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With hybrid work on the rise, new grads find flexibility — and tough choices

As a Maine native attending college in Boston, I had assumed for years that I would stay put after graduation. I’d fallen in love with the city, which, for all its excitement, still had the New England vibe that made it feel like home.

But as I cruised toward commencement, the looming decision about where to live and work became more complex. Other cities, like New York, have piqued my interest. On the other hand, the rise of remote work options makes it possible, in some cases, to bypass urban hubs for quieter locations. Maybe I could escape home to rural Maine, I wondered. In April, I landed a remote job, leaving me with endless possibilities — and difficult choices.

I am far from alone in weighing such decisions. On Handshake, a career network that more than 1,400 US and UK educational institutions offer to students, “remote” was the most-searched keyword by student job-seekers last year, according to Christine Cruzvergara, the company’s chief education strategy officer. “This generation wants kind of the best of both worlds. They want the flexibility, they want to be able to work from home or work from wherever they might want to live,” she says, “but they also want the option to be able to get together with their colleagues, to be social, to have that connection and community as well.”

The desire for increased flexibility comes amid high demand for college graduates in the job market. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies plan to hire nearly one-third more graduates from the class of 2022 than the previous class. Employers this year also expect that 42 percent of their entry-level positions will be fully in-person, with 40 percent hybrid and 18 percent remote.

Sam Lambrecht, who is finishing his bachelor’s degree in engineering at Northeastern University, decided to stay in the Boston area after accepting a hybrid position as a software developer at Keurig Dr. Pepper in Burlington. “The standard right now is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in the office; Monday and Friday remote,” Lambrecht says. “But that is flexible enough that if you have something to do on one of those days, they don’t mind [you] working remotely.”

Matthew Bidwell, an associate professor of management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who studies employment, says this type of flexibility is sweeping workplaces. “a lot [of employers] have gone back to two or three days a week in the office. that means [the] commute is a bit less of a constraint on what people do and where they want to live,” he says. “There are a lot of people who say, ‘I want to sit in Maine in the woods and work from there.’”

But a lot of recent graduates also see advantages to staying close to a city. Lambrecht, for example, has been searching for apartments in Cambridge and Somerville, so he can remain a short drive from work in Burlington but still easily get into Boston. “I wanted to stick around here, especially since the friends I have from school are going to be in the Greater Boston area,” he says.

Devany Pitsas, a senior global and cultural communications major at Suffolk University, hopes to remain close to Boston to build her professional network. “There’s an influx of people, and I think that’s probably what’s most attractive about it in terms of just having more opportunities,” she says. “Yes, I’ve made roots with friends and whatnot, but I’ve also made connections with certain companies.”

Handshake’s Cruzvergara notes that since January 1, about a fifth of the job applications from Boston-based students on the app have been for jobs in the city. “There’s still a lot of interest for students who are in the Boston area to stay in the Boston area after they graduate,” she says. For job applications from students nationally, Boston was the fourth most popular city, behind New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Not everyone decides to stay local, of course. Delaney Dow, a senior engineering major at Boston University, recently accepted a software engineering job at Epic Systems Corp. in Wisconsin. “I was expecting to really stay in Boston, honestly,” she says. “So I was actually kind of surprised when I did get this offer and I did make the decision to move.”

As for this Mainer, I ultimately decided to stay put and rent an apartment with friends in Brookline. I realized I wasn’t quite ready to leave my new home, and all it has to offer. And while evolving workplace norms will hopefully continue to provide more options and flexibility, they certainly have made the job hunt more, well, interesting.

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Recent Emerson College graduate Emily Curtis is starting a job as a junior marketing associate. This story was produced in collaboration with an Emerson writing and publishing course. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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