2016 job market looks hopeful for college graduates, CEO says

For the soon-to-be college graduates, 2016 should be the best year for jobs since the recession in 2008, according to the CEO of GradStaff, Bob LaBombard.

But, that doesn’t mean everybody will have a job lined up right outside of school. He said around 25 percent of college graduates will leave campus with a job.

However, he said recent graduates can expect to find something within the first six months after graduation. It’s not so much that there aren’t jobs, it’s the way the job hunting has changed over the last decade.

Part of the reason recent college graduates are having a hard time finding a job right out of school is because they don’t always know what kind of jobs they should be applying for, LaBombard said, attributing it to having a lack of understanding of the job market.

He said that over 60 percent of job candidates don’t exactly know where they fit in the workforce, citing from company research. GradStaff is a firm that specializes in placing entry-level professionals in companies where their skill set fits best.

As a candidate beginning the process of finding a job through the company, it starts with identifying what their transferrable skills are—skills that can be taken from job to job. From there, it’s finding what the candidate wants to do.

Then, after continuing through the process, the matchmaking begins.

What are companies looking for?

In his time working with candidates, LaBombard said what companies often look for, but don’t see, are the seemingly “low-level” work experiences that college students have. It’s the experiences like waiting tables at a restaurant that can help show employers candidates have good customer service and communication skills, for example.

“College students should be working during their college years,” he said. If it’s not during the academic year, he said it should be during the summers to help build experience in the workplace.

Employers are looking for what students have done, he said. It’s more than just going to and from class. Companies look to place candidates who have experience with extracurricular activities, like student organizations or clubs, and work experience.

LaBombard recommends starting with your transferrable skills, identifying what they are and how to use them.

Candidates who demonstrate good time management, effective communication, leadership and critical thinking have an easier time finding success during their job search, he said. Possessing these skills is a start. The next step is telling your story. When and how have you applied these skills through volunteering, extracurricular activities or in the workplace?

The story could come from a time you demonstrated leadership skills at practice or taking on more responsibility at your part-time job. Once you’ve got some of those stories in mind, it makes for a positive result, he said.

But, when you’re not scouting job boards and the Internet for leads, LaBombard advises making good use of your network. Connecting with people on social media can be one helpful way in building your network, but personal interactions can sometimes be more effective in tracking down a job.

“We recommend you actively use that network,” he said, explaining that everybody from alumni to professors, friends of friends, and more, can be considered a contact.

One way to use your personal contact is setting up informational interviews to learn more about the job or company. LaBombard encourages sending off an email introducing yourself and explaining that you’re thinking about how you can apply your degree, whether or not it seems directly applicable. “I think it’s time well spent,” he said.

If you hear back, the informational interview could lead to more. After all, it’s still an interview.

What’s your major? Minor?

Not everybody knows what they want to do when they get into college, but that’s not necessarily an issue. LaBombard got a degree in chemistry. After college, he never stepped foot inside a lab professionally. Given his competitive personality, he found that business was a better fit and changed his direction.

Thinking about one major can be “dangerous,” he said, explaining that it’s not the major that defines you, it’s your skills. Another piece to the puzzle is finding what you’re passionate about. If you’re going into something you don’t like, how are you going to last, LaBombard asked.

Around 50 percent of college entrants change their major, he said, and it’s best not to prolong switching your major if you can help it. The longer you wait, the longer it can take to finish your degree.

At GradStaff, LaBombard said it’s often that they meet candidates who majored in something they didn’t really want too. He explained that there’s a pressure on students to gear toward STEM degrees now. But, that doesn’t always work in the student’s favor, being that not all students who enter a STEM program have the qualitative or quantitative skills to be successful. And for those who graduate, only about half pursue jobs in the field, he said.

Resume, cover letter, what else?

One mistake students make when beginning the job search is focusing on the big brand names, LaBombard said.

Those jobs are being looked at by any number of other candidates, and companies like that typically work off of referrals, rather than recruitment. But, there are still ways to get an edge in the job search, which could help you land a job at the company you’re after.

For seniors, you’re likely updating your resume, writing cover letters and really driving into your search.

If you’re expecting to graduate this spring, or even next fall, it’s best to start the process as early as possible to help widen your scope on possible opportunities, because searching for a job can take months before landing something.

Andrew Ditlevson, associate director for employment services at SCSU, said that many employers will be into their second round of interviews come March and April.

It’s not too late, though. There is still time to get your resume in order and chase leads. There are just a few steps to consider before jumping right in.

Career Services on campus offers advice to students on their resumes, cover letters and portfolios, and post on-and off-campus jobs. The center also puts on a number of events throughout the year to put students in front of employers.

Feedback Fridays normally start around 9 a.m. and go into the afternoon. Employers are brought in to sit with students and give them feedback on their portfolio. There are also mock interviews that students can sign up for to get feedback on their interviewing skills—and sometimes more comes with just signing up.

“When you sign up for a mock interview, that employer just interviewed you,” Ditlevson said, adding that students in the past have locked down jobs through this process.

Some companies have hired St. Cloud State students through these types recruiting events like the fall, spring and summer job fairs. Enterprise alone has hired students the past six times they’ve come to campus, and last semester, more than 200 other companies came to St. Cloud State.

The MSU Job and Internship Fair is on Feb. 26 in Brooklyn Center, and there’s an internship fair at St. Cloud State March 23, which will feature around 40 to 60 employers.

Ditlevson said if students who are graduating in May don’t have a job offer by Feb. 20, they need to go to one of these events.

“It’s not really who you know, it’s who knows you,” Ditlevson said.

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