and I.T. talent pool, as the industry grows more technical.
But financial firms still attract far more business minds, just like car companies Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota and General Motors are far more appealing to engineers. It seems that helping to design autos remains a good gig, even if helping to resuscitate the automotive industry isn't so much.
But even among the business set, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America and American Express have all declined in the last two years. Citi took a huge hit in 2010, dropping from 21st to 29th, and it hasn't budged since. HSBC was 22nd in 2009, and now doesn't even make the top 50. Neither does Barclays, although it was a respectable 36th last year.
Certainly the brands of financial firms have become a little tainted. As offshoots of the Occupy Wall Street protests gain strength around the world, Bank of America and Citi face an uphill battle in fostering goodwill. But more importantly, says Hasselström, young talent is seeking things that these firms just don't appear to offer.
"Companies that are being perceived as dynamic, creative, and flexible have gained in attractiveness," explains Hasselström, "and these are not attributes that these firms are associated with." The clearest proof of this is Google, the rainbow-hued "do no evil" juggernaut. It's been the most sought-after employer for both aspiring business professionals and engineers since Universum started making its list in 2009.
Consistency is also key. Companies that are able to project the same brand internationally can score big. "IBM in India and IBM in Mexico and IBM in Finland are sending out the same message to all talent," says Hasselström. And sure enough, the most attractive companies have a well-defined meaning around the world: Coca-Cola, L'Oreal, McKinsey, Nestle, IKEA.
Financial firms, on the other hand, are struggling to project a consistent tone. Bank of America recently launched a new ad campaign describing the bank's charitable donations and small business loans. But Americans are more likely to see the Bank of America name in other, less favorable, contexts. It's hard to manage your brand, when the rest of the world is managing it too.
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