Hope for graduates in a cloudy job market

Job Search computer

Despite a clouded economy, there are a few bright spots for May 2009 graduates.

While job searching can be a daunting task, there are ways to increase the chance of finding a job after graduation.

The tips below were compiled from Tracy Haney, director of the career development office in The W.A. Franke College of Business; Rich McPherson, a 2008 NAU graduate in construction management; and David Allen, associate professor of finance.

Start job searching early
The first step students should take, Haney said, is to start looking for jobs earlier. It is taking employers longer to make their decisions, and it often takes at least two to three months for students to find a job. Student should start their job search before they graduate.

Apply creativity
“Companies are hiring, you just have to be a little more creative and proactive than a year ago in finding those positions,” Haney said. “There are jobs out there.”

Flexibility and creativity are a plus. For example, a finance major may need to consider government or non-profit work instead of the private sector. Students may still work in their field, but possibly work for a different kind of company than what they originally planned.

“When I graduated in 1982 it was a similarly bad recession, the worst since the Great Depression,” Allen said. “A lot of students didn’t find jobs right away so they had to become creative and do whatever they could until things got better.”

Optimistic Statistics
The National Association of Colleges and Employers information shows that last year new college graduates constituted 44 percent of entry level-positions vs. 33 percent in the past five years.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rises much more slowly for college graduates than for non-graduates. In December the high school graduate unemployment rate was 7.7, while for college graduates it was only 3.7.

A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that while 70 percent of graduates want a job, only 40 percent start looking before April. NAU’s own survey found that while many individuals found jobs, those who spent one to six months looking had a much better chance of finding a job in their field.

Persistence, persistence, persistence 
Persistence pays off and shows the employer initiative.

“It’s worth bugging employers in a nice way.” McPherson said. “At first I was embarrassed, but you have nothing to lose. Some employers told me I was ahead of the game because I called back and took that initiative.”

Find a special niche
McPherson suggests trying to find a special niche that won’t be as affected by a recession.

“If you can, take time to get experience in areas people in your field don’t have,” McPherson said. “Get a certification for something specific that would look better on a resume.”

Weigh other options
“If you can’t find a job, see if there’s an intern position you’d like, and go into it with the idea you could prove yourself and get a full-time job,” Haney said.

Going back to school is another option, especially if earning the highest credential is important in the student’s field. But for some career paths it helps to have work experience first, so students need to research what employers want. Haney said students should not go back to school as a last resort, but for a specific reason and if it will really benefit them in their field.

“Students should keep all their options open,” Haney said. “Remember, if everyone else is going back to school, then you will be looking for a job with everyone else in a few years.”

Take advantage of the Gateway Student Success Center’s services
Gateway offers résumé critiques and workshops, mock interviews and job seeking and interviewing workshops for free as well as an extensive online database with 3,630 active employers.

Students and alumni can post their résumés to the database and make a profile that includes their major and the type of positions they are seeking. Students can then search through Gateway’s database for employers in their major and find links to employers’ web sites.

The web site is particularly convenient for alumni, because they can access the database from home. They also can search career events and view which employers are attending.

“Every employer on the database wants to talk to NAU students and wants to hire NAU students and alumni,” said Sriyanthie McCabe, career and academic adviser for the Gateway Student Success Center.

Students can choose from career positions, federal work study or student wage, internships and temporary jobs.

To make an appointment at Gateway, call (928) 523-4772.

It’s all about patience
“If the job you want isn’t there right now, you have to wait until it is there,” Allen said. “You cannot always find a job you want when you want it, so you have to wait for better opportunities to open up.”

Haney said students can expect more rejection, but not to take it personally.

“I think sometimes people are afraid and think there’s no point in looking,” Haney said. “The competition is fierce, but companies are hiring.”

McPherson recommended that students enjoy the other aspects of their lives and rely on support of family and friends.

“Networking is important for everyone, not just students,” Haney said.

When it comes to networking, students should begin when they first enter college and continue to build their networks for the rest of their lives. They can begin with professors, staff members, friends of parents and other students. Almost anyone a student meets can be a potential part of his or her network.

“Everyone should always be on their game, no matter where they are and who they meet,” Haney said. “Everyone is a potential friend or colleague; you never know what might come out of random conversations with people.”

Online social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are useful too.

“I would caution students to create groups on Facebook and put the privacy settings on maximum since it is a social site and not just professional,” Haney said. “I personally think Facebook will outshine all the others, and even LinkedIn will eventually fade as college students get older and keep in contact with people via Facebook.”

Haney said another way for students to network is to join associations in their field of interest. It is cheaper to join as a student, and joining an association can give students access to job opportunities only listed on the association’s web site. Networking within an association is also helpful if the student plans on relocating to another city.

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