There’s no question that the job market in America is improving, especially for recent and future graduates with a major in business or engineering. While this is encouraging news, it doesn’t mean that the sky will open and job offers will fall from the heavens. Myths abound concerning current job prospects and the college grad’s place in it, tripping them up and slowing them down. Don’t get caught in the net and prepare yourself ahead of time.
Myth #1: The job market is easier than ever for a college grad to break into.
Not entirely. While things have improved for college grads all the way around, that doesn’t mean you can stand back and watch a job offer fall into your lap. It’s still going to take considerable time and effort on your part, and factors such as where you live, how qualified you are for the job, how you present yourself at interviews and how much you search will affect the outcome. You may even need to take a job you don’t like while waiting for a job you do, like waiting tables or working retail.
Myth #2: Nearly all entry-level salaries start at $35,000-$50,000.
Depending on what your degree is, you may be looking at a starting salary that’s significantly lower than $35,000. Some jobs can drop down to $20,000 or lower, depending on where you live. Some degrees will always be in demand, like engineering and computers, but even solid work-based majors like business, advertising and chemistry will be surprised to learn that starting salaries are consistently below $35,000, with liberal arts and English majors even further down the chart.
Where you live will also determine your starting salary. A business or marketing grad in a suburban midwest city might make $40,000 to start, while a graduate with a business degree in on of the major metropolitan areas (NYC or LA) will make $5,000 more. Look at salary calculators online to see what you can expect to make where you’re living or plan to move after graduation. And don’t forget about taxes: the federal and state government will be taking their share out of that starting salary, leaving you with less than you thought.
Myth #3: I can find my dream job just by searching the Internet.
While online employment bulletin boards have made the online job hunt more popular, only a small percentage of jobs that companies have available will ever make its way into cyberspace. A more effective way to search for jobs is through networking, especially when you’re just starting out. Look for alumni resources before you graduate, or join a professional organization your major is based in. You can also look for an internship in your field, and try to interview people who are doing what you want to do. Make sure you stay in touch with friends who share your major, especially students who will graduate before you do (hey, you never know if they’ll remember you when deciding to open a business or refer you to their boss.) While the Internet is a valuable resource for job hunting, it shouldn’t be your only source.
Myth #4: If I spread my resume on the Internet enough, I’m guaranteed to get a job.
That might have worked years ago, but the truth is, every other college grad is thinking the exact same thing. The result is a massive pile-up of resumes that lay siege to job-hunting boards and potential employers’ inboxes. Your resume will only get hopelessly lost in the electronic sea of virtual paper. Blindly sending out a resume to every employer you’ve heard of will achieve roughly the same result. Being proactive in your search doesn’t mean throwing a sheet of paper at everyone you see. To get the results you want, you’re going to have to tailor your resume and cover letter to each prospective employer, doing research of the company beforehand to help you focus your words. If you unsure, seek the advice from professional writers and have your resume in a perfect shape. Use the Internet to browse the company’s website, and ask yourself if you could see yourself working for them. Some websites offer company profiles to help you in your search.
Myth #5: If someone is hired, it’s because they’re the most qualified one for the job.
Unfortunately, this usually isn’t true. Prospective employers may look at your education and background experience, but often it’s the interview that will get you hired. This is why colleges emphasize interviewing skills so much. Always show up on time (or early) and look as down-to-earth and professional as you can. Being confident is an advantage, but don’t overdo it. When asked about your qualifications, give solid proof and examples of your work rather than speaking in abstracts (i.e. don’t just say you’re good at leading a group, explain an incident in your past that illustrates this.) Have questions ready to ask the interviewer when they’re finished grilling you; if you don’t, you risk giving the impression you’re not interested in the job. When you’re finished, make sure you thank the interviewer for their time and ask how they’d like you to follow-up: by phone, e-mail or letter.