How to Get Hired in the New Economy

Jun 15, 2010

Finding a job - much less a career - has never been as hard for graduating college students as it is in today's economy. Read on to discover what industries are hiring, what the best majors are for job prospects and how you can get ahead of the game before graduation.

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Young Professionals

The job market has never been this difficult for college grads. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the jobless rate for individuals with a bachelor's degree under age 25 was at 8% this past April. Although that's slightly lower than the country's overall unemployment rate, it's exceptionally high for college grads - only 3.7% of the same group was unemployed in April 2007, before the recession hit.

But there is some hope. In April, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently reported the first growth in their monthly hiring index since October 2009. So current students and new graduates take note: The jobs are out there. You just have to know how to find them.

At the end of 2009, NACE released the results from their Job Outlook 2010 survey. The organization surveyed employers across the country, asking them about their hiring intentions for new college graduates. With that information, NACE put together a hiring projection report that shows which industries are hiring, which majors are in the most demand and what actions current students can take to make themselves more attractive to potential employers. The key highlights are below.

Working

A Who's Who of Hiring

It's graduation season, so many of you are probably just finishing college and wondering what to do next. A few lucky grads might already have jobs lined up. For the rest of you, here's a list of the industries that are most likely to hire young adults with a bachelor's degree, from most jobs to fewest:

Major Top Most Interested Industry Second Third
Finance Finance Trade Government
Accounting Government Finance Transportation / Utilities / Distribution
Mechanical Engineering Manufacturing Professional Organizations Transportation / Utilities / Distribution
Business Administration / Mgmt Finance Trade Manufacturing
Electrical Engineering Government Transportation / Utilities / Distribution Professional Organizations

Source: NACE Job Outlook 2010.

Finance Majors

What's Your Major?

Whether you're just graduating from high school or finally getting that chance to go back to college, many of you may still be facing a few years in school before it's job hunting time. Or perhaps you're contemplating graduate school, but not sure where to specialize. If you haven't decided on your field yet (or even if you have), check out this list of the most in-demand degrees at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Degrees are listed from the most prospective jobs to the least.

Bachelor's Degrees Master's Degrees PhDs
Finance MBA (Business Electrical Engineering
Accounting Mechanical Engineering Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering Electrical Engineering Computer Science
Business Administration / Mgmt Computer Science Computer Engineering
Electrical Engineering Accounting Chemical Engineering
Computer Science n/a n/a
Information Science & Systems n/a n/a
Marketing / Marketing Mgmt n/a n/a
Computer Engineering n/a n/a
Chemical Engineering n/a n/a
Management Information Systems n/a n/a

Source: NACE Job Outlook 2010.

Students who are currently enrolled in 2-year degree programs may want to consider transferring to a 4-year institution upon completion of their degree. In spite of the fact that many 2-year programs are focused on vocation, NACE reports that the job outlook for associate's degree holders is at a five-year low - under 19% of survey respondents reported plans to hire associate's degree graduates from the class of 2010. Of those who will hire grads with only a 2-year degree, the top industries are:

  • Trade (related to degree field)
  • Transportation / Utilities / Distribution
  • Government
  • Construction
  • Professional Organizations
  • Finance
  • Manufacturing
  • Business Services

Future Prospects

How to Get Ahead

It's clear from the above figures that individuals in finance, technology and engineering are going to do the best on the labor market. Not getting a degree in one of the top fields? Don't despair - there's still lots that you can do as a student to improve your job outlook after graduation.

Leadership and Academics

Studying hard is especially important right now. NACE found that employers are putting more of an emphasis on GPA than they have in the past - almost 25% of respondents reported using GPA to screen candidates. Most cited a 3.0 as their cutoff.

Getting involved with school organizations like clubs or student government is also important. But just joining isn't enough - employers place a high premium on leadership experience. When asked what attributes they placed the greatest weight on when deciding between two qualified candidates, employers reported that having held a leadership position was most important. Other key attributes, in order of weight, were:

  • Candidate's major
  • High GPA
  • Involvement in extracurricular activities
  • What school the candidate attended
  • Volunteer experience

Take That Internship

NACE also invited employers to write in the attributes they found most important, and quickly noticed a theme: Experience, experience, experience. Almost 77% of respondents indicated a strong preference for candidates with relevant work experience, even among individuals who are just graduating from college. How do you get that work experience while you're still in school? Internships and summer jobs. Not only do these activities give you experience that's attractive to potential employers, they give you the opportunity to see what it's really like to work in your field.

Be sure to pursue an internship in an office that's relevant to your desired industry. Although past surveys found that 18-19% of employers were interested in graduates with any work experience at all, regardless of the relevance to their industry, only 15.9% of 2010 respondents indicated a preference for candidates with 'any' experience.

From College to Career

One last piece of advice: Brush up your resume. Having a clear, well-organized resume that emphasizes the right qualities can be key to getting your foot in the door. The following are the top five most desirable skills and qualities in recent grads, as ranked for the NACE survey by employers across all industries:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Analytical skills
  3. Teamwork skills (works well with others)
  4. Technical skills
  5. Strong work ethic
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