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Job prospects looking up for college grads

By MARCELLA S. KREITER   |   April 22, 2012 at 4:30 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, April 22 (UPI) -- Job prospects are looking up for this year's college graduates, but competition will still be fierce as companies rebuild from recession lows, outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports.

Some 1.7 million college graduates are entering the workforce come June, not only competing for jobs among themselves for entry-level positions but with those who graduated in the past two years and have yet to land the job they want.

"Soon-to-be graduates cannot expect to hand out a few resumes at job fairs and reply to some online postings and simply wait for a phone call or e-mail," Challenger Chief Executive Officer John A. Challenger said in a release. "Make no mistake, job fairs and online job boards have their place in the job search, but to be successful a well-rounded strategy is required.

"One of the most important elements of a successful job search, for both entry-level job seekers and their more-experienced counterparts, is networking and meeting face to face with people who can help advance the job search. College graduates who believe they are too young to have an effective network are simply wrong. Parents, professors, former internship supervisors and even college and former high school classmates can be valuable sources when it comes to building and expanding one's network.

"Finally, graduates should not confine their searches to a specific industry or occupation. The job market is not robust enough to provide the ideal job situation for every individual. It seldom is. So, someone may come out of college with the plan to find a marketing position with a consumer products company. There's nothing wrong with having a specific goal like that, but don't make the mistake of adhering to it so closely that you overlook opportunities in marketing for a chemical company or healthcare provider, for example."

An Academy of Management Journal study found whether someone lands a job, to a large extent, depends on the individual.

Researchers found motivation is the key.

"Both motivation control and the ability to keep self-defeating thoughts at bay are strongly related to the amount of effort devoted to the job search, which in turn is strongly related to success in landing a job," lead researcher Connie R. Wanberg of the University of Minnesota said.

For 20 weeks, the researchers followed 177 people who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Each had a college degree and was 25 to 50 years old.

"Just keeping motivated. You know, that's a tough one when day in and day out, doors are slamming in your face because, you know, you're not the only person applying for a particular job or you're not the only person reaching out to somebody," Wanberg said in a release. "And, I think, trying to keep a smile on your face and staying motivated that it will happen when it's meant to happen. That's the ticket."

With unemployment still hovering at 8.2 percent, the employment picture is far from rosy and the last few weeks of reports on first-time unemployment claims are no reason for optimism.

Nonetheless, Challenger noted the general trend is upward.

"The private sector has seen positive employment gains for 25 consecutive months," he said. "The job market still has a long way to go before full recovery, but the good news is that young job seekers with four-year degrees are in growing demand."

Strong hiring trends that began in December fell off in February, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated. Since February 2010, more than 4 million jobs have been created -- with those 20 to 24 years of age snagging 939,000 of them and those 55 and older grabbing more than 2.8 million.

Challenger said although companies are hiring older workers on the assumption they can hit the ground running with little or no training, they are looking for younger workers with an eye toward the future.

No rapid upsurge in hiring rates is in the offing, however, he said.

Two surveys appear to back up that assessment. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found companies plan to increase hiring of college graduates this year by 10 percent, compared with 21 percent last year. A similar survey by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University indicated hiring for those holding bachelor's degrees was expected to increase 7 percent this year, down from 21 percent.

For those flexible enough to go where the jobs are, among the best places for graduates to seek employment are smaller metropolitan areas where unemployment is less than the national average.

"While the New York City borough of Manhattan is more glamorous than Manhattan, Kan., the hometown of the Kansas State University currently has an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent. That is considerably lower than the 10.2 percent unemployment rate found in New York City," Challenger noted.

Unemployment has fallen to less than 6 percent in 41 metropolitan areas and is between 6 percent and 7 percent in 49 others, with a few towns boasting 4 percent.

And just what jobs are out there?

The BLS projected the fastest-growing professions as cost estimators and marketing research analysts/specialists, growing at 29 percent or faster through 2020. Categories expected to see growth of 20 percent to 28 percent include social workers, computer systems analysts, financial analysts, human resources, information security analysts, Web developers, computer network architects and management analysts. In the 10 percent to 19 percent growth range are accountants and auditors, civil engineers, computer and information systems managers, elementary school teachers, and manufacturing, technical and scientific products.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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