Facing tough job market, grads urged to network
A recent report released by the Economic Policy Institute found that college graduates from the class of 2013 face an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, and underemployment rate of 18.3 percent. Compared with the same percentages from 2007, 5.7 percent and 9.9 percent respectively, it is clear that this year’s graduating college students confront an uphill battle that requires determination, perseverance and talent.
While the statistics may be intimidating, Providence College Career Education Center Director Patti Goff said there are still things graduates can do to be successful in the job market. Among them is networking.
“The thing I say above all to recent grads is to turn every opportunity into a networking opportunity,” said Goff. “Use those graduation parties to make people aware that you are seeking a job in a certain field or industry. Utilize the people in your life that you never thought of as networking connections as just that.”
Kathryn Sasso, assistant director of Rhode Island College’s Career Development Center, echoed this sentiment.
“We’re all one contact away from 10,000 other people,” she said. “Especially in a small state like Rhode Island, it’s important to let people know what you’re looking for.”
Sasso added that about 80 percent of jobs are acquired through networking according to several studies within the last year, while just 8 percent are found through the Internet.
Lindsay Iadeluca, a journalism graduate from the University of Rhode Island and Warwick resident, was one of those few who found her job off an Internet job-posting site.
“I knew I wanted to do broadcast journalism, so I went on tvjobs.com, and literally applied to every opening on that site,” Iadeluca said.
Despite not having connections to many of the jobs she applied to, Iadeluca heard back from local TV station WBKB in Alpena, Mich. After two rounds of interviews, she followed the offer halfway across the country to begin her post-graduation life.
“I was a little hesitant, because I was born and bred in Rhode Island,” she said. “But I tried to see it as a positive thing, to make the best of it, and so far I have.”
In addition to networking, both Sasso and Goff emphasized the importance of students using the career center at their colleges while in school and after graduation.
“I’m always surprised by how many students graduate without visiting some kind of career services,” Sasso said, adding that it’s “never too late” to find out what they may have to offer.
Most career centers offer help not only in writing résumés and cover letters, but also hold mock interviews and help students search more efficiently for jobs they’re interested in, according to Sasso.
Providence College class of 2013 accounting graduate and Warwick native Michael Englert said he used the career center for everything from résumé writing to internship searching.
“They were extremely helpful in giving me great advice how to stand out among other job applicants,” he said.
Englert, who previously graduated from Pilgrim High School in 2009, will begin working at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston in September. In the mean time, Englert plans to spend his summer taking CPA classes at Boston College with the hopes of passing all four sections of the CPA exam before starting work.
While ensuring that a résumé and cover letter are error-free is crucial, Goff added that there are many other ways to stand out as a job applicant and remain competitive even in a tough market.
“Social media is one thing that’s always important,” Goff said. “Not only making sure it’s clean, but also using it to promote yourself and connect with alumni and industry professionals.”
For current college students, the classes, activities and jobs that students involve themselves in matter, said Sasso.
“Employers will look to see what you have beyond that bachelor’s degree,” she said. “Internships especially are becoming much more vital.”
Englert agreed, explaining that his involvement in activities such as the PC Accounting Association, tutoring, study abroad and the PricewaterhouseCoopers case competition made him a “more well-rounded job applicant.”
“I think it is so important for students to show that they do more than simply sit in a classroom for four years of college, and that they get involved both on and off campus to show their commitment to their community and their future,” he said.
Englert added that personality also plays a huge role in finding a job post-graduation.
“Especially in this type of economy, many businesses today rely on interaction with other people, so individuals who are comfortable conversing with strangers and forming new relationships will undoubtedly have a competitive advantage, even if they don’t quite have the grades that other applicants may have earned in college,” he said.
Above all, both Sasso and Goff expressed the need to continue actively looking for jobs, no matter how discouraging it may become.
“Don’t be idle, even if you don’t get results right away,” said Sasso. “Keep meeting people and getting experience; keep making progress.”
“Don’t just wait your summer out, thinking you’ll find a job eventually,” Iadeluca added. “While you’re waiting around, other people are applying for and getting jobs that could have been yours.”