WASHINGTON, August 17, 2016 — Once the caps are tossed and the diploma is in hand, it’s time for college grads to head out into the real world and find a job. The unfortunate aspect about reaching this milestone is that it’s not exactly easy these days to find employment directly after graduating.
Many graduates are under the impression that their college education is enough to get them a job in the field that they’ve spent 4 years learning about. The truth is that recent graduates are continuing to have a hard time in the job market despite their expensive and hard-won degrees. When confronted with issues such as their lack of experience and networking depth as well as our current struggling economy, a great many recent graduates are still looking for work as the Labor Day holiday approaches.
Lack of Experience
This is the Catch-22 that so many job seekers have run into: You need experience to get a job but no one will give you a job that will allow you to gain that experience. Employers that consider hiring graduates without any significant work experience on their resumés find the exercise challenging, since the cost of training an employee extensively to handle unaccustomed tasks is quite expensive.
A college education certainly qualifies you for certain positions, but without appropriate hands-on work experience, it’s hard to get a handle on the expertise a new job actually requires. Some industries don’t encounter this new-hire dilemma as intensively as others, particularly in the engineering field, since numerous universities and engineering departments require student internships before graduation as a way for them to gain much-needed, related experience, giving their students a leg up in the hiring process.
For a great many graduates, however, they must still confront the skills gap seen in numerous industries and businesses ranging from white-collar industries to goods-producing industries that require skilled labor. Although many proclaim that the skills gap in America is a myth and that the college grad unemployment issue stems from unrealistic expectations and poor education, this has been shown to remain an issue in 2016.
As for the legion of students still having problems finding meaningful employment due to their lack of experience, they are not alone. Many others in the existing workforce continue to confront the same issue. The best way for you to combat this problem: Fill in the experience gap on your resumé with other preferably related achievements such as internships, volunteer work, or collegiate extracurricular activities that address to some extent the specific skills a given position requires.
Entering your field right out of college involves confronting a lot of blank slates as well as proving yourself. When your application for employment is swimming in a sea of other applicants with a similar lack of experience in our gradually declining job market, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. Energetically networking and marketing yourself is a huge part of your path to success in the professional world. But, like that lack of real-world job experience, it’s another Catch-22 situation for recent graduates.
Starting to make contacts and networking them while still in school will give college students an edge in the post-graduation job hunt. Those who have not or cannot begin to assemble and work their networks in their undergraduate years, however, will find they are hindered in their job search simply by not having any networking connections to promote or support them.
Social events, networking online, and attending workshops are all great ways to begin building and expanding your own network. The people you meet in your networking efforts might know someone who can help you, know of job openings that may interest you, or be able and willing to put the good word in for you with a potential employer.
With many of the best jobs unlisted or unpublished and with so many job applicants looking the same as you on paper, having an edge up networking-wise can make you stand out as an applicant. Working on networking before beginning your job search might be just what’s needed to get your foot in the front door of a great job opportunity.
The Current Job Market
The Great Recession ended, officially at least, in 2009 and the U.S. economy seems to be slowly recovering, making the job market noticeably better now than it was several years ago. Unfortunately, though, the current issue for recent grads is not so much about unemployment as it is about underemployment. Perusing traditional and online media, we discover that the “college-educated barista” is the public face of recent college graduates, given the continuing difficulty of gaining employment in a degree-related field without the experience or network to back your application up. With so many recent graduates in the same boat as you and competing for the same jobs, in fact, it can still be very difficult to find any job at all.
Fortunately, it is now estimated that employers may hire about 5 percent more graduates from the class of 2016 than they did in 2015. Lower wages and mounting college-related indebtedness are still battles new graduates will have to face. But getting hired in a field that actually requires your degree is a big step in the right direction. As this year’s job market seems to be rebounding, it’s a reason to be more optimistic about the future. But for graduates still having issues finding a job post-college, the job market’s ups and downs definitely play a key role.
There is a positive side to the difficulties today’s students are finding as they seek a good job after graduation. Statistically, it’s getting easier for graduates to find one than it has been in the recent past. The downside: It’s still difficult, regardless of the modest upward slope of the recent economic recovery.
Psychologically, there’s at least some solace in the fact that you’re not alone in your difficult job search and that many of your fellow graduates are walking in the same shoes, taking jobs below their education level while hoping to find better ones.
Discovering and taking advantage of internships in your field, beginning your networking activities early and honing your educational and real-life skill sets to take advantage of a modestly growing job market will help you stand out among the rest of your fellow 2016 graduates who are fighting for the same positions you are. Even if you’re still a college-educated barista, know you’re not alone and that the job market is catching up. All is not lost.
In the meantime, start building and working your network.