With unemployment still in the double digits, December college graduates face a grim job market
The latest data from the
Here are some strategies to keep in mind:
1. Make a personal connection before the interview.
Scouring the job search boards online and sending out dozens of applications blind might sound like a solid way to get in the game, but experts say that all that does is get you lost in the shuffle. More and more employers are instead posting open positions to their own websites, so a slightly better strategy might be to decide which companies you're specifically interested in and then apply directly through the firm. But even that method might be an exercise in futility.
"The trick now isn't getting the interview and getting the job. It's getting the interview, period," says educational consultant
One way to do that is to research the most prominent associations within the industry you're interested in and then attend their events and conferences. Every industry has them, they're scheduled regularly, and experts say it's a great way to start the networking process. If you want to go into public relations, for instance, check out the
"If you know what type of work you want to do, talk to them about the industry, and ask them if there are other people you should be networking with," says Smith. If you meet them at a party, tell them you want to learn more, and arrange to meet them for coffee or at their office. Dress nicely, bring a copy of your résumé, and ask them about other individuals or firms to contact. And keep the lines of communication open after that. If you do ask directly for a job, and he or she says no, the conversation could be over.
Going the online route is a good idea if you're using it for social networking. NACE estimates that almost a third of employers are using social networking websites, including
And think about creating a profile on LinkedIn.com. If you meet a potential contact in person, ask if you can connect with him or her on the site. But don't simply glue yourself to your computer screen. "It's easy to hide behind the Internet, but that's not enough," says Yaverbaum. "You want to get the people face to face."
2. Continue to use your career center.
Most schools will not cut you off when you graduate. Many keep their doors open to graduates for at least another two years. "Some might get embarrassed about it or feel that it's not proper, but counselors there want you to succeed, and they will gladly help you," says Smith.
Some career centers provide online counseling as well as over-the-phone counseling, but Koc recommends making an in-person appointment to get the most out of it. "Graduates might be inclined to simply search the jobs posted to their center's website, but they really should make full use of their services," he says, which can include resume building and interviewing advice as well as assistance in focusing the job search.
Looking for a job can be a discouraging process, and campus career centers can provide moral support as well as leads. Some large universities, such as the
3. If you're undecided, look where the jobs are.
It might sound like a no-brainer, but job opportunities in some fields in particular will abound in 2010 and beyond, and looking in those areas could lay the groundwork for a lucrative, rewarding career down the line.
Barnes of EmploymentCrossing.com agrees that the allied health professions are very stable right now and offer diverse job opportunities. "Right-brained people tend to steer clear of it because they think it's all about science, but hospitals and healthcare companies also do public relations, marketing, writing . . . practically any job you would have," he says. "Looking in the medical field is a smart thing to do."
Jobs in journalism and the media face an uncertain future as the industry struggles to evolve, but those positions are still in high demand. Experts say that interested college grads can get an edge by playing up their writing abilities and Web savvy. Koc of the
4. Think hard about your priorities.
There are opposing schools of thought on whether it's more important for your first job to be intellectually stimulating and rewarding or one that pays the bills. Yaverbaum of CollegeClickTV.com says it's better to have a low-paying job with the best job description and title rather than a good-paying job with a bad title. But
If you are living on your own, regardless of how you weigh living expenses against job satisfaction, conventional wisdom says that your 20s are the time to do things that you can't do later in life. "Don't get out of college and feel pressure to map out your entire career," says Yaverbaum. "Worry about the next five years, not the next 30."
You might want to take some chances. Don't discredit volunteering opportunities, whether it's at a nonprofit company, a hospital, or for a political campaign. The experience looks great on a resume, and in some cases it can lead to a full-time paid position. Working internationally is another option. That might mean studying for an extra year in an exchange program or taking a more menial type of job abroad. There are also plenty of opportunities to teach English in overseas jobs and certification programs. And experts say social learning in a different culture can be just as important as discrete job skills.
Wherever you end up, Yaverbaum says the most important thing is to focus on creating a record of achievement that will be attractive to future employers.
5. Don't cop out for graduate school.
Applying to law school because you've always wanted to be a lawyer is one thing, but experts advise against pursuing it because you don't know what to do with that anthropology or English degree, or because the job search is leading you nowhere. "The only reason to go to grad school is because you want to go to grad school, not because you can't find a job," says Smith. "Graduate and professional school can increase your debt load without increasing job prospects."
Don't go to graduate school unless you know why you are going, where it leads, and that you want that career. It is smart to take the entrance exams -- like the LSAT, GRE, or GMAT -- within a year of graduating, but those schools will always be there, and racking up some real-world experience, and digging yourself out of debt, will put you in a much better position to apply for graduate school a few years later. If nothing else materializes, it makes more sense to get a part-time job, even if it's just waiting tables or mixing drinks, Smith says. While you do that, continue to look for other full-time positions, rather than jump into something you're not sure about.
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