Job news improves for new graduatesCompanies are hiring, but competition for jobs remains high
This spring’s graduates might be hitting the job market just as hiring is picking up.
Companies plan to hire 5.3 percent more new graduates this year than they did last year, according to the annual “Job Outlook” survey published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
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That’s the first increase in hiring plans since October 2008 – and a healthy turnaround from the 2009 spring report, in which companies said they hired nearly 22 percent fewer new grads than they did the previous year.
“I think things are starting to look up a little bit,” says Tina Loudon, director of the Career Services Center. “You still hear a lot of doom and gloom about a ‘jobless recovery,’ but I think new grads may be of more interest to employers.”
With their technology savvy and high energy level, new graduates “possess the kind of skills and knowledge employers want,” Loudon says.
It’s still a tough job market, though; the overall unemployment rate remains high. New graduates will be competing with other recent grads who haven’t found jobs yet, as well as more experienced workers willing to take a pay cut to make it through the recession, Loudon says. So students should do everything they can to make themselves stand out.
“It’s a buyer’s market out there,” Loudon says. “Employers are going to take the very, very strongest candidates they can.”
That’s what Ben Bortner was thinking when he applied for a job as an investment analyst at Saturna Capital in Bellingham. Though he was completing a double-major in Finance and Accounting, Bortner knew the job would be tough to get right out of college.
"I think new grads may be of more interest to employers."
“So I wrote an extensive research report about a company to demonstrate I could do this job,” says Bortner, 22, from Vancouver, Wash. His report examined how the publicly traded company was undervalued by the market because it was going through a restructuring.
Bortner also maximized his networking opportunities. As president of WWU’s student finance club, he met many of the professionals who spoke to the group, including Saturna’s senior analyst. A professor’s letter of recommendation was also critically important, Bortner says.
The NACE employment report also analyzed regional hiring trends and found that companies in the West predicted they would hire 7.3 percent more new graduates than they did last year – a steeper increase than in the country as a whole.
The news was good for internships, too. About half of respondents said they plan to hire interns along with full-time employees this year, compared with 35 percent last year. Another 15 percent of employers said they planned to hire interns only this year.
About 65 businesses and organizations signed up to recruit WWU students at the recent Spring Career Fair, Loudon says.
“They’re hiring, or they wouldn’t be here,” she says.
She encouraged students to stay positive, but to not be too picky, either.
“The first job after graduation is a stepping stone,” she says. New graduates should focus on the skills they would pick up in a first job that could help them move along in their careers.
"I knew I had (the) attributes to get my foot in the door."
It may also be a good time to try something a little different, Loudon says, such as traveling overseas to work as an English instructor. That’s what Connor Tudbury is planning after graduating this summer. The Boise, Idaho, resident landed a fellowship from the French government to be a teaching assistant at a public school in Normandy, France.
“I was looking for any way I could to get over to France to improve my language abilities,” says Tudbury, who is majoring in Spanish and minoring in French and Economics. “I would have wanted to do this regardless, but the economic circumstances here gave me a little bit of an inspiration to try a little harder to find something.”
Tudbury hopes the international experience will help him toward his long-term goal of a career in international aid and development.
“My particular interest is in using education to build a stronger economic base in developing countries,” he says. “That’s why I’m hoping to spend sometime abroad for a while.”
If a student’s first job out of college isn’t in their chosen field, Loudon advises, stay involved through volunteering or freelance work, if possible. Future employers will be impressed.
Most of all, don’t get discouraged, says Jonathan Oliver, a 22-year-old Accounting and Economics major who just landed an internship at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Bellingham.
Now helping out with office administration and learning the ropes of the financial world, Oliver says he was at first skeptical that he could land an internship with such a prestigious company. He probably wasn’t the applicant with the best grade point average, he says, but he has other skills employers need.
“Being well-rounded and able to deal with people on a personal level and get a job done efficiently, I knew I had those attributes to get my foot in the door,” he says.
So Oliver encourages other students to set their sights high and keep trying, even during a rough economy.
“Don’t be too proud, and don’t be easily discouraged,” Oliver says. “As soon as you decide to not apply for a job you really want, someone else, who’s just as qualified and on the same playing field, will get it. It never hurts to shoot for one of your goals.”