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College Grads Must Work Even Harder to Find Jobs

College Grads Must Work Even Harder to Find Jobs

The Morning Call, Allentown, Pennsylvania

November 03, 2009

Muhlenberg College plans a new program on effectively using the online professional networking site LinkedIn, said Cailin Pachter, career center director. Muhlenberg ramped up efforts to help students apply for entry-level jobs with the federal government, a notoriously arduous process. The Allentown college also puts together an electronic book for employers and alumni that contains seniors’ resumes. Usually assembled in the spring, it is being assembled now.

DeSales adjusted its one-year-old Senior Success Series, which contains eight programs. Changes included starting job searches earlier and incorporating a strong networking component, Hunter said.

While new efforts and programs are more newsworthy, many colleges are re-emphasizing tried-and-true job-search techniques: writing entry-level resumes and cover letters, making contacts and developing a firm handshake.

“It’s ”">career searching 101," Goldfeder said.

Using such high-tech resources as MonsterCollege and online job postings are important, but you also must focus on old-fashioned face-to-face networking, career counselors say. That has college students throughout the Valley practicing their elevator pitches- describing their value in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

Muhlenberg even hosts “speed networking” events to practice those 30-second spiels, followed by an alumni networking reception where they use those networking skills for real.

“It’s not about simply going online and looking for ”">entry-level jobs anymore," said Hunter of DeSales. “It’s about getting your face out there and getting your ”">entry-level resume into the right hands. It’s going to take a lot more legwork."

While some strategies can be taught in groups, there is increased demand for individualized advice, counselors say. Lehigh University dramatically expanded the number of hours it offered for one-on-one career counseling, Goldfeder said.

Sometimes, part of that counseling is adjusting expectations. The reality: Some students might not get the ideal job in the ideal location right now. “We’re telling them there are opportunities out there, but you might have to reshape what you’re thinking,” Saul said.

With the rough job market, Muhlenberg has seen an increase in student interest for non-traditional entry-level jobs, such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America. And, of course, a dearth of entry-level jobs always makes graduate school more attractive.

For those with time before graduation, internships are among the best foot-in-the-door tactics to land work. In 2009, 23 percent of students who interned had a job in hand at graduation. For those without internships experience, just 14 percent left college with a signed-sealed-and-delivered job, according to NACE.

But in 2009, employers cut college internship positions by 21 percent, NACE says.

Career counselors say today’s college students understand what they’re up against, and they’re generally willing to work harder-to-land employment.

“I do sense an anxiety,” Pachter said. A recent program at Muhlenberg, Job Search for Seniors, had twice as many students attend as last year. “Our students understand how tough it is going to be this year, and they’re trying to get an early start.”

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While on-campus recruiting has waned, the number of job postings recently has come back toward normal levels, counselors say.

“I take that to be a very good sign _ that we’ve gotten over the worst of it,” Goldfeder said. “We had a tough spring, but I think we’re back in the game. I’m very optimistic, actually.”

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