Global survey of 4,206 professionals finds that work-life balance and salary rank equally as top criteria when looking for a new job.

Research conducted by CEMS, the Global Alliance in Management Education, among 4,206 professionals from 75 countries – including nearly 400 professionals with connections to the Netherlands and Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) – reveals that a good work-life balance is rated on par with salary as their top criteria when seeking a new role. Moreover, professionals over the age of 35ranked the opportunity for work-life balance higher than salary.*

“I absolutely recognise the trend among our more recent CEMS students and alumni,that a fulfilling work-life balance ranks high on the list. Indeed, even higher than earning money for money’s sake, or a life in which the greatest focus and energy are placed solely on professional success,” said Gina Kim, Programme Manager for MSc International Management/CEMS and dual degree programmes at RSM.

For the most recent graduates and younger professionals (under the age of 35) salary ranked very slightly higher than work-life balance. This indicates that, while there is more to work than just money for younger professionals, salary is still an important factor.

Within the global survey, quick career progression and the chance to make an impact at an early stage were also ranked as the third and fourth key criteria which influence the decisions of all professionals to apply for a job.

Opportunities for global travel appeared in the top five criteria for the youngest respondents (19-25) but was far lower down the list for other age groups, who rated inspirational leadership further up.

Nicolede Fontaines, Executive Director of CEMS, said: “As we transition back into the office, at a time when attracting and retaining top talent is high on the agenda, it is important that organisations listen carefully to what professionals most desire from roles and act on this. This way, they can attract the most talented staff, benefit from the ambition of their people, encourage innovation and ultimately gain competitive advantage in an uncertain age.”

“For many of our graduates,” added Gina Kim,“meaning and purpose extends beyond themselves to include striving to make a positive impact on a higher level. We see this in the increasing numbers of our students and grads who engage in courses and projects during their studies that focus on social responsibility. Many of our grads ultimately pursue careers in the areas of social impact and sustainable development, both in the public and private sectors.”

Where early career professionals are concerned, plenty of opportunity needs to be provided to tackle projects that deliver real global impact, while also recognising their need to have a life outside of work. At CEMS they see this in action through their forward-thinking corporate partners, who recognise the benefit of working with young people on impactful global business projects, to ensure they are as prepared as possible when they reach the workplace.  

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

*Overall, 21% of global respondents, 19% of Dutch respondents, named Work-Life Balance and Salary when asked about their top three criteria when looking for a new role either within their own company or a different one.

20% of respondents under 35 years old named salary compared to 19% work-life balance.

22% of respondents over 35 years old named work-life balance compared to 19% salary.

CEMS carried out the research in Autumn 2021 among 4,206 of their alumni based in 75 countries around the world, including 386 Dutch respondents, the majority of whom are in professional roles, with many in senior management positions.

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About RSM

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers.

About CEMS

CEMS is a Global Alliance of leading business schools, multinational companies and non-profits that together offer the CEMS Master in International Management (CEMS MIM). The CEMS MIM is a one-year, pre-experience programme that offers students the opportunity to be educated in a truly multicultural classroom. 

Students enrolled in the programme study for one semester at their home university, with a term abroad in a different CEMS member school. In addition to completing a home degree, students complete a consulting project and an international internship. CEMS alumni careers take a truly international path:

  • 98% are employed or continuing their studies
  • 93% have worked outside of their home country
  • 65% work for multinational companies
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