Over a million bright-eyed college seniors are about collide with the real world. If you’re one of them, here’s what you need to know.
Don’t get me wrong: you’re still facing a tough economy. But the current economy is much more favorable to new grads than in years past. Many who earned degrees since 2008 are still struggling to find employment above minimum wage—or any employment at all. You aren’t going to have it easy, but you won’t have it nearly as hard as those who came before you.
You’re graduating at a time when the unemployment rate is at its lowest in six years and jobs are being created. Many of those jobs will go to recent grads. A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that employers plan to hire 8.6 percent more graduates from the Class of 2014 than they did for last year’s crop of grads:
- Overall, 48.4 percent of respondents say they are increasing their college hiring; less than 30 percent plan to cut back. In comparison, last year at this time, 49.2 percent reported plans to raise their college hire numbers, but approximately 36 percent said they would trim college hiring.
- Nearly all responding employers continue to recruit and hire this spring; less than 10 percent say that they concluded their college hiring in fall 2013.
- Nearly two-thirds say they are hiring for full-time and internship positions this spring.
There are plenty of opportunities out there, but…
You’ve Got a Lot of Competition
When graduation day comes, take a good long look at the sea of mortar boards around you. Now multiply that number by 2,474. That’s how many four-year institutions there are in the U.S., and they’re all pumping out crowds of graduates just like the one you’ll be standing in. In fact, the U.S. awards nearly 1.5 million bachelor’s degrees annually, and each one of those represents a person who’s looking for a job.
But you won’t just be competing against the rest of the class of 2014. You’ll be competing against all those graduates from recent years who are still searching for a professional break. You’ll also be up against experienced professionals who find themselves forced to take entry-level work—and entry-level pay—as a result of recent economic woes.
Your Degree is Valuable
I’m not talking to you, STEM grads. You know your degree is valuable. I’m talking to the liberal arts grads—the ones who studied something they genuinely enjoyed while enduring barrages of, “what can you do with a degree in medieval lit?” In truth, your professional career will probably never intersect with your academic interests. But that doesn’t mean your degree isn’t valuable.
Despite what your friends in the engineering department say, your liberal arts degree is valuable and often attractive—yes, attractive—to employers. Liberal arts grads, particularly those from top schools and tough programs, are prized for their ability to cope with abstract problems and open-ended questions. They’re also valued for their ability to communicate effectively, among plenty of other things.
You’re not going to be courted nearly as aggressively as your friends in computer science. You also probably won’t make as much out the gate as your peers with STEM degrees. But as your career progresses, your prospects and salary will likely achieve parity with those who have professional degrees. You might not get rich, but you probably knew that already.
You’re graduating at the most favorable economic period in years—but so are more than a million others. To succeed, you need to be prepared to compete. Just having a great degree from a good school isn’t enough. You’ve got to network and uncover hidden opportunities. You’ve got package yourself professionally; this means making sure your LinkedIn profile and resume look polished and not like a recent grad. You’ve got to start being smart about social media use, because employers and recruiters WILL look, and those keg stand pics aren’t going to do you any favors. In short, you’ve got a very, very good chance to grab a great job right out of school—but you’re going to have to work for it.
This is also the last time in your life that anyone will care about your GPA. Enjoy it.
Over the coming months, we’ll be covering what recent grads need to know about various aspects of the job search, including networking, creating a resume, interviewing, and accepting the first job offer. Stay tuned.