Job-Hunting Strategies for Recent College Grads

Article excerpt

You've graduated. You attended a first-rate college, followed a rigorous course of study and maintained an impressive 3.6 cumulative grade-point average throughout your college tenure. Your resume is professionally typeset; and your designer suits, dry-cleaned and wrinkle-free. With a freshly minted degree in tow, you're all set to take the business world by storm. Getting a job should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

The current job market for aspiring professionals is one of the tightest and toughest in recent memory. Thanks to a seemingly endless recession, 2.25 million people have been unemployed at some time since July 1990. Budget-conscious employers have pared down the number of available entry-level positions by nearly one-third, leaving this year's 1.1 million graduates--the nation's largest graduating class ever--with fewer doors to knock on in their job search. At the same time, 933,000 downsized executives are vying for placement in this glutted market.

African-Americans bring their own special concerns to this plight, making a bad situation even worse. "Racism still rears its head in corporate America, partcularly in its hiring practices," says Mark Smith of Smith, Townsend & Associates Ltd., an investment and brokerage firm in Chicago, and president of the local chapter of the National Black MBA Association. "Some people in the decision-making process are still not as enlightened as they should be."

While it's a given that networking is an integral part of any successful job hunt, some of the best networking forums, such as private athletic and social club memberships, are not easily accessible to blacks. Moreover, since affirmative-action measures have steadily been under attack, young blacks seeking entry-level jobs can anticipate an uphill climb.

Despite the drought, good jobs are definitely there for the taking--employers are just more discerning and demanding in their shopping. Although smarts and proficiency are always in demand, the members of the class of '92 will have to add considerably more to the mix before hailing themselves as marketable and lucrative candidates. Talent, persistence, flexibility and ingenuity must be the buzzwords of corporate America's incoming crop of successful entrants.

It's Rough Out There?

When asked to forecast the entry-level job climate, experts offered one basic advisory: Batten down the hatches for a long, stormy search. While the experts are confident that most new grads will eventually secure employment, they are equally sure that the search will take longer and be more grueling than ever.

"It's no longer atypical for people to look [for employment] for a year or a year-and-a-half," says Chrystal R. McArthur, assistant director of career services at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "It's a tough job market and those involved in it are going to experience a lot of rejection."

Indeed, a shaky economy, rampant cost-cutting measures and management compression have made employers ultracautious in their hiring. Aside from being more discriminate, employers are exhibiting a quirkiness--sometimes defying logic or reason--in the choices they make. "This has been a very strange year," notes Benjamin P. McLaurim, career counseling and placement director for Morehouse College in Atlanta. "I've seen excellent students receive no job offers and marginal students wind up with three or four." Rutgers' McArthur suggests that the current job market's competitive nature has been enhanced by the fact that "some employers are unsure themselves about their own hiring needs."

Campus recruitment efforts were significantly curtailed this year. McLaurim detected a 40% drop in recruitment at Morehouse alone--a trend echoed nationwide by career placement officers at historically black colleges and universities and other public and private institutions. And, smaller and midsized firms are doing more of the recruiting as more traditional corporate giants become less visible on college campuses. …