Today's seniors could not be luckier. They are graduating right in the middle of one of the tightest job markets in US history Wed by minimal inflation, the lowest (4.7% in October) unemployment rate in 24 years and strong job demand. Some employers are actually hiring recent graduates because they cannot find enough experienced hires.
"It's going to be the best year of the decade," commented Camille Luckenbaugh, employment information director for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). "It's a great time to be a graduating senior." Nearly 70% of the surveyed employers plan to increase new graduate hiring, according to NACE's most recent annual survey, Job Outlook '98.
The survey projected an overall increase of 19 percent in corporate hiring. The manufacturing sector is leading the pack with anticipated increases of 16% followed by the service sector with a jump of 16 Even government and nonprofits reported expecting a small rise in hires of around 3%.
Seniors in all academic disciplines will probably benefit from this fight job market, according to the survey. Although demand remains especially vibrant in the computer-software/data processing arena, companies are also hiring graduates with liberal arts backgrounds. Insurance companies, merchandisers and consulting firms are the leading prospective employers for liberal arts graduates.
JOB OFFERS ON THE RISE
All this is good news indeed for the class of 1998. More recruiters than ever are visiting college campuses. Some career counselors report running out of interview rooms as employers increase their average number of campuses visited from 26 to 28 $is year. On-campus interviews remain the most popular method of college recruitment. Career or job fairs come second, according to the survey, followed by employee referrals and school job posting. Internet job posting, which ranked very low in lost year's survey, jumped up to number six in popularity. Clearly, companies ore showing increasing interest in this recruiting method.
The surge in on-campus recruitment has already had a strong positive benefit. "Many students, especially those with work experience, easily had five or more job offers lost year," reports Leigh Turner, director of the Career Center at Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas. Turner reports that last year employers conducted 26,000 job interviews at the school 14,000 in the fall and 12,000 in the spring. Turner expects even more interviews 6s year with the peak number coming in the fall. "Spring is sort of mop-up time," Turner explains.
But strong demand does not mean that employers are lowering their standards. If anything, expectations are moving higher. Greg Hammill, director of employment for AT&T, says his company has strong standards for academic achievement and technical skills in all undergraduate hires. But AT&T also looks for "soft skills" like good communications abilities, decision-making, problem-solving and a dear demonstration of both leadership and teamwork.
"I can teach people the other things," said Hammill. "But when you come to work for us you are part of a team. And you really can't teach the soft skills like effective communications and working with people." AT&T's job interviews are designed to rate students in all these areas. Hammill adds that no matter how appealing a job candidate's technical skills and academic background may be, "...we would not hire $crt candidate without these interpersonal skills."
WHAT IT TAKES TO GET HIRED
College students need to prove themselves in the following three distinct areas to get hired today:
Academic background. Employers expect a four-year bachelor's degree, although an associates degree (two years) is accepted in some fields like computer science. A 3.0 or above Grade Point Average (GPA) is preferred.
Work experience. Employers believe $at the best way to predict job success is a student's experience in summer jobs, internships or co-op programs. All these programs are seen as a good predictor of the student's ability to succeed in a corporate environment.
Strong interpersonal and leadership skills. Working in a community organization, being captain of the soccer team or leader of a campus group are all good ways to demonstrate such experience. Employers consider these skills crucial to success in today's team-oriented corporate environment.
Students will be pleased to learn that entry-level salaries are still on the rise. Computer science graduates can expect an average starting salary of $38,475, a 6.3 percent increase over the previous year, according to the NACE survey. The starting salaries of liberals arts graduates begin substantially lower at around $28,875 this year, but they grew at a faster rate--6.5 percent this year.
Since competition for the best jobs remains stiff, students still must work hard to convince employers $at they are the best candidate for any good entry-level job. Here some tips from the experts on how to enhance employability.
CAREER TIP #1: WORK EXPERIENCE:
The head of career services at Texas A&M, Leigh Turner, tells all students: "Get work experience in your field." Even with the economy so strong, those without work experience will struggle. The best way to convince an employer that you are the right person for the job is to have prior experience in the some field or a related one.
There are three major ways to get $at experience: Summer jobs; internships and cooperative programs. Almost all Fortune 500 companies today offer Internships--as do many smaller companies. Most internships take place during the summer and thus do not disrupt a student's academic career. They provide a good opportunity to gain experience, while giving companies a good chance to look students over as prospective, full-time hires.
"We tell students always to intern for two full semesters," says Turner. This longer time period gives the student a real chance to get to learn the job, which may become a conduit to full-time work. However, Turner also warns that there are fewer internships offered than regular jobs. For this reason, students may have to work hard to snag these opportunities--either registering early in the career services office, searching the internet or through use of reference guides like Peterson's Internships 1997, an annual publication. Minority students may also find that their campus has internships organized by Inroads, a very successful, St.-Louis-based non-profit with a good track record for placing student with good companies.
Cooperative programs represent another excellent way to gain work experience. However, co-op work programs require a full-time work commitment, which lengthens the time it takes a student to earn an undergraduate degree. Nonetheless, these programs have a number of advantages, including a full-time salary and intensive work experience. In most cases, the program only lengthens the student's academic career by one semester. Turner reports that many co-op students join the company they worked for after graduation. Some already have the equivalent of one full year of work under their belt, and many employers count tot when calculating benefits.
Co-op programs have become so popular that some schools like the University of Cincinnati have made them mandatory. Texas A&M has considered doing the same. But the sheer size of the 35,000-student undergraduate student body makes such a move unlikely. However, to give these programs more support the school combined the co-op program under the some roof with its career services some time ago.
Career Tip #2: Utilize the School Career Office
Judith Gumbiner, head of career services at Son Diego State University believes, that the early bird catches the worm. So she tells students: "Get started in career preparation as soon as possible, and see a career counselor once a year to increase your marketability." A professional career counselor may come up with ideas a student has not thought of. Suggestions may be simple, but effective, such as urging an English major to select a useful minor like desktop publishing, a discipline which is in very high demand in the corporate marketplace.
Career counselors are also familiar with the full range of career services at the school and can guide the student $rough them. Today these range from job banks to interactive programs to help in job interviews. One unusual skill that to San Diego teaches it students is how to prepare a "scannable resume." Today many companies scan the students resume to put it into their system, so it is important to prepare the resume in the right format. For instance, the scannable resume should be typed in 10 or 12 point size without any underlining, italics or fonts which the scanner cannot pick up easily.
Career Tip #3: Use the Internet
At AT&T Greg Hammill, director of employment, suggests: "Go into career internet web sites and you'll find all sorts of helpful career information." Besides the traditional sites like the Wall Street Journal or NACE itself, he recommends that minority students look for specialized sites like the Minorities Job Bank, Asia Net and Latina Web. All these sites can provide useful tips on positioning, interviewing and networking. In addition, many employers now post job banks on the internet. The NACE survey showed that employers were becoming more enthusiastic about this recruiting method. Universities and colleges are also using the internet much more frequently these days. Son Diego State University for instance, started posting job listings electronically last year. After that, visits to the school's two major sites more than doubled from 9,000 to 25,000 "hits." "We've seen a big shift to electronic usage since we put the jobs on-line last year. It's really the thing that's happening" says Gumbiner.
All these avenues represent good ways of enhancing your chances of getting hired. Such planning is crucial despite strong demand, because there...