As a graduating college senior, I am abandoning the one constant in my life that’s defined my sense of time for the past 18 years. No more summer, spring or winter breaks await me—at least compared to what I’ve gotten while in school.
While data is collected annually by organizations such as the National Association of College Employers (NACE) outlining what the job market looks like for graduating college seniors, a closer look into the types of student’s entering the job market sheds some light onto what it really takes to succeed after school.
Eileen McGarry, The director of career services at the University of Arizona has seen three types of graduating seniors come to her for job advisement upon graduation.
Graduating Senior #1
“There’s the student who has a path in a field that is really competitive and they’ve done the internship experiences that are leading them to an opportunity in the end,” says McGarry.
While these students may or may not receive job offers from their internships, the out of the classroom experience is their path into the job market.
Graduating Senior #2
“One student got a job offer with General Motors,” says McGarry. “All of his (leadership) involvement made him stand out amongst other applicants as a leader and get hired by that organization.”
This type of student, as McGarry describes, has utilized out of the classroom resources and involvement opportunities to set himself apart from the rest of the people in the applicant pool. They applied themselves by interviewing for different positions and sure enough, got picked up by a large company.
Graduating Senior #3
By contrast, some students work hard to prepare themselves for the job search but have a hard time actually following through with the process.
“I can think of another student who just go stuck,” says McGarry. “Their indecisiveness prevented them from moving forward to get interviews.”
McGarry’s advice for a student in those shoes is to “just go for it.”
“You can’t allow yourself to get so worked up over statistics and the job market that you just stop pursuing anything. Sometimes you’ve just got to try something and put yourself out there,” says McGarry.
According to the latest National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) survey, hiring expectations for the Spring of 2013 are at 2.1%. This is a drop from the Fall projections of this academic year which were at 13%, but the hiring projections have come a long way since 2009 when they were at negative 21.6%.
“There are a certain amount of technical disciplines that require very specific academic backgrounds,” says McGarry.
According to the study, five academic disciplines are favorable to job recruiters and have greater hiring rates. From highest to lowest, the disciplines include Engineering at 56.2%; Business at 31.4%, Computer Science at 21.7%, Accounting at 21.5% and Miscellaneous majors at 15.2%.
“When you get to the miscellaneous majors its not that there might be certain fields that you would be well prepared for but its that the college degree in essence gives you a certain skill set that sharpens communications, problem solving and teamwork,” says McGarry.
The NACE study also ranks skills and qualities that employers see as being important in new college hires. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the most important), the following qualities are ranked the highest with rankings of 4.5;
- the ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
- the ability to make decisions and solve problems
- the ability to obtain and process information
- the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work.
The job market for college graduates remains as competitive as ever but according to Mcgarry, hiring efforts from employers across the board are up. These skills outlined by the NACE survey are not necessarily taught in specific courses or measured by specific exam questions, but they are the inherent traits many college students can develop through out their college careers and if honed, could land them a job.
Having had the opportunity to participate in a few professional internships through out my college career, I see the value in outside the classroom learning experiences and according the NACE survey and experts such as McGarry, I feel optimistic and prepared to abandon what many of my peers jokingly refer to as our “fake life.”