Could this Be a Good Year for New Graduates?

For nearly a year, Alex Easley, 22, researched, pursued, and interviewed with companies such as Google, American Express, and Johnson & Johnson, hoping to have a job lined up after his graduation from Morehouse College this past May. He didn’t.

Looking for entry-level positions in marketing and advertising, Easley realized by the end of the year that he’d need to broaden his search. Though the Athens, Georgia, native had some sales experience it wasn’t Easley’s first choice. But after completing five interviews with MetLife, he was offered a business-to-business sales position at the Irvine, California, office.

“Sales is a position I wouldn’t have considered a year ago,” he says. “But given the economy, it changed my perspective and allowed me to look at things I wouldn’t have before.”

Though Easley was fortunate to find a job less than a month after he graduated, others haven’t been so lucky. The 2009 Student Survey of the National Association of Colleges and Employers reveals that just 19.7% of 2009 graduates who applied for a job actually have one, compared with 26% of 2008 graduates and 51% of 2007 graduates.

Despite fewer job openings and predictions that graduates will have to bear the brunt of stagnant or low wages and lower-skilled positions, companies are still looking to hire recent graduates to fill entry-level positions–you just have to know where to look. Joe Watson, CEO of Without Excuses and Strategic Hire in Reston, Virginia, suggests looking for jobs in growth industries instead of looking for growth jobs. Make sure the industry you’re considering isn’t going into decline. The industries with the most jobs include healthcare, energy, law enforcement, information technology, and education.

The following tips will help you develop strategies for finding and securing employment with companies that are looking to hire right now.

Exhaust all resources. In this economy, it’s important to look at every means of gaining an opportunity. “From social networking online to attending professional and trade association meetings, whether they are members or not, graduates have to build their professional network in ways that those who are advanced in their careers typically do,” says Betsy Richards, director of Career Resources at Kaplan University. She also notes that graduates have reverted to “old-fashioned” job-hunting techniques, such as organizing informational interviews and checking newspaper classifieds.