The job market has shown strong signs of recovery and business graduates are especially apt to benefit from this turn-around. According to a Reuters report hiring is up on college campuses around the country. The National Association of Colleges and Employers projects, that hiring this spring will be up over 10%. At the University of Florida career fair 150 employers asked to be on campus to interview up from just 100 the past few years.
The ranks of the employed are aging and companies are hiring in anticipation of replacing those workers. In addition to hiring to replace retiring workers, companies are beginning to hire replacements for workers lost to attrition or downsizing during the prolonged economic downturn.
How can you be sure you are one of the lucky ones that find that great job? There are several keys to getting good offers. First, prepare early—long before you are a senior. Second, put the best face on your qualifications you can. Third, prepare for the interview.
The best offers go to those graduates who show a commitment to their chosen career. There are several ways you can signal to a prospective employer your dedication. Joining student organizations is good, but you should also join a professional organization that represents your career choice. There are a number of professional organizations that offer discounted rates to students. Several that come to mind are finance, human resource, marketing, and accounting. Ask a professor in the area that interests you for recommendations. If the professor has no recommendations, search the web. To get the greatest benefit from membership, don’t just join, attend meetings if possible, and be sure to skim and the newsletters and journals associated with these professional organizations so you can keep up with the issues that are important to the profession. If you think this sounds like work; you’re right, but it can be as important as any class you take. If you have a job while in school, try to find something that is related to your career choice. If you can’t, then volunteer for a non-profit organization doing tasks that relate to your chosen career. You want to be able to speak intelligently about career issues and job activities when you interview.
If you are in the process of job hunting and you failed to do those things early in your academic career that would make you more attractive, all is not lost. There are still things you can do. Make sure your resume presents the best, honest picture of your qualifications that it can. Perhaps your overall GPA is less than stellar, because you didn’t find your passion until you were a junior. However, once you started taking classes in your major you performed well. Consider separating out your GPA for your major and reporting is separately. If you have had a job of any kind, try to concentrate on what you DID not just where you worked. If you participated in extra- or co-curricular activities that included significant responsibilities, let your prospective employer know. Try to stress any activities that would highlight your leadership or team-building skills including any type of athletics or team sports.
Finally, work with resources on campus to be sure you present a professional resume and demeanor at the interview. As the saying goes, you will never get another chance to make a good first impression. Consider building a portfolio including any activities that would highlight skills you possess. You may have done an especially good job on a class project, participated in a scholastic competition or written a paper that would highlight your achievements. Everything should build your professional reputation from the resume and cover letter, to the portfolio, to the interview, to the thank you that should follow the interview. Take every opportunity to polish your interview skills. If no formal interview practice sessions are available, get with a couple of friends and have one video you with a cell phone while the other conducts an interview. Make it as realistic as possible, then after everyone has a turn in each position review the videos together and make constructive suggestions.
Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of this type of preparation. Often the job goes not to the graduate who has the highest grades or knows the most about the technical aspects of the job, but to the graduate who is the best prepared and presents the best total package to the employer.