The job market just might be easing up for college graduates. That’s what some of the latest evidence suggests, which is good news for anyone scheduled to finish college with a diploma in one hand and a student loan bill in the other.
The latest is this: According to a survey by AfterCollege, 63 percent of recent graduates said that in 2012 they experienced difficulty finding work. While that’s a high number, it represents a 22-percentage-point drop from two years earlier when 85 percent responded they had trouble securing a job.
Unfortunately for those recent graduates, a majority of them continue to struggle to find employment while facing repayment of their student loans.
That’s bad news when U.S. student loan debt is $1 trillion and the average recent grad owes about $35,000 in student loans.
The AfterCollege survey shows their difficulties may be linked to the overwhelming number of students who are not actively searching for work during their final year in school. Researchers say only 5 percent of seniors start their job search at the beginning of their final fall semester.
Despite those odds, it’s still possible to graduate from college with a degree in one hand and a full-time job in the other. Securing a job post-graduation is all about the approach.
Connect with Recruiters
Employers do the most on-campus recruiting during the fall semester, making it an important time for soon-to-graduate students to connect with them. It is often the first opportunity for a senior to start developing a relationship with a potential employer.
This is why it is crucial to start looking for jobs and applying at the start of your senior year. Many companies will hire qualified students in the fall who have one more semester of college to finish. Even if you aren’t able to land a full-time job, apply for an internship that could turn into a full-time position once you graduate.
Companies may also offer full-time positions to their interns at the end of their internship.
Use Your College Professors’ Connections
If you are unsure where to begin the job search, consult a professor.
The AfterCollege survey rated faculty members as the most influential people on campus in students’ career choices and there is a reason for this. Professors have large networks of colleagues and professionals in many industries and may be able to assist you in making a connection.
I secured an internship and full-time job due to relationships my professors had with others. Even after you graduate, it is important to maintain these relationships with your professors should you look to change jobs in the future.
While social media plays an important role in sharing information, only 1 in 3 college students turned to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks for seeking employment opportunities. Career blogs generated the least interest among college students.
If you have a connection with someone already working at a company you are interested in, take advantage of that relationship.
A 2012 SilkRoad survey shows 58 percent of company hires are made from internal sources. This means that family members and friends of current employees tend to make the cut over others with no inside connection. Use your relationships to your advantage.
Fine-Tune Your Resume
Before you ask your professors to reach out on your behalf, make sure that your resume is ready to go.
Take advantage of your instructors, campus writing centers and other peers to help you tweak your resume until it is perfect. Resume writing is an art, and that is why there are professionals who are paid to help you with them.
Make sure that your resume is relevant, timely and highlights the qualities that set you apart from the hundreds of other applicants.
If you are lucky enough to attend a university or college that prepares you for interviews, take advantage of it.
Preparation is the key for a good quality interview. Even if it involves practicing with your roommate or professor, so be it. Future employers will be more impressed with well-rehearsed responses than poorly improvised answers that may leave you flustered and the interviewer confused.
Depending on what industry you are looking to break into, you may be required to bring several examples of your work to your interview. Be sure to have them prepared and ready to go. Sometimes employers are not as prepared, so it’s a good thing to bring additional copies of your resume and work samples for them in case they didn’t print out copies. That detail will show you are serious about the position.
An equally important element in an interview: Questions. Bring a list of them to ask about the position and the company. Employers want to see actual interest on your behalf. Research the company and their mission, and ask questions that will show you have put in the work.
One of my favorite questions to ask future employers is, “What is something that you have learned about this company that you could only learn by working here?”
It shows you are genuinely interested, engages them a bit and will hopefully give you some inside information you otherwise might not have received.
Apply, Apply, Apply
Overall, the U.S. economy continues to emerge from The Great Recession, and for all college graduates this means needing more time to find a solid right-out-of-school job.
And chances are you aren’t going to land the first job you apply for. You may not even hear back from the company. The key is to apply for many positions, which is why you need to begin the job search early.
You may have to apply to 50 jobs before you get one offer, but stay persistent. It’s best to keep your options open, rather than holding out for one position at one company. If you begin the job hunt at the beginning of your senior year, you have eight months to find a job. That is plenty of time. You just have to use your time wisely.
Finding your first job after college can be overwhelming, stressful and lead to many sleepless nights. While I can’t promise that this can be completely avoided, if you start early and put in the effort, you may be able to walk across the stage employed. That makes it all worthwhile.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].