It’s back to school for college students across the country and – for seniors – that means one more year to prepare for the leap into today’s job market.
Though unemployment is much lower for college graduates, earning that degree is only half the battle.
Bob Nealon, from staffing firm Robert Half International in Providence, joined The Rhode Show to share some tips for college seniors on how to make their last year count.
The Rhode Show: First off, what is the job market like for young people – and how valuable is a college degree in today’s job market?
- Having a college degree gives you a big leg up in this very competitive job market
- In August, the general unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, while the unemployment rate for college-degreed workers was only 4.1 percent – a pretty big difference
- Still, the hiring environment for new graduates remains competitive, but, like the outlook for the rest of the job market, it is improving.
- Employers seek new hires that have a proven track record and can contribute immediately – they are more willing to hire this year as they gain confidence in the job market’s recovery
- New entrants to the job market need to bolster their resumes with internships, temporary work and volunteer activities – anything that demonstrates a strong work ethic, solid communication skills and technical aptitude.
The Rhode Show: You cite 4 strategies in particular that college seniors should use to position themselves to land a job upon graduation. Let’s go through those:
A. Land an Internship
- According to NACE (National Association of Colleges & Employers), 60% of college students with a paid internship last year received at least one job offer
- Internships are extremely important. Year after year, we find that students who completed internships in college had a far better chance of landing a full time job and some even having a full time job already lined up at graduation.
- Internships can be useful resume builders and a great way to get your foot in the door with a company
- Internships provide insight to the real working world – something you’re typically not taught in school. You may not know, for example, what it’s like to work for a start-up versus an established company, or a nonprofit organization versus a government job. That’s why experiencing different environments through internships can be very useful.
B. Create a Network
- It’s never too early to start building your professional network
- In person – networking and professional groups and organizations
- Online – LinkedIn, Facebook
- Many companies don’t advertise open positions, so networking plays an important role in finding out about “hidden” job opportunities.
- Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job, whether in-person at industry association events or using professional networking websites. You’d be surprised at who might be able to help.
C. Use Your Resources
- Most colleges offer Career Services free of charge – use this as a resource to find out about internships, jobs, and opportunities you may not have otherwise
- Attend campus career fairs and events that could help you meet new people and find out about potential career opportunities
- You also might be able to connect with other alumni who can provide advice
D. Build a (good) Resume
- Creating a good resume is still possible, even if you are a student
- Include summer jobs, internships, volunteer work, sports and extracurricular activities
- Have a friend or professor critique your resume and suggest improvements
- Grammar and spelling are always important
The Rhode Show: How can grads overcome the old challenge of “getting a job without experience and experience without a job?”
It’s not impossible
- As we discussed, internships are the best way to build real world experience while still in school – the students who have the best shot are those who have held multiple internships and have had some measurable success
- Besides internships – the network you build and the outside interests you have can really help connect you to the right people and build an impressive resume – don’t rule out volunteer work, etc.
The Rhode Show: Any other tips on how new grads or students can increase their chances of finding work in this economy?
- Be flexible, proactive and creative.
- Don’t overlook your online image. A growing number of employers are searching the Web for information about job seekers, making it crucial for applicants to actively monitor and maintain their professional reputations online.
- Find jobs before they’re advertised. Read your local business journals and newspapers to identify companies that are hiring or expanding, and send them your resume.
- Initiate contact. Research companies you would like to work for and ask for an informational interview to learn more about the organization. It also can help employers get to know you so you’re top of mind