By Jean Chatzky with Arielle McGowen
May 22, 2009
This year's college grads are stepping into a bleak job market. As the unemployment rate continues to climb, more members of this year's graduating class are heading straight to grad school, many no doubt hoping their employment prospects will brighten by the time they finish.
But if grad school isn't in your master plan, don't fret. A recent survey found that 54 percent of employers plan to hire 2009 grads, down only slightly from last year. A survey by CollegeGrad.com actually found that entry-level hiring, while down 1.5 percent from last year, is up 11.4 percent from 2007.
Knowing how to find job openings—and how to stand out once you do—is key to your success.
Cast a Wide Net Employers typically recruit on campus, but the process is different now and you need to innovate, says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World.
That means researching employers in your field and smaller ones that don't necessarily recruit. The Internet is an extraordinary tool for researching these employers—and their competitors.
Work Your Network I cannot emphasize this enough. In this economy, chances are you're going to get a job by word of mouth. You have to talk to people, tell them what you're looking for and ask if they know of openings or if any of the people they know do.
Chat up family, friends, professors, alumni. If you had an internship during college, get in touch. Be sure to have a professional profile on networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook.
Focus on You There's a lot of competition, and many laid-off workers who've been sidelined for a while are applying for anything they can get.
Don't let that get you down. Focus on what you offer. A lot of employers are looking for new energy and ideas. Show you offer that.
Head to Career Services This is one of the most underutilized services on campuses. It's a shame because it's also one of the most helpful. Résumé writing services and career consulting normally cost a fortune, but the campus career services office will help you for free.
Having someone with experience look over your résumé, take you through a mock interview and connect you with alumni is invaluable. And it's not just for 2009 grads, Lindsey says. "Theoretically, you can go back forever," she says. "You may have to wait a little while because the priority is current students, but the vast majority of colleges will help alumni with their job searches."
Thanks Very Much "There's no secret playbook for a bad economy. You just have to work harder, be faster, make sure all of your documents are perfect. All of these little things add up to get you a job," Lindsey says.
That means being the person who gets the cards of recruiters at job fairs and follows up. If you get an interview or someone helps you get one, always send a thank you note.
Frustrated but Flexible I don't want to say settle, but it's better to take a job that will help you develop relevant experience. In a few years, the employment situation will likely be better. Volunteering also is also a great way to gain experience and contacts. Find opportunities at VolunteerMatch.org.