Outlook grows brighter for grads
Improving job market means more offers, especially for students who think outside the box.
CORAL GABLES, FLA.
Plenty of college students load up their undergraduate years with episodes of self-discovery, tweaking life goals in response.Skip to next paragraph
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Mary Carriere's experience might be considered Exhibit A.
Four years ago, Ms. Carriere arrived here at the University of Miami intent on medical school. Before long, her interest in numbers nudged her onto a new path: industrial engineering.
But when she pondered life after college, the Fort Myers, Fla., native found herself thinking location, not vocation. She longed for a taste of New York. So last spring Carriere trolled a campus career fair for firms - any firms - based there. Eventually, she wound up in financial services, with a summer 2004 internship at UBS. The firm liked the fact that she was a woman with an engineering degree, she says.
"They thought it would bring new light," adds Carriere, who became one of three summer interns to be offered full-time work at the company after graduation. She starts July 13.
Career experts applaud that brand of openness - graduates shopping their skills to firms in sectors not previously on their radar. In lean hiring years, the tactic can reflect desperation. This year it plays into the gradual opening - at long last - of a well-stocked job-market buffet.
The nearly 1.4 million graduates spilling into the working world in 2005 should find the best opportunities this decade.
"This has been the strongest year we've had since 2000," says Susie Clarke, director of undergraduate career services for the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington. "We had 12 percent growth over last year in the number of companies coming to campus. The economy's picking up, and more students have offers."
Employers plan to hire 13.1 percent more new graduates in 2005 than they did last year, says Andrea Koncz, employment information manager at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in Bethlehem, Pa.
Recent NACE surveys point to particular demand in the fields of accounting, engineering, and computer-science, she says.
Those fields are also the most heavily represented among online job postings, according to a study by the 4jobs.com Career Network, where, as a group, they account for half of the more than 170,000 current job postings on that organization's 6,000-plus job boards. [Editor's note: The original misstated the number of current job postings.]
The Midwest appears to be a hiring hotbed, notes Ms. Koncz, followed by urban centers in the West and Northeast.
Overall, hiring appears not to be limited to a handful of major employers. Some 47 percent of companies surveyed this month by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University reported they will "definitely" hire new college graduates in 2005 - an 11 percent increase from two years ago.
"Many employers neglected their pipeline over the past few years because there was so much pressure to keep costs down, and now they're feeling the effects," says John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago outplacement firm. "They're recognizing that they can't afford to wait any longer, so they're stepping up hiring, in part to make up for lost time."
Telecom is still reeling, Mr. Challenger notes. And certain areas within state and local government remain under heavy budgetary pressure, although at the federal level a wave of retirements could mean openings over the next couple of years.
Generally, though, the outlook is good. The unemployment rate among those holding a bachelor's degree or higher fell to 2.4 percent early this year, Challenger notes, its lowest mark since August 2001.
Graduates interested in seeing entry-level hirers ranked overall can check websites such as CollegeGrad.com. On that site's list, Enterprise Rent-A-Car sits atop the heap with a projected 7,000 hires in 2005. Trailing it: PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Job shoppers who use such tools should look past the obvious, say experts.
"A lot of people have preconceived ideas about what kind of companies these are and what kind of positions they have available," says Heidi Hanisko, director of client services for CollegeGrad, in Cedarburg, Wis. "But all of these, especially on a corporate level, have such a variety of positions."
Others counsel grads to stay true to themselves and take advantage of the widening opportunities to find a fit.