Getting a job throughout or after college can be a challenge for students at any time. With fierce competition in the workforce, only the best-prepared students and grads will flourish in their job search. Fortunately, preparing for job hunting requires no marvelous abilities; rather you simply have to place in a little effort. And many experts have plenty of advice to offer about the places to concentrate your efforts.
According to Kiplinger’s, for example , after a strong start in May, teen employment faltered, and complete employment gains through the end of July ended up 3% lower than last summer, according to an analysis of government data by Challenger, Grey & Christmas, a global outplacement firm. Overall, reports Challenger, only 43% of 16- to-19-year-olds were utilized or actively seeking employment, compared with over 70% in 1980.
One major cause is the tepid economy, which also means more competition from older workers for basic jobs. Some teens probably earned money as self-employed entrepreneurs, performing odd jobs such as mowing lawns and babysitting; others volunteered, got summer classes or participated in organized sports. “Today’s teenagers have far more options than previous generations, ” says company CEO Sara Challenger.
But it appears to me that a lack of work experience during their student years can’t help but hurt young people when they your labor force for real. I raised that point with Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Fifty percent International, a specialized staffing firm with offices worldwide.
When McDonald stopped by the office to chat, I got the opportunity to pick his brain as to what young people can do to improve their likelihood of getting a job. In addition to his expert experience, McDonald has young grownup kids and he often fields queries from their friends who don’t have what he considers the basics — a résumé and cover letter. His advice:
Start your job hunt while you’re still in college. As soon as you settle on a major, sign up for student groups or societies connected with your field. Block out some time each week for your job search by list employers to target and making connections with professors and the campus placement office.
Choose your own major strategically. In his business, McDonald sees great demand for accountants, software developers and IT troubleshooters, but also for “creative types, ” such as advertising specialists and marketing managers. Notice 10 Best Majors for a Profitable Career.
Network, system, network. And we’re not just talking social media. It’s important even as students to have a LinkedIn profile, says McDonald. But Gen Yers need to go above e-mail and make personal contact whenever you can. If you have a city in mind, invest a week there and set up selection interviews in advance.
Get an internship — or two. Educational success definitely matters, but , says McDonald, “gaining real-world experience will likely play the most pivotal role within your career prospects after graduation. ” Start planning when you’re a sophomore.
Don’t overlook “soft skills. ” When he was an accounting major in college, McDonald says one of the best elements he did was take courses in public speaking. Today, he says, an absence of communication skills can stall your job. Finance professionals, for instance, need the opportunity to add their insights to complex data. And IT specialists need to establish a good working relationship with non-technical co-workers.
Be versatile. “If you’re a business major, have a writing course, ” says McDonald. “If you’re an arts main, take a business course. ” That’s a lesson his own son provides learned. By day, he has a paying job making training videos, and at night he pursues his enthusiasm taking freelance photos of rock and roll bands. “I have to put on a company hat to make it in a creative world, ” he told his father.