Tough Job Market Can Mean Good News for New College Graduates

by March 30, 2010

Although this year’s cohort of college graduates is facing one of the toughest job markets in decades, they actually have an advantage over other job seekers, according to Andy Chan, vice president of career development at Wake Forest University. They are among the age group most likely to be hired and also will be acquiring valuable job hunting skills that will serve them well in the future.

“If I could be anyone in this job market who is unemployed, who would I want to be? A new college graduate,” Chan says. “Organizations are very interested in hiring young people because they have a lot of energy and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

New college graduates also have an advantage because they don’t have the financial obligations of older workers with families and can be very open-minded regarding their choice of job since they are at the start of their careers, Chan said.

“The National Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the average worker will hold 10 to 14 different jobs by the time they are 38,” Chan said. “Although some of those might be within the same organization, students really need to learn be resilient in today’s job market.

“I find that the years when the market is down can offer some advantages because students have to work to find jobs and later in their lives they’re not as anxious about finding work because they have had the experience of looking for a job,” he said. “Those who had it too easy with two or three job offers right out of college are often in shock and totally unprepared if they later find themselves unemployed.”

Chan warns, however, that job hunting is not for the fainthearted. It could take dozens of interviews and several months to land the right job. He also says new graduates have a better chance of success if they can avoid the five most common job hunting mistakes of college seniors:

1. Overusing the Internet –“Students in this digital age think if they apply to enough jobs online then someone will eventually want to hire them. But it’s actually quite difficult to obtain a job on the Internet due to the high volume of resumes submitted. The number one method to obtain a job is by networking.”

2. Being Too Choosy –“Many students get so focused on a specific job or organization that they don’t realize there are other roles and other types of organizations that might be really good opportunities for them too.”

3. Giving Up Too Early – “Some students think that given the poor job market, it’s not worth the time to search for a job. But many companies are now recruiting students this spring and through the summer. Our biggest problem is getting students to pay attention and apply for these jobs.”

4. Mis-using the Grad School Option – “For some people, grad school is a great option, but if you’re just doing it as a back up because you can’t find a job, it’s a very expensive back up. Grad school does not necessarily increase your job prospects – and the pressure can be even greater if you took on loans or don’t like your area of study and the types of opportunities it provides.”

5. Not using the college’s career office – “Students don’t realize that their career office can help them identify networking contacts, learn important job search skills, and significantly improve their resume and cover letter. It’s amazing how out of every 10 resumes, only one or two are very good, but 8 out of 10 are terrible.”

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