How to Increase Your Competitive Edge & Land a Job After You Graduate
BY: JOANNA WU
With the rising number of college graduates, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to secure a job. What can help you rise above the pack?
Selecting a Major in an Area of Growth
Let’s say your favorite subject in high school was Latin; what if you selected this as your college major? The reality is that some majors are more likely than others to translate into a job immediately after graduation. According to a Georgetown University report on college majors, unemployment, and earnings, recent college graduates have been severely affected by the Great Recession. However, on the positive side, some majors reported lower unemployment rates between 4.5 to 6.5 percent, including education; health; physical science; agriculture and natural resources; industrial arts, consumer services, and recreation; and engineering.1 Close behind with unemployment rates between 7 and 9 percent were majors in business; biology and life sciences; and computers, statistics, and mathematics.2
What does this all mean? If you want to pursue a degree outside of areas with the greatest job growth or highest job opportunities, be prepared to compete with a higher number of job-seekers with similar qualifications. Although your field may not promise as high of a salary as other entry-level positions, choose a major that is in line with your passion and interests, not simply because it could be practical and lucrative. If you’re passionate about Latin or its close siblings in the humanities and liberal arts, such as communications, architecture, or psychology, go for it! Many of these majors can, in fact, further develop your critical thinking and communication skills, which are marketable and transferable skills later on.
Gaining Experience & Developing Soft Skills
As more employers hire college graduates, merely having a degree will not give you a competitive edge. As a student, you have time and opportunities to gain experience in your area of interest. Seek ways to learn what fields you enjoy working in and gain as much experience as possible while you have the time and flexibility to apply for internships, research positions, and part-time jobs. This experience will prove invaluable, especially as you enter interviews with employers who will want to know what else you bring to the table. But even if you have experience and impressive credentials on paper, how good are you at conveying your strengths?
This is one of the reasons why developing soft skills is so important. Soft skills include your communication skills, work ethic, time management, problem solving, ability to work with teams, etc. These skills are necessary for presenting
your best at the interview and indicate your potential success on the job. As you build relationships with co-workers and clients alike, soft skills will help you deal with issues such as office politics, gaining a promotion or career advancement, and how to work with others.
Networking Now & Knowing How to Work with Different People
Networking is a valuable skill that should not be exclusive to socially-savvy business majors; it is necessary for any college graduate who wants to learn of employment opportunities and places to use their knowledge, skills, and interests. This is sometimes difficult and daunting,
especially for introverted personalities who would rather people-watch a room filled with networkers passing out business cards, but it’s one of the best ways to learn more about a potential employer as well as make yourself known. If you tend to by shy, or find this intimidating, keep your eye on the goal of getting the job and step out of your comfort zone. Networking can happen anywhere and at any time – from online on LinkedIn, to an alumni event on campus, to having conversations with working adults at church.
As you network, you may begin to realize that people in positions to hire are those who make up the Boomer Generation (ages 51 to 69), or the Gen-X population (ages 35 to 50). Millennials have a varied reputation in the work world. Show them you are willing to learn from and understand their perspectives. You will need to earn your stripes as the newest person on the block.
For more information about selecting a suitable major, finding an internship, developing soft skills or networking skills, please visit PPossibilities.org or call us at 626-810-5200.
- Anthony Carnevale and Ben Cheah. “From Hard Times to Better Times: College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings.”
Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University. https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/HardTimes2015-Report.pdf (accessed July 28, 2015).