This year’s college graduates are entering the job market at a time when employers are expected to hire recent grads at a higher rate than in previous years. According to Job Outlook 2008, a yearly survey of college recruiters, employers plan to hire 16 percent more new college graduates in 2008 than they did in 2007. The increase stems from the growing demand for employers’ products and services and the retiring Baby Boomer generation.

Employers are looking for new faces to fill their “talent pipeline,” according to Marilyn Mackes, an executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She believes employers are looking to groom new grads for future leadership roles in their companies. So, to help recent and soon-to-be graduates get ready for the job search and interview process, here are a few tips that can help these future leaders find a successful career.

• Visiting career services. This is the first step for students beginning a job search. Every college, whether it is a community college or university, offers its students career counseling, job and internship listings, and job search and career networking assistance through its career services department. In addition to providing these valuable tools, career services can offer students assistance with writing résumés and cover letters. Aligning with career services can increase students’ chances of finding a job and connect them with the resources they need to have a successful job search.

• Building a network. It’s never too early for college students to start networking with fellow students, alumni and professors. These individuals can be a valuable resource in connecting grads with the business world. College campuses offer a variety of professional- and social-networking groups and organizations that can help link students to employers. Joining and getting involved with these organizations will put students in contact with influential individuals within the specific industries they’re interested in.

• Obtaining an internship. Having an internship is beneficial, and in some cases, crucial to a college graduate’s job search. Internships set candidates apart from the competition, and give them on-the-job experience. Employers look favorably on individuals who have completed internships. Often, internships can turn into full-time jobs within the organization. The relationships and opportunities gained during this time can point graduates or soon-to-be graduates in the right direction for other job opportunities.

• Going on practice interviews. Some experts suggest going on interviews even if the job isn’t of interest, just to get experience. The interview process itself teaches how things work, what types of questions are typically asked and what to expect. This can rid recent grads of nervous behaviors and anxiety that can come from dealing with the unknown. Going on practice interviews can help give job seekers confidence and experience, and learning from these interviews can also give students an idea of what career direction they want to take.

• Being flexible in career options. College graduates often limit themselves to specific titles, location or big-named companies. In doing this, graduates miss out on great opportunities that other smaller or lesser-known companies can offer. These types of businesses can offer great incentives for new employees such as the opportunity for growth, flexibility and benefits. So, when college graduates are deciding on which job opportunities to take, they should make sure to pick the one that is most beneficial to a long-term career and not the one that only offers the big salary.

• Being prepared. When graduates receive that long-awaited interview, being prepared — not only mentally, but physically — is critical. Great first impressions are just as important as the résumé and cover letter that got them through the door. Proper grooming, appropriate dress and professional behavior are key elements in getting a second or third interview. In addition to appropriate interview etiquette, it’s always important to research the company before an interview. Graduates should be prepared for interviewers to ask questions concerning the position and what they know about the company.

• Showing personality. Graduates who personalize the interview by telling interviewers a little bit about who they are and what their interests are will help employers differentiate them from the rest of the competition. Showing the interviewer confidence, ambition and determination will impress them; however, coming off as overly confident and ambitious will not give graduates top billing. Job seekers who seem arrogant will find themselves passed over for job opportunities for candidates who are more teachable.

Recent college and soon-to-be graduates have great opportunities to find employment in a healthy job market, but graduates who count on only that might find themselves searching longer than they would like. By following these seven tips, graduates can get a leg up on the competition and successfully get to work.


Karen Dwyer

Karen Dwyer is the owner of Express Personnel, 9 W. Figueroa St., Santa Barbara 93101. Click here to contact her or call 805.965.6900.