Are you a college student or recent grad looking for a job? We’re here to help
- Talk with people who have more experience; network with alumni to learn about their roles.
- Keep your options open; look into different industries; be curious.
- Use resources at your university’s career center; get resume reviews; attend info sessions.
When Ethan Sun graduated from Vanderbilt University in December 2019, he had prepared himself well to land a job. He used the university’s career services and attended information sessions when recruiters came to campus.
The summer before graduation, he interned at Vanderbilt’s Office of Investments, where a friend previously had a good experience. That all paid off with a return offer, and he has been working there as an investment analyst since.
Approximately 4 million college students graduate every year, and this summer, they are entering a bright job market despite economic turbulence. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, U.S. employers plan to hire 31.6% more new college graduates in 2022 compared with last year. Nevertheless, grads must be smart in their approaches in order to land a dream job.
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Still, more underclassmen are looking for meaningful summer experiences. Sinem Buber, lead economist at ZipRecruiter, said the U.S. economy has many job openings this summer, so she encourages students to apply even if they do not have relevant experiences.
Sun, the Vanderbilt graduate, found that it’s important to make friends with people who are older and who can share their experiences in different industries. He said these friends could provide a fuller picture than recruiters at info sessions who don’t necessarily talk about the “nitty-gritty of a job.”
Sun also suggested that recent graduates or upperclassmen entering the job market soon should look at a range of jobs and have several options.
“If you want to be a successful investor someday, you don't have to start as an investment banker; there might be better ways,” Sun said. “There are a lot of things that exist on this planet, and to achieve a goal, there are also a million ways.”
Bryan Wei recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in May and will be working at Optimove as a data integration engineer in New York. He started applying to jobs relatively late in April because he planned on going to graduate school but did not get into the programs he wanted.
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Wei mostly applied to jobs through Handshake and LinkedIn, he said, because these platforms are connected to his school profile. He suggested that students prepare for job recruitment early and have backup plans.
“Even after grad school, they need to start recruiting. More practice is honestly better,” Wei said. “Also they (students) understand what those recruiters are looking for, what types of interviews they will encounter… Make sure you do a lot of networking, and truly understand what this role is about.”
He said networking could sometimes lead to referrals, which are crucial to landing an interview, or even the job. Also, networking would allow applicants to know more about the industry.
Get advice (and practice!) from university career centers
University career centers usually offer many services, from mock interviews and resume reviews to career options assessments. Geni Harclerode, director of employer recruitment and engagement at Northwestern Career Advancement, said students could also meet with career advisers to discuss general topics.
Harclerode said students should be curious and ask questions about industries they might want to enter after graduation.
“Talk to lots of people, anybody that you encounter, ask questions about – What did you study? How long have you been working in this field? Do you like your job? What about your job is challenging?” Harclerode said. “Those kinds of questions, those reflective conversations, learning about the world of work from others, might be really helpful to you, as you're starting to think about, does that sound like me? Do I see myself in that?”
She added many students only consider internship experiences when they apply for jobs, but recruiters also value campus organization experiences, which could help the students develop time management or leadership skills.
“Let's say that you're in a student organization, and one thing that you're really good at is new member recruitment. Sometimes students don't always look at that and say, ‘This is a transferable skill as it relates to my career path.’ But there are great skills that students are developing in student organizations through volunteer work, through research projects,” Harclerode said.
Which jobs are in demand this summer
Buber, with ZipRecruiter, said this summer, lifeguards and camp counselors are in high demand, and sales and hospitality jobs are also looking to hire employees. In addition, recruiters do not expect recent graduates to have industry experiences, but rather, applicants should look at what they have done in the past and find relevant skills.
She also advised job seekers to ensure that their resume is grammatically correct and to clean up their social media accounts. Students could also employ resources at university career centers, network with alumni, use recruitment websites and visit neighborhood businesses in person when looking for jobs.
More positions are looking to hire this summer compared with previous summers, with online postings in the U.S. up by 15%-55% in several key summer job categories, Buber added, so this would be a great opportunity for students or recent graduates to find jobs and make connections.
“Right now the job market is a job seekers’ market, so the job candidates are in the driver's seat, they can definitely demand more in terms of … opportunities or better-paying jobs, more work-life balance,” Buber said. “There was never a better time for job seekers.”