Unemployment is still at 9 percent, and the papers are filled with stories about out-of-work young people. What’s a brand-new college graduate to make of all this? Luckily, 2011 grads shouldn’t be too discouraged — there’s some good news these days, too.
DON’T LOSE HEART. The big picture is that college graduates are still much better off in this economy than those who don’t have that degree. The unemployment rate for college graduates is just 4.5 percent versus 10.8 percent for those with no more than a high school degree.
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP. According to recent research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 42 percent of college seniors who applied for a job this spring received an offer, which is a four percentage-point increase over last year. Employers are saying they plan to hire 19 percent more new college graduates this year than they did last year. And the total number of available positions has skyrocketed, meaning there are fewer applicants per job this year. That gives you a better chance at snagging one.
CONSIDER PUBLIC SERVICE. The New York Times reported this spring that many recent college graduates are turning to public service jobs instead of high-paying private-sector positions. Applications to the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and AmeriCorps have skyrocketed in the last few years. As AmeriCorps spokesman Sandy Scott told me, “This is a generation that’s service-minded.” But another factor could be the relatively new Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives federal student loan debt after 10 years of working in a public service job; that definition can include government jobs, public health, law enforcement, and many others. (Go to www.ibrinfo.org for more information.)
ADVICE FOR 2011. So what’s a new grad to do? As usual, the highest-paying jobs are in fields like engineering and computer science, though unexpected fields like nursing and human resources also often pay entry-level workers relatively well. According to NACE, there are lots of entry-level jobs in accounting, consulting, and banking these days, too. It helps if you’re willing to move: This 2011 jobs forecast predicts big growth in Texas, for example.
ADVICE THAT’S EVERGREEN. Let’s be honest: A lot of the advice for new grads this year is the same as it was 10, even 20 years ago. (Sorry, you’re not so unique after all!) Network like crazy (try your alumni association), take internships, and be willing to get your foot in the door with a less-than-ideal job. Oh, and proofread your cover letter and résumé!