A sign in the window of a fast-food restaurant Aug. 7 in New York City advertises for workers.
Unemployment rates are a hot topic these days, especially with the recent completion of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
The recession officially ended three years ago, but monthly figures still tend to be disappointing. Only 96,000 non-farm jobs were added in August according to a Labor Department report Friday.
With such slow growth, the possibility of finding employment after college seems pretty bleak for many students. Only 51% of graduates since 2006 have found full time employment, according to a 2012 Rutgers University study.
Numbers like this make it easy to be discouraged about the opportunities awaiting you after throwing up that graduation cap. However, despite an uncertain job market, young people are still landing their dream job.
These days it just takes a little extra work.
Hanna Danielson graduated last spring from University of Oregon. Today she lives in New York City and works as a customer communications associate for Rent the Runway. Danielson interned for the clothing rental company her senior year of college and was offered a job upon graduation.
Her first internship was on the marketing team at her dad’s architecture firm her sophomore year of college. Two years later she found the Rent the Runway position and jumped on it. At the end of the year she went to a networking event with the company in the hopes of landing a job. After five interviews, she was hired.
“I knew how hard it was going to be to get a job after graduation, so I got involved early. [You need to] seek out opportunities that aren’t just going to fill your resume, but seek opportunities that are going to be applicable to your area of career interest, and opportunities that are ultimately going to teach you something valuable,” Danielson said.
Getting work experience during college is key to being successful afterwards.
Trey Chappell, a college and career counselor and the founder of College X-ing in Phoenix, Ariz., encourages students to start expanding experiences the fall of their sophomore year. Chappell says some of the best summer internships have deadlines of October and November of the prior year. He works with students who are trying to get a strong resume together to help improve their success rate in getting a job later.
“My suggestion right now is finding them a diversity of experiences. We want to broaden that field and give them different experiences so when they look for a job they’ve kind of sampled some stuff, it also gives them a track record,” Chappell said.
Students who did an internship in college and got a job in their major, earned 15% more on average than those who did not complete an internship.
Jill Douglass, the associate vice president, academic support and student retention at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico encourages students to get as much experience as possible in their field, even if it is just volunteer work.
Sam Osborne, a junior at Western Kentucky University is already trying to get as much experience as possible in his dream field.
Osborne works as the sports editor for his college yearbook, The Tailsman. He’s written sports for WKU’s The Sporting Times and worked at WBKO Television in Bowling Green, Ky. as a video editor. Osborne has also worked with a sports marketing team.
“I’m aware that having an impressive resume that helps you stand out is key in the current job market. I’m hoping my experiences within multiple realms of journalism (both print and broadcast) will help me stick out in a field that is changing almost daily as people begin to digest their news in different ways,” Osborne said.
“You want to pick a place or places that will offer you real opportunity for experience, not just emptying trash or answering phones. Now that is not that bad if it’s your first foot in the door, but if there is opportunity to get real experience and shadow, those are the type of internships you want to look for, always in your field,” said Douglass.
Working at internships can accelerate the job search later on, but how do you get that first internship with minimal experience out of high school? Chappell and Douglass both encourage working on your resume, cover letter and interview skills.
Chappell believes internships are on the way to becoming paid again. Even though this is a win for potential interns, it also makes the field more competitive. The company will want to make sure they get their money’s worth if they hire you.
“The cover letter needs to be specific to the industry or to the job and it needs to point out what you’re going to bring and what you’re going to add. You can’t just say you’re going to bring a good attitude. You need to say specifically what you can add to that company,” Chappell said.
For students who don’t have a long list of experiences, Douglass recommends a combination resume. At the top, list your chronological work or experiences you’ve had in your field, at the bottom, highlight the skills you have that would benefit the job.
When it comes time to do your interview, Douglass encourages you to let your passion take over.
“When I interview, I’m really looking for someone who can speak kindly or genuinely about their field, really talk genuinely about their work and why they want that job,” Douglass said.
Most of Danielson’s friends are just now beginning to work at internships. From what she’s seen, it’s almost impossible to land a good job without some sort of internship beforehand.
“It is rare for things to just fall into your lap these days, so ultimately if you want to get where you want to be, work hard and take advantage of networking opportunities,” Danielson said.