Newswise — "Slow and steady wins the race" may be the caveat for this year's college graduates seeking entry into the job market, according to the 33rd annual "Recruiting Trends" survey conducted by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.
A majority of the 450 respondents to the 2003-04 national college employment survey noted that while the economy is improving and the labor market has stabilized, employers in some fields are still keeping their hiring options open.
"Employers with definite plans to hire will stimulate a 9 percent expansion in job opportunities," said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment research Institute at MSU's Career Services and Placement and author of the study. "Companies and organizations with preliminary hiring targets or that are uncertain will decrease hiring by as much as 14 percent. We're finding that small employers will not be picking up the slack among new college hires as in past years, as they have access to a well-educated labor pool that has already graduated."
Sectors reporting the strongest labor markets include administrative services, retail, finance, health and accommodations/hospitality. Sectors with relatively weak labor markets include manufacturing, transportation, professional services and information services. Construction, wholesale, retail, utilities and finance fields are indicated as being stronger in all sections of the country.
For 2003-04, 353 employers provided hiring information. Forty-one percent of the respondents said they would definitely hire new college graduates, compared to 36 percent last year.
Companies with more than 381 employees will more likely be increasing the number of hires; smaller employers are more likely to be decreasing the hires of new college graduates. The survey also indicates that the number of employers who have definite plans to hire new graduates is up by 9 percent overall, with an 8 percent increase expected to be at the bachelor's degree level. All degree levels showed an increase except for master's degree candidates. These same employers also are hiring at a much higher level than the group in this category last year.
What can college grads do to make themselves more marketable in this uncertain economy?
"Developing core competencies, such as oral and verbal communications skills, teamwork, a strong work ethic, motivation and flexibility cannot be emphasized enough," Gardner noted. "Students need to use their personal leadership and work experiences to enhance their skills to compete successfully with others in the labor pool. New college graduates will need to enter the job market, and then begin to position themselves for find the job they want."
It may be that college graduates entering the job market may not find their ideal job on the first try, he said. Collegians with solid applicable internships and cooperative educational or other job-related experiences will have the edge over those with little or no job-related experiences on their resumes, he said. "Employers are looking for potential employees with relevant past work experiences, the graduates who possess specific technical training balanced with a liberal education," Gardner said. "The technical training could be in a variety of fields such as engineering, computer-related skills, media, research or business. But beyond that they want individuals who have used their general university coursework to understand the broader context for learning and how it applies in the real world, and most importantly, how it applies in a global context."
Gardner will be presenting his research report at the 10th annual fall "Trends in Recruiting" conference of Midwest Association of Colleges and Employers, with the Government College Relations Council, Nov. 20-21 at DePaul University in Chicago.