Strategies for Job Seekers: New College Grads Looking for Work in a Sluggish U.S. Economy Should Consider Unconventional Jobs. Building a Solid Resume-Not Waiting for Ideal Job-Makes New Grads More Viable in the Long Run

By Challenger, John A. | The Futurist, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

Strategies for Job Seekers: New College Grads Looking for Work in a Sluggish U.S. Economy Should Consider Unconventional Jobs. Building a Solid Resume-Not Waiting for Ideal Job-Makes New Grads More Viable in the Long Run


Challenger, John A., The Futurist


Fewer job openings and a bigger pool of candidates mean fierce competition for America's first-time job seekers this year. Recent grads are up against former classmates as well as unemployed workers who have one to three years' experience (and may be willing to accept entry-level pay). In fact, U.S. employers plan to hire 20% fewer graduates in 2001-2002 than in the previous year, says the National Association of Colleges and Employers. New graduates also face new business realities: increased outsourcing, record downsizing, and employers wary of hiring in an uncertain economy.

Nearly one-third of this spring's 1.2 million U.S. college graduates could remain jobless after six months, according to national projections. That figure is typically just 10%.

However, first-time entrants into the American labor market should not be resigned to a long period of postcollege unemployment. Their primary objective should be finding any job that provides resume-worthy experience. They may have to work odd or short hours, or accept jobs unrelated to their long-term career goals, but they will ultimately be in a position to succeed.

When the job market improves, the first-class candidates will be those who have obtained any type of entry-level, on-the-job experience, even if that experience is not anywhere close to their desired job function. New graduates who insist on waiting to find a job in their field of study could become second-class candidates with reduced earning power when the market picks up.

Burn the Midnight Oil

Night-shift jobs can provide excellent opportunities for new graduates. These often hard-to-fill positions pay 7%-8% more than daytime positions in the same occupation, and the pay often doubles on weekends, according to night-shift consultants Circadian Technologies Inc.

The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 9.9 million Americans worked evening, night, and rotating shifts in 1997. Now the number is between 10 and 15 million, Circadian estimates. The firm expects that figure to increase by at least 5% annually over the next 10 years due to the growth of the global marketplace and the always-on Internet.

Demand is high in the service sector, particularly at call centers, computer operations, retail, nursing, and transportation. In the trucking industry, business graduates are needed to manage logistics, distribution, and other supply-chain components, with starting salaries from $35,000 to $45,000.

For college graduates with chemical, industrial, and electrical engineering degrees, opportunities are available as process engineers, assemblers, and operators for industrial manufacturers. Companies are filling as much as 20% of these positions with temporary workers when they would prefer full-time, permanent, skilled workers, Circadian says.

Specialized night-shift positions generally pay starting hourly rates of $20-$25, and they can put new graduates on the path to future managerial or executive roles.

The Public-Sector Option

Federal, state, and local governments currently have thousands of full-time, part-time, and seasonal opportunities. More than 1,500 entry-level positions were listed in January on www.usajobs.opm.gov, the official Web site for all federal agency job openings.

Occupations in government vary widely and include accounting, information technology, nursing, teaching, and engineering. There are also entry-level openings for park rangers, recreational specialists, firefighters, and archaeologists.

Starting salaries for most of the entry-level positions range from $22,000 to $39,000, but technical fields such as chemical engineering and computer science list starting salaries as high as $55,000.

Graduates with degrees in business, the liberal arts, or computer science can find valuable opportunities in the public service or nonprofit sectors. …

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