Though many college students dream of the day they will walk across the stage and receive their bachelor's degree, the reality that awaits many after the last note of "Pomp and Circumstance" has been played may not be what is expected because job availability remains bleak.
According to analysis of government data conducted for the Associated Press, nearly 54 percent of bachelor's degree holders under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed in 2011. That's the lowest such level in more than a decade.
Some analysts have begun to question the value of a college degree for recent college graduates who have student loans to pay off. But the concern should be less about the value of a degree and more about how recent graduates can find jobs in an economy where a lack of professional experience might make them more affordable, but ultimately less valuable to prospective employers. The following are a few tips recent college grads can employ to increase their chances at finding a job.
• Use the resources at your disposal. Even if it may seem you're on your own the moment you put away that cap and gown, there are resources at your disposal. Your university's alumni career center, for example, has helped graduates find jobs in what has proven to be a historically bad economy over the last several years. Alumni career centers often sponsor networking events and will help recent graduates craft their resumes. Graduates who went to school away from home can still tap this potentially valuable resource even if they're no longer nearby campus. Chat online with an alumni center representatives and access online video workshops that offer anything from interviewing advice to how to write a better cover letter. Other resources may include your parents, their friends, your own friends who have already found work or anyone else who might share their experience and advice.
• Look for jobs in fields that are expanding. Though it might seem as though no job fields are fertile in the current economy, that's not true. Green jobs and jobs in the field of health, for instance, are growing and projections indicate that growth is expected to continue in the years to come. Such fields are likely to have more entry-level positions available, and entry-level positions do not typically target experienced professionals.
• Consider moving. One of the biggest advantages to being a recent college graduate is freedom to move around. Few have spouses or children to consider, and even fewer have a mortgage to pay. Having so few strings attached to you can work to your advantage — allowing you to relocate to a stronger job market even if you don't already have a job offer in hand. As the economy has struggled, many companies have been forced to cut back, and one of the cutbacks many companies have made is reducing their relocation budgets. A 2009 poll from the Society of Human Resource Management found that 58 percent of companies had reduced their relocation programs, while 17 percent had eliminated such programs entirely. Simply put, companies have begun to limit their hiring to local candidates. If a particular company has caught your eye, consider moving to where that company is located.Being local might just make you a more attractive applicant.
If no company has caught your eye, consider a relocation to a city with strong prospects for an unemployed person. A U.S. News analysis of statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and job aggregator Web site Juju.com indicated that Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boston, Massachusetts were the three best cities for an unemployed person to find work. In ranking the cities, the analysis considered the number of individuals per advertised job and the city's overall unemployment rate. Other locales, including Oklahoma City, Okla., and St. Paul, Minn., rated highly as well. Recent college graduates with nothing tying them down might want to consider relocating to a city where their prospects are stronger.
Though there is no magic formula new college grads can employ to find a job, there are ways they can increase their chances going forward.