I’m Graduating: What’s Next?

As many students are well into their last semester of the school year, many are starting to think about graduation and what’s next. But, like all soon-to-be grads, it’s often a struggle to figure out the best way to begin your job search. While industries like Information Technology (IT) and construction/infrastructure continue to grow, especially in the aftermath of recent incidents, there has been a greater increase in competition for entry-level talent across all industries. The bottom line is, companies are hiring. Candidates just need to be aware of where to look.

Towards the end of 2017, Michigan State released the results of its 47th annual “Recruiting Trends” survey. It polled 3,370 employers seeking college talent and asked about their hiring expectations for the 2017-2018 academic year. “The 2017-2018 graduates will enter one of the longest sustained periods of job growth, which puts them at an advantage,” said Phil Gardner, survey author and director of MSU’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute. Fueled by turnover and company growth, hiring is expected to increase by 19 percent overall, driven by a 15 percent increase for bachelor’s degrees and 40 percent for associate degrees. Of note, small companies plan to add two to four more new hires than last year and are recruiting actively at the associate’s level. “I’m stilled wowed at how strong this market is,” Gardner said. “There should be no complaints anywhere about jobs. So, if students aren’t ready, they’re going to get passed over.”

“However, the competitive college labor market has provided employers with challenges”, Gardner said. At the same time, larger companies report competition from other employers as their largest hurdle in hiring college graduates. Companies, especially small and mid-sized enterprises, are beginning to see the value in hiring recent college graduates to fill key entry-level roles, regardless of degree, specialty or work experience. New grads, notably those with a liberal arts background, are highly adaptable, eager to prove their worth, and exceptionally well-prepared to make an immediate impact for a company that accurately matches the true skills needed for these roles with those offered by the graduates. Graduates are beginning to take a more proactive approach to marketing their soft skills and non-professional work experience to prospective employers. They are also making it known to hiring companies that culture, mission and other intangible aspects of a job are highly prized and may tip the scales in favor of one company over the other.

While there are positive statistics to show the increase in hiring for entry-level talent, we are also in a time where prospective candidates have more competition and say in their job search. This is due to recruiting trends such as major job boards that provide company reviews, salary benefits, and growth opportunity (take Glassdoor, for instance). These are all areas in which candidates will evaluate the right ‘fit’ upon graduating to jump start their career. At the same time, hiring managers need to be aware of the evaluation process and competitive market that these new grads are in.

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