The National Association of Colleges and Employers says compared to last year, the hiring and salary prospects that college graduates face in the job market are projected to be flat for 2009.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, Mass., says the job market has taken a hit with the recession and college students graduating in the class of 2009 find it hard to understand why their friends who graduated last year found jobs with signing bonuses or other perks no longer offered. "The last graduating class really could pick and choose where they wanted to work," she says.
But be not discouraged, experts say, there are still jobs for soon-to-be college graduates out there, and with a little strategizing and some hard work, you can land a gig despite the recession in the job market. It may not be the job of your dreams, but it can be the first step on the road to career success, they say. And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the January 2009 unemployment rate for those with a bachelor's degree and higher was 3.8 percent; for those with less than a high-school diploma, the rate was 12 percent.
"While things are tough and definitely getting more difficult for a lot of people, the educated work force is struggling less; there are more opportunities for them than the general population," notes Jennifer Floren, founder and CEO of Experience Inc., based in Boston.
Job-Finding Tips for Soon-to-Be College Graduates
1. Treat your job search as a full-time job. Experts say you must dedicate time and effort to finding work, especially in a tight market, and do more than just apply for jobs online. Network, think creatively about finding companies that are hiring, and don't expect others to do the work for you. "No one can get you a job. If a coach or mentor promises you a job, you should run," Matuson warns.
2. Know how to network. Successful networking is reciprocal, and involves building relationships with people, says Steven Rothberg, president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, based in Minneapolis. "To be truly successful as a job-seeker, you have to meet people face to face," he says. If your parents have friends who are small-business owners, offer them your services free one day a week. Eventually, Rothberg says, they may hire you, or point you toward a job-opening they know of elsewhere.
3. Be an investigator. Paul Klein, director of Cleveland State University's Career Services Center, advises students to go beyond the Internet when searching for a job, and scour multiple sources for information. For instance, if you're looking for nonprofit work, find out which organizations recently received grants from foundations, he says, because they may be hiring.
4. Use your school's career services office. Start now-if you haven't already-and work on your job search every week, Klein says. The office can also connect you with alumni, who "understand where you are and can be fantastic assistance" when it comes to networking and job-hunting, he notes.
5. Consider a government job. NACE reported in October 2008 that government hiring expectations were up almost 20 percent from August. "The federal government has grown so much over the last decade and it likely will continue to grow. There are pretty good job opportunities and security there," Rothberg says.
6. Stay flexible. A recession in the job market means you have to be open-minded about finding work, experts say. This could involve moving to a city with more opportunities, taking a less-desirable job while you volunteer in the industry you want to work in, or working for a small business instead of a larger company. "Recoveries from recessions are always led by small businesses. It is not going to be IBM or Chrysler hiring people back that will lead us out of this recession; it will be hundreds of thousands of small businesses that no one knows about," Rothberg says.
Curious about more education and recession related articles? Check out the following:
Continuing Education: A Lifelong Pursuit That Pays
Bachelor's Degrees: Just What Are They Worth?
10 Careers in Demand for 2009