What College Graduates Can Expect Now

by Emily Guy Birken · 13 comments

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, though.

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.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Latoya @ Femme Frugality says:

    I think college graduates should look to side hustling as well after they graduate. Side hustling can make it pretty easy to pay off student debt faster and it could help them build a sizeable emergency fund in the event of job loss. Also, it can be a huge source of encouragement for those who can’t find jobs as quickly as their peers.

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      There’s a danger to side income…. because the side gig can be so good you’ll never have to work a 9-5 again. (Oh I guess that’s not so bad :))

  • Centsai says:

    I really like the point you make in #3. It is super important for people in the job market to keep an open mind as to what their careers will be. You don’t want to settle, but you also don’t want to limit your opportunities!

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      Actually taking a lower paying or career limiting job isn’t the worst. What’s actually bad is to take it and stop looking for a new one. As you say, settling is what’s bad!

  • Financial Advice for Young Professionals says:

    The job market is definitely picking back up again. There are tons of good part and full time opportunities available online, whether it’s blogging or social media outreach type stuff. Many companies are investing in this right now, so why not use skills you may not even know you have?

    The key to landing a job though right now is through networking. People are hiring their friends and friends of friends more than ever right now.

  • Jean says:

    These are definitely good times to consider secondary sources of income like blogging. Although the job market is beginning to look up, it’s still not easy and the going will be tough at first for most graduates.


  • Charlotte@EverythingFinance says:

    Study the company you are interviewing with to learn about them. Figure out something that sets you apart from the avarage candidate and use that to help you land the job.

  • Carl Lassegue says:

    It’s still a competitive market but a lot better than when I graduated a couple years ago. My advice to college grads is to be prepared for rejection. After I graduated, (with really good grades) I thought finding a job would be a breeze once I got an interview. I was devastated when I did not get the first job I interviewed for.

    • William Lee - Earn Money From Blog 2.0 says:

      Carl Lassugue, it is true. I also graduated with good grades but I was rejected several times and waiting for job offers. Most of the time, I am waiting but with no response from the company I applied. It is sad.

  • William Lee- Earn Money From Blog 2.0 says:

    It is not easy to get a suitable job especially in competitive time – now. The industries are more demanding and there are fewer jobs to choose from. So, I think that as long as can get a job, then it would be good enough. Then, we can do some part time job to earn some income such as try to make some money blogging to increase our income. 🙂

  • Deacon says:

    With regards to #3: I realize that the job market might not be the best, however, I am a firm believer that if you are driven, passionate about a field, and willing to what it takes to get the job, you CAN get it. Maybe not right away, but be persistent and make it happen.

  • Lance @ Money Life and More says:

    Regardless of what you will be doing please follow step 5! If you are making $8 an hr or $25 an hr budgeting and knowing where your money is going is key to having a successful financial life! I’d also like to add to not grow into your new salary if you are on the higher range and to save as much as possible now because you are not used to the money yet. Once you get used to it it is hard to go back to a lower spending level.

  • Marbella says:

    Today’s students must be prepared for that they may not get his dream job directly and take what is offered them; they may need to move to another city or state to get a good job. Unfortunately, it’s tough on the job market today.

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