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JobWeb offers career and job-search advice for new college graduates, and is the online complement to the Job Choices job-search publications.  


Class of 2008 Steps Into Good Job Market

Your chances of having a job at graduation—maybe even the perfect entry-level job—are great. This is the healthiest job market in three years, according to many of the employers who are recruiting members of the Class of 2008.

Overall, according to Job Outlook 2008, an annual survey of college recruiters, employers plan to hire 16 percent more new college graduates in 2007-08 than they did in 2006-07.

The growing demand for new graduates is a result of an increased demand for employers’ products and services; in addition, employees—baby boomers—are retiring or nearing retirement age, and other employees are leaving organizations for new opportunities. Employers expect the good job market to continue—or perhaps get better.

Top 10 degrees in demand (bachelor’s degree level)
Mechanical Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Computer Science
Business Administration/Management
Economics/Finance (incl. banking)
Information Sciences & Systems
Marketing/Marketing Management
Computer Engineering
Management Information Systems/ Business Data Processing
Top degrees in demand (master’s degree level)
Electrical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Computer Science
Top degrees in demand (doctorate degree level)
Computer Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Computer Science
Mechanical Engineering
Business Administration/Management

“We have heard from a number of employers that they are looking to hire more new college graduates to feed their ‘talent pipeline,’ ” says Marilyn Mackes, executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the nonprofit that conducts the annual survey. “Employers are looking at new grads as their future leaders and want to groom them for those roles.”

Hiring projections are strong across the board—regardless of industry, economic sector, or geographic region. Hiring expectations are especially strong in the Midwest, where employers anticipate hiring 25 percent more new college graduates this year. Competition is expected to be particularly fierce for graduates in the engineering, computer science, and accounting fields.

Service-sector employers have the most aggressive hiring plans and expect to increase their college hires by nearly 18 percent over 2006-07. Manufacturers anticipate an increase of nearly 15 percent in college hires.

Overall, nearly 58 percent of the employers responding to NACE’s survey reported plans to increase their college hiring; more than one-third (36.5 percent) said they’ll maintain their college hiring at 2006-07 levels. Less than 6 percent expect to trim their college hiring.

"Employers are optimistic about hiring," says Andrea Koncz, NACE employment information manager. But “don’t sit back and wait for an employer to find you. The better job market doesn't mean finding a first job will be an easy ride," she says. "If you want a job at or soon after graduation, you'll need to begin your job search early and work hard to find the right job."

Which majors are in most demand?

Employers plan to target business, engineering, and computer-related degrees at both the bachelor’s and master’s degree level in 2007-2008. This year, at the bachelor’s level, the list is topped by accounting, followed by mechanical and electrical engineering, and computer science.

Master’s level

At the doctorate degree level, employers will mainly target computer engineering and electrical engineering graduates, followed by computer science, mechanical engineering, and business administration/management.

Employers looking for graduates with associate degrees, too

The demand for associate degree graduates appears to have dipped slightly for 2007-08 graduates. In 2005-06, 33 percent of employers said they would hire two-year graduates; in 2006-07, it was 39 percent of employers. This year, only 27 percent plan to hire associate degree graduates.

Degrees most in demand this year are technology/engineering and business administration/management degrees. There is also a high demand for computer science and information sciences majors.

Employers interested in two-year graduates include utility companies, state and local government, and consulting services.

Employers that hire associate degree graduates say these students often have more work experience than four-year graduates and have developed a good work ethic, making them a good choice for entry-level hiring. In addition, they often enter the work force with a special skill set unique to the positions they seek, so employers need to do less training with these graduates.

In addition, most two-year grads have realistic expectations in terms of salary and promotions; hence, they have more longevity in the world of work.

International grads find a market for their services

An increase in competition and trend data that indicate that the number of Americans graduating with degrees in the technical fields is not increasing to meet rising demand means that more employers are turning to foreign-born students to meet their employment needs. One-third of employers responding to the survey reported that they plan to hire international students this year. In fact, approximately, 40 percent of respondents in the Northeast reported plans to hire international students.

Who’s Hiring (bachelor’s degree level), by Employer Type
Major Employer
Accounting Accounting (public)
Financial Services
Food & Beverage Processing
Petroleum & Allied Products
Mechanical engineering

Chemicals & Allied Products
Scientific Equipment & Industrial
Measuring Instruments Manufacturers

Electrical engineering Utilities
Electrical & Electronic Machinery
   & Equipment Manufacturers
Computers & Business Equipment Manufacturers
Computer Science Computer Software Development
   & Data Processing Services
Financial Services
Computers & Business Equipment Manufacturers
Business Admin/mgmt. Food & Beverage Processing
Financial Services
Merchandising (Retail/Wholesale)
Communications Computers & Business Equipment Manufacturers
Merchandising (Retail/Wholesale)
Financial Services
Liberal Arts Merchandising (Retail/Wholesale)
Other majors in demand Psychology; English; Sociology; Political Science/Government

Employers expressed an interest in graduates with electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering, and computer science degrees.

By employment sector, manufacturers were most interested in hiring international students. By type of employer, scientific equipment manufacturers consulting services, computer software development firms, and computer & business equipment manufacturers will be the best bets for international students.

Salary increases for 2007-08

Nearly eight out of 10 employers report that they plan to increase starting salaries to bachelor’s degree graduates in 2007-08. The average projected salary increase for bachelor’s degree graduates remains at 4.6 percent, with a median increase of 4 percent.

Master’s degree graduates of 2007-08 have reason to be optimistic about their average starting salaries, as most of employers plan to offer increases to these grads, too. Master’s degree candidates can expect a projected average increase of 5.2 percent.

Will you get a signing bonus?

It depends. If you hold a degree in electrical engineering or you are being offered a job by a public accounting firm, perhaps. Just over half of employers said they would offer a signing bonus to selected—not all—new hires. If you are lucky enough to get a bonus, how large the bonus is will depend on a variety of factors.

Challenge and opportunity

About a third of college recruiters note that there is a shortage of new graduates in some specific areas: engineering, computer science, and accounting.

True and Tested (Annually) Secrets to Job-Search Success  

Search Early and Call on Campus Resources

Yes. It’s a good job market…but don’t get cocky. If you want to have a choice of jobs to be considered for, here’s some advice: Start today by stopping in your college/university career center.

Beginning your search early is smart. According to a survey of last year’s graduates, of those graduates who began their job searches before March 1, more than half had secured a post-graduate job by April 30.

The survey also showed that sending your resume directly to an employer is not the short-cut to success. The career center—and programs it sponsors—is. Successful applicants relied on on-campus interviews, speaking with company representatives at career/job fairs, viewing employer information presentations, and posting their resumes on their career center web sites.

Take advantage of the resources on your campus provided by the career center. Trained, professional staff is available to guide you through the job search process and teach you how to take the various steps with success. (Note: People pay big bucks for this kind of help out in the real world. For students, most of these services are free or very low cost.) Plus, these career counselors know the employers—they work with them on a regular basis—and can put you in touch with the organizations where you’d like to work.

Don’t be fooled. A career counselor won’t find you a job or “place” you in a position. They’re on campus to teach you something more important: the knowledge to successfully find a job today—and in the future when you’re looking for your second, third, or 10th position!

What employers want and what graduates lack

Top Qualities/Skills Employers Want
Communication skills
Strong work ethic
Teamwork skills (works well with others)
Interpersonal skills (relates well to others)
Problem-solving skills
Analytical skills
Computer skills
Technical skills 

A good GPA is, of course, important to many employers. However, employers want more than a sparkling academic record. They want new hires that will fit in with co-workers and into the workplace, and are able to get the job done. Take a look at the “skills and qualities” employers look for beyond the book-learning.

Communication skills—both written and verbal—top the list of skills and qualities that employers look for in job candidates. This year, employer rated “strong work ethic” equally as important as communication skills. In addition, initiative, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving skills received high ratings from employers.

Unfortunately—and ironically—the very qualities employers look for are the qualities they find lacking in many new graduates. More than a third of employers say new graduates lack face-to-face communication skills. They say many students tend to lack interview and presentation skills, telephone skills, and overall interpersonal (gets along well with others) skills.
If you can demonstrate you have these skills during your interview, you’ll have an edge in the hiring process.

Get experience—it pays!

Work experience adds considerable value to your resume. Ninety-five percent of employers prefer to hire new graduates who have some work experience.

When employers want to hire someone for a full-time position, many look first to their own intern pools. But besides a potential job offer, internships pay in other ways, including in actual compensation.

Where Employers Look for New Hires

On-campus recruiting
Employer’s internship program
Employee referrals
Employer’s co-op program
Career/job fairs
Faculty contacts
Campus web site advertising
Company’s web site
Student organizations/clubs
Commercial career web site

Among employers who pay their interns, the average hourly wage at the bachelor’s degree level is $15.99. This amount could be higher or lower depending on the employer, your degree, and the location of the internship.

The best way to find an employer with an internship?
“In most cases, college students don’t have to go further than their own college campus to find employers with internships,” said Mackes. “Employers reported that on-campus recruiting, career fairs, and faculty contacts were their most effective methods for finding interns. Students can start by checking with their campus career center for information about employers seeking interns.”

Where will you find your employer?

You don’t have to go far to find your first full-time employer. Seven of the 10 ways employers say are most effective for helping find new hires involve your college/university career services office. Check with staff in that office to find out when employers will be on campus for information sessions, career fairs, and interviews. Ask about employers offering internships and co-op programs. If you take a look at the places employers seek new graduates, you’ll know where to begin your search.

Your first full-time job will come with benefits

Benefits Employers Offer New Hires

Medical insurance
Life insurance
401(k) retirement plan
Dental insurance
Annual salary increases
Employee assistance counseling
Tuition reimbursement
Casual dress policy
Bonus/commission plans
Planned social activities

Benefits New Graduates Want

Medical insurance
Annual salary increases
401(k) retirement plan
Dental insurance
Life insurance
Casual dress policy
More than two weeks of vacation
Pension plan
Family-friendly benefits

Benefits are part of your overall compensation. They’re also part of what makes your job something you want to do.

Employers and new graduates agree on what is important in a benefits package with their top five picks—medical insurance, life insurance, 401(k), dental insurance, and annual salary increases. Except for a “casual dress policy,” employers aren’t offering the perks new graduates want beyond those. While new graduates would like additional vacation time, a pension plan, family friendly benefits, and flextime, employers are offering employee assistance counseling, tuition reimbursement, bonus/commission plans, and planned social activities.

Prepare Three Things

Did someone hit the repeat button? Each year employers tell students to go to interviews armed with three things, and each year employers say students arrive at interviews having skipped at least one step—usually the first one.

None of the following take a lot of time—and doing each can improve the outcome of your job search. Once again, here they are:

  1. Research

    Take 60 minutes, go online, and learn everything you can about any company you might want to work for. Your goal is to be able to articulate how you will be a good fit within the company. If you have trouble putting your research into words, ask a career services counselor for help. This is the easiest step of them all—and the most neglected!

  2. Experience

    An internship or co-op experience (or several of these positions) on your resume will tell an interested employer that you’ve tested your career up close and you’ve learned some of the basics of the workplace.

    Employers see internship programs as their organizations talent pools, according to a recent survey of employer benchmarks. When they have a job opportunity to offer, they look among participants in their intern program first. Almost a third of all new hires from the Class of 2007 came from an employer’s own internship program, employers said.

    Employers prize relevant work experience even if it’s with another organization. Employers responding to the survey that almost two-thirds of new hires have internship experience.

  3. Have a little class

    Just because you put together a rudimentary resume in “career class” in high school doesn’t mean you have the skill to crank out a resume now. Among the skills you need to learn in college (and can learn through short career center workshops and seminars) include:

    1. how to write a cover letter that markets you to employers.
    2. how to compose a well-written, error-free resume that articulates your skills and course work as a match for the company and position.
    3. how to interview and explain the value you can bring to a potential employer.

Research, experience, and preparation: If you have these, you won’t need “good luck” to be successful in your job search.