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What to do if you don't have a job offer by graduation.

In this time of an uncertain economy, new college graduates are experiencing a very competitive job market as businesses, governmental agencies, and educational institutions contend with downsizing, restructuring, and limited growth. Many graduates express concern that they simply cannot find jobs. The overwhelming uncertainty of these graduates leads many frantic college students to ask, "What can I do if I don't have a job offer by graduation?" According to Recruiting Trends, a job market trends analysis conducted annually at Michigan State University, economic conditions are improving, but conservatively rate. Although this brings good news for job seekers, college graduates still must carefully plan their job search techniques.

What is the reality of college graduates experiencing unemployment? According to a follow-up survey from Michigan State University graduates of 1993-94, conducted one year after graduation, bachelor's degree graduates reported that 62 percent were employed, 20 percent were attending graduate school, and 18 percent were unemployed. Master's degree graduates experienced 73 percent employment, 13 percent graduate school attendance, and 14 percent unemployment. Doctoral graduates reported that 82 percent were employed, 2 percent were continuing post-doctoral studies, and 16 percent were unemployed. Thus, survey results portray unemployment as a reality for graduates at all degree levels.

Job market research reveals that employment opportunities are available, but graduates will need to be creative in their job searches. According to Recruiting Trends 1995-96, a study of businesses, industries, and governmental agencies employing new college graduates, organizations reported a 4.7 percent increase in hiring intentions for 1995-96. Along with other recent employment trends data, this yearly report contains several suggestions to assist job seekers who are pursuing employers across the country.

The primary reasons new graduates cannot find jobs, according to employers in Recruiting Trends, are the general attitudes of new college graduates, the current economic situation, and a tightening of personnel hiring goals in most organizations. According to surveyed employers, new graduates expect too much money, do not want to spend time in apprenticeships, are unwilling to start at the bottom of an organization, and regularly lack enough interest in available employment opportunities.

Don't Give Up!

In general, employers advise frustrated graduates to keep trying. Graduates cannot give up or get discouraged, but they must be patient and persistent. Employers suggest searching harder, possibly in areas not directly related to your major field of study. Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers advises new graduates to "be prepared for a long job hunt." To succeed, job seekers will have to "spend more hours per week" looking for jobs. Bolles says, "You should spend six times as many hours going directly, face-to-face, to places where you would like to work, as you spend on resumes, because going directly to places where you would like to work is six times more effective in finding a job."

Keep in mind that the current job market is caused by economic forces; so don't take your predicament personally. Career opportunities do exist. The hard part is knowing where and how to locate them.

To find available employment opportunities, you may have to change your job searching methods. Employers advise graduates to market themselves more effectively with recruiters and become more aggressive in their job search."

The most proficient way of landing a job offer is applying directly to the employer in person or asking friends and relatives about job-leads, according to Bolles. He suggests visiting the places you would like to work, and using "every contact you have" to help look for job opportunities. Job seekers can increase their luck by visiting more employers each week.

Conduct research prior to a personal visit to an employer's location to determine the name and title of the person who has the power to hire. Get all of the information you can. Ask for an appointment with this person, and if questioned by a secretary or receptionist, state that you simply wish to conduct an informational interview to identify the job prospects for a career in this field.

In Recruiting Trends, employers suggest establishing a goal to make a certain number of contacts each week. And Bolles confirms, "You should determine that you will see at least two employers each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon of every weekday, at a minimum, for as many months as your job-hunt may last." A good strategy for new unemployed graduates looking for jobs is to present themselves as valuable assets to employing organizations.

Some job searching methods may prove to be more successful than others, but experts disagree as to which methods work best. Bolles lists examples of procedures he considers to be the "least effective job search methods": Using computer databank job listings, local newspaper ads or trade journals, private employment agencies and mailing out resumes by the bushel. Although these methods may work for some, they are ineffective because they often fail and are time consuming, according to Bolles.

But Kenton Elderkin, author of How to Get Interviews From Classified Ads, says, "Let no one tell you job ads don't work.... There is no reason why you can't profit from them if you use them properly. A proper study of job ads will give you a much better idea of your career goals and the job market."

Some hiring sources, however, are more trusted by employers than others. These, naturally, would be the ideal methods of job hunting. According to Recruiting Trends 1994-95, the most trusted hiring sources used by employers are on-campus interviewing, referrals from current employees of the organization, job listings posted with college career services, and internship programs. Among the least effective sources when hiring new employees are video resumes or interviews, employee leasing, teleconferencing, and contract employment, although some new graduates find their jobs by using these methods.

By fine-tuning your interviewing skills, you can make a better impression on employers. It is important to present a professional image, which includes your physical appearance and your body language. Make a lasting impression on an employer through an outstanding first impression.

Learn from your past interviewing experiences. Contact the employers who interviewed you, but did not invite you for a second interview, and those who did not offer you a job after you visited their company. Get specific feedback on your interviewing performance. Some employers will be honest enough and sufficiently empathetic enough to help you. Learning about your past mistakes, you can avoid them in the future.

Networking and making personal contacts can be extremely effective ways of landing a full-time job and according to employers, networking is often the best way for new graduates to uncover available employment opportunities. You should persistently and courteously contact former employers, intern supervisors, faculty, family, friends, alumni, and other graduates who have found jobs. It is useful to make as many contacts as you can with people in all types of businesses and industries. "Whenever you connect with someone who could help you in the job market, follow up so you will be remembered. A thank you letter for help you received and sending a newspaper clipping on a topic you discussed are two examples of how you can make a long-lasting impression," suggests career counselor Joan Greenfield.

Employers in Recruiting Trends also suggest telephoning to schedule informational interviews, joining professional organizations related to your field of study, and staying updated on current trends in your field. Another suggestion is contacting prospective employers in your preferred occupational areas and asking for things to do, while waiting for openings, to improve your skills and increase your chances for employment with that company.

Try to acquire some experience related to your career, even if you are having difficulty landing the perfect job after graduation. Employers will view any experience as better than none, and working will help you build a list of references.

The main goal when contacting prospective employers is to get your foot in the door. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways including: entry-level positions, working part-time, working as a temporary, or contract employee, internships, or even volunteering. These experiences can be natural avenues toward full-time employment, and each will provide you with an inside look at potential employment opportunities. During career-related work experiences, you can maintain professional contacts, establish an excellent work record, increase your responsibilities, and demonstrate your professionalism to prospective employers.

If you can't find a job in your career area, then consider a job outside your interest. Take anything you can get, if for nothing else but to show that you are working and making an effort. "Taking even a menial job will show prospective employers that you are not afraid of hard work and that no work assignment is beneath you. Even the most routine job can turn into something if you perform work very well and above and beyond expectations." As career-related opportunities arise, evidence of prior work experiences will make them possible.

Reassess Your Goals

If you are still having difficulty finding work, it may be necessary to reevaluate your career goals and expectations. Consider the kinds of positions you are seeking, the salaries you think you can demand, the job market you are facing, and the companies you are targeting for employment. It may be necessary to lower your sights or expand your scope of interest to a broader market.

Another option that new college graduates often ignore is being an entrepreneur starting your own business. When looking for ideas, Bolles suggests, "Read, dream, look around your community, consider mail order." In his book, Moonlighting: 148 Ways to Make Money on the Side, author Carl Hausman suggests various entrepreneurial ventures including personal services, business services, handiwork, artistic work, repair services, instructional skills, sales abilities, environmental or outdoor work, mail order, and writing skills.

Another recent related trend is telecommuting, or working either for yourself or a company at home via computer, telephone, or fax machine. "It's estimated that there are about ten million Americans who market their talents and skills from their home either full- or part-time," Hausman writes.

Likewise, using a college placement center can be a helpful resource for many graduates. It proves to be effective for 21 out of 100 job hunters, according to Bolles. Career counselors can assess your job skills and campaigning techniques and maybe suggest adjustments. Career centers often maintain information on various employers, and they can assist with job hunting skills, including practice interviews and resume critiquing. Workshops, on-campus interviewing, job vacancy bulletins and career advising are only a few of the many options offered by career centers.

Most career services operations also offer assistance and services graduation for alumni. For those in remote areas, alumni referral services and vacancy bulletins can generally be accessed via telephone, by computer and through Gopher or the World Wide Web. Check campus interviewing schedules to see which companies are hiring, and identify the names of the interviewers. For example, the Web site called "Yahoo" lists corporations by category of business at http://akebono.stanford.edu/hahoo/economy/business/corporations. Another option is searching by the organization's name in NetSEarch at http://www.ais.net:80/netsearch/. Search through follow-up or first-destination data provided by your college or university to find out who previously hired graduates in your major. Pursue those employers. Another option is to contact your academic department and ask your academic adviser for guidance.

When job hunting as a new graduate, be flexible. Employers advise that you keep your options open about preferred geographical locations, expected starting salary, travel requirements, and entry-level assignments. Look into positions available in other states, and keep an open mind about job possibilities available to graduates in other academic majors. A willingness to relocate shows the flexibility that many employers desire. However, it is important that you search for a job in a place where you would be happy.

Small and medium-sized firms are the most likely ones to have job openings, according to Recruiting Trends. Small to medium sized businesses responding to the Michigan State University survey claim that they rarely fill their entire hiring quotas with new recruits each year.

Going to graduate school might be another option to increase your marketability, acquire new skills, or train for a new career area. However, this option should be carefully weighed because of the time and costs. Other options include returning to school on a part-time basis while continuing to look for entry-level work, or acquiring technical skills that are in high demand.

Above all else, stay healthy and positive throughout the job search process. Improperly handled stress and frustration can lead to depression, which will impede your job search. Keep your physical, emotional and mental well-being balanced. To avoid depression, get regular sleep, get enough sunlight, schedule regular exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and keep your physical environment neat and orderly, suggests Bolles. To keep your emotions in balanced, Bolles suggests that you learn to deal with your anger and "get a support group to help you" if need be. Lastly, find something to give meaning and purpose to your life. Bolles suggests volunteering one day each week to help those who are less fortunate.

The keys to a successful job search are persistence, aggressiveness, and a never-give-up attitude. There is a job around the corner for you. Persist until you get it!

Works Cited

Bolles, Richard Nelson. The 1994 What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1994.

Career Services and Placement. Follow-Up Report: Post-Graduation Status of 1993-94 Graduates. East Lansing, MI: Career Services and Placement, Michigan State University, 1995.

Elderkin, Kenton, How to Get Interviews from Classified Job Ads. Manassas, VA: Impact Publications, 1993.

Greenfield, Joan. "Form an Action Plan Before Graduating From College" The Detroit News. 2 November, 1992, p. 15F.

Scheetz, L. Patrick. Recruiting Trends 1992-1993. East Lansing, MI: Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University, 1992.

Scheetz, L. Patrick. Recruiting Trends 1994-95. Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University, 1994.

Scheetz, L. Patrick. Recruiting Trends 1995-96. Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University, 1995.

L. Patrick Scheetz, PhD, is director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute and assistant director of Career Services and Placement at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Rebecca Gratz is a junior in James Madison College at Michigan State University and a research assistant for the Collegiate Employment Research Institute.
COPYRIGHT 1996 IMDiversity, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Scheetz, L. Patrick; Gratz, Rebecca
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Feb 1, 1996
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