Out Of College And Ready To Work

Now that the pomp and circumstance of college graduation is over, it's time for all those recent college grads to get out there and start their careers. The process can be both frustrating and intimidating. But, thanks to a strengthening economy, there is good news for the Class of 2006. Vera Gibbons of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine gives details on The Saturday Early Show.

This year's crop of graduates, says Gibbons, are entering a very strong job market. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, U.S. employers plan to hire almost 14 percent more college graduates this year than last year. She adds that it's a particularly good time for those who majored in accounting, finance, and computer science. But demand is pretty high across the board.

Gibbons says the average starting salary for all college graduates is almost $46,000, which is more than 6 percent higher than last year's average. And if you're an engineer (chemical, electrical, mechanical), you're looking at starting salaries in the $50,000 to $55,000 range. Even perks and signing bonuses are making a comeback.

But competition for the best jobs is tough, and here are some pointers for success:

The Internet is an excellent resource for job seekers, but it definitely should not be the only resource. According to Gibbons, only about 15 percent to 20 percent of all job openings are ever publicly advertised in any medium, and only about 5 percent of job seekers end up getting jobs through ads. Bottom line: The most effective job-search tools are networking and word of mouth.

Networking is a much more efficient way to look for a job. To network, says Gibbons, means to get out there and talk with the people who are working in your desired field. Give them your resume. Ask them to pass it along to their friends in the same field.

Start with your college. Ask for list of local alumni who have jobs in the field you're pursuing. Ask about any relevant trade organizations in your area. Go to some of their social events. If you get leads, request an informational interview. At this stage, it's not about getting hired; it's more about gathering data and learning more about the industry, getting advice, picking up some contacts and learning more about kind of job you want.

Here's where you can ask questions that aren't appropriate during a first interview — questions about salary, benefits, vacation, etc. You can discuss what is done on a day-to-day basis and relate it to your own interests and feelings. Beyond the advantages of gaining valuable career information, the informational interview provides the opportunity to build self-confidence and to improve your ability to handle a job interview.

Ask questions about the company. Don't ask questions like, "What does this company specialize in?" You should know all about the company before you get in there. Ask questions about career growth and opportunities that exist within the organization. Be a good listener, because while it may be your qualifications, education and experience that has landed you the interview, it's your interviewing skills and your rapport with your interviewer that's going to make or break you.

This means to be careful with the blogging, online profiles and e-mails. Employers know about all those Web sites that are so popular, and you could be ruled out of a job because of your online footprint.

Finally, says Gibbons, the best advice parents can give their job-seeking children: Be confident and have a good attitude. Also, looks are important, so buy your child a professional suit if you have to. Searching for a job isn't easy, so don't let your children get too down on themselves if the first few prospects don't pan out.