Though the economy is in much better shape than it was at the end of 2008, it’s still really hard to get a job — particularly if you’re young.
According to a Newsweek article, millennials make up 40 percent of of the unemployed in the U.S. And having a college degree is often not enough: a 2015 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that the unemployment rate among recent college graduates (ages 21-24) is 7.2 percent, compared with 5.5 percent in 2007. (The underemployment rate is 14.9 percent, compared with 9.6 percent in 2007.) Plus, 70 to 80 percent of graduating seniors are leaving college without a job.
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Yet, says Bob LaBombard, CEO of GradStaff, which recruits college seniors and recent graduates for different companies across the U.S., there are plenty of opportunities.
“Every year we interview 4,000 to 5,000 candidates, and about 70 percent say they don’t know where their education or skills fit in the workforce." In other words, they don’t know what jobs to apply for.
Even if they do have some idea of what kind of job they would like to do, it can be hard trying to find those available jobs. According to recent ADP employment reports, nearly 75 percent of new jobs filled in 2014 were with companies of 500 employees or less.
“These companies don’t have the resources to build a college-recruiting program — nor do they advertise entry-level job postings,” says LaBombard.
So, how can students turn their bachelor’s degree into a job? LaBombard gives us his tips.
Don’t let your major define you
It can be hard figuring out what to do with an English degree, or even a chemistry one. Which is why you should focus on your skills. “When we’re interviewing candidates for other companies, we ask them about things like critical thinking, time management, leadership, communication skills — emotional maturity,” says LaBombard. “Most people have three important things that really identify them. Don’t just think about educational endeavors, but about all the activities you’ve participated in — sports or theater, writing for the college newspaper, doing volunteer work, your part-time jobs or summer jobs, and think about what people would compliment you on in those situations.”
It’s never too early to start networking — not only is it a good way to pinpoint potential careers that may interest you; it can also land you a position. “Most entry-level jobs are not advertised,” says LaBombard. “Especially given that so many jobs are created by small-to-medium employers, almost all of them are filled through referrals.”
But networking doesn’t have to be that hard, or icky. LaBombard suggests going through your college’s list of alumni and reaching out to set up informational interviews, "so you can learn about the real scoop on a particularly industry or career track." He also suggests reaching out to high school or college professors and even the parents of your friends to learn more about what they do.
“Most young people coming out of college have great networks," he says. "They just don't think about how to use that information appropriately."
Looking for a job can often be the last thing on a college senior’s mind — what with exams, extracurriculars and, well, enjoying your last few months with your friends. But LaBombard says it’s important not to procrastinate. “You may have to sacrifice a few things here and there, but spending even just three hours a week on your job search during your senior year is really critical.”