While a degree is important for college grad job-seekers, they need much more to compete in a tough job market. Things such as real-world experience, practical skills, a web of professional networking and job-placement services can all help a college graduate land a good job. That would be an ideal scenario, however, not the situation that many college graduates find themselves in when embarking on a job search.
The Sobering Numbers
Earning a degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a well-paying, stable job in a graduate's chosen field. An Associated Press analysis of the US government’s 2011 Current Population Survey data and other government data found that around 1.5 million or 53.6% of all college graduates under 25 were either jobless or underemployed, according to Forbes. For those lucky enough to get a job, 48 percent were working in positions not requiring a four-year degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, 40 percent of those who graduated from the nation's top 100 colleges couldn't find work in their desired field, according to a McKinsey report.
Inadequate Preparation for the Workforce
One of the major reasons managers aren’t looking to hire is because they perceive fresh grads as unprepared for the workforce, according to a survey by the recruitment firm Adecco. Up to 66 percent of managers see college graduates as too inexperienced after just finishing school, the survey found. Fifty-nine percent of adults surveyed in a 2013 Rasmussen Reports Poll stated that they believed the main purpose of attending college was to gain the skills needed to get a higher-paying job. In many instances, however, colleges are more useful in teaching students how to think than preparing them for a specific career. When a graduate lacks practical work experience, it often presents difficulties in finding a job.
Another significant obstruction to getting a job is a weak resume. How a resume reads can easily sway managers. A simple spelling or grammatical mistake can immediately send a resume to the rejection pile. In addition, a badly presented resume can make the difference for a graduate between finding a job or staying unemployed. Resumes that list prior jobs get more attention than resumes that don't show any prior work experience. Without internships or extracurricular activities, candidates fresh out of college have no proof of training in solving real-world problems. Though someone may be book-smart, the ability to solve problems and work successfully with others is at least as important.
Less Marketable Degrees
The type of degree a college grad holds often determines the difficulty of finding a stable job with competitive pay in a chosen field. The graduates facing the toughest job searches are those who earned degrees in language, literature social science, advertising and marketing. Those who hold degrees in education, finance, health, economics and accounting are more successful in finding jobs in their fields. Still, many new grads aren’t working in a position that utilizes their degree. In fact, most work at jobs that don’t require a college degree. Roughly 120,000 out of 1.7 million young adults who will receive bachelor's degrees in 2013, for instance, are working in entry-level positions in the retail or hospitality industry because that's all they can find.