During my senior year in college I learned to dread the common question “So, what’s next?” Even though I graduated at a more robust economic time (2001), I still found it fairly difficult to land an entry-level position that would make the most of my degree. This year’s graduating seniors may have wondered if there was any way they could avoid unemployment after graduation, adding stress to an already difficult transition. Here is what the graduating class can expect after they hang up their cap and gown:
1. Job prospects are looking up! According to several reports including a Harris Interactive poll and a report from outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, over half of employers are looking to hire recent graduates. In addition to this great news, most employers expect to pay their new hires between $30,000 and $40,000 — which is an improvement over the starting salaries offered in past years.
2. But it’s still a competitive market. While the sluggish job market is certainly opening up for new graduates, it’s important to remember that there are many job-seekers out there. New graduates will need to network in order to land a job, since getting to a face-to-face meeting with an employer is very difficult with nothing but an emailed resume. Graduates should use their network of connections through their friends, professors, classmates, parents, and former employers.
One advantage that college graduates have over more experienced job-seekers, however, is their flexibility. New graduates have the ability to move to another part of the country or accept a non-traditional schedule — which will make them very attractive candidates.
3. Graduates might not find a job that precisely fits their studies. I was an English major at a liberal arts college, so I got used to the idea that my post-college jobs did not necessarily match my schooling. But individuals who studied computer science, engineering, accounting and other relatively specific majors may feel that their first jobs should be firmly within their field of study. With a tough job market, it’s important to be open-minded about opportunities outside of your specific industry or planned occupation.
4. Know which industries are growing. Even if you did not major in one of the fields that projects major growth through the next decade, it still pays to know what jobs will be growing — since every industry has supplemental needs. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, those fields include engineering, computer science, education, social work, accounting and health care. Graduates with these majors are in a good position to find a job that will grow into a career. Graduates who studied other fields can still look to see how their particular expertise could help these industries — making them an important part of a growing field.
5. Learn to budget. Whether you are starting a new job with an enviable salary or taking a McJob until positions in your field open up, now is the time to figure out how to budget. It can be difficult to stay on top of your cash flow when you are without kids or a mortgage and the world seems to be your oyster. No matter how much or how little you are making, sit down with your monthly expenses and decide how much you need to live, how much you should save, and how much you want set aside for fun money. Figuring this out ahead of time will save you from embarrassing calls home for help with rent.
The Bottom Line
The graduating class has a great deal to look forward to. Staying flexible, creative, open-minded and responsible will go a long way to helping you start your career.