Industry Market Trends

Career Advice for the Class of 2009

May 12, 2009

With the right strategy, new college graduates can still launch their careers with great success - even in today's competitive job market.

Employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer new college graduates from the class of 2009 than they hired from last year's graduating class, according to the new Job Outlook 2009 Spring Update report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). More than 46 percent said they are unsure about their hiring plans for fall 2009, and 17 percent are already reporting that they expect to trim their college hiring further.

As 2009 college graduates begin entering the workforce (or at least trying to), temporary-staffing company Adecco offers sobering findings: The majority of college-educated adults surveyed — 72 percent — believe that 2009 graduates will have a harder time finding a job than past graduates.

While it is true that it's a tough job market, analysts and even employers say new college graduates and students soon graduating shouldn't feel hopeless about their prospects. Although the number of available positions and their locations have changed, opportunities remain.

With the right strategy, graduates can still launch their careers with great success.

Historically, during uncertain markets, more students have looked to improve their "employability" by going to graduate school. In the latest American Workplace Insights Survey, from workforce solutions provider Adecco Group North America, 22 percent of college-educated adults interviewed advised college students to go directly to graduate school after earning their bachelor's degree.

This is a pricey way to ride out the economy, though. On average, grad-school students owe about $30,000 upon completing a master's program, according to Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions (via And who's to say you'll even get in? In March, applications to the University of North Carolina's graduate degree programs were up 8 percent compared to last year, and 14 percent compared to two years ago; as of March 18, the university had offered admission to 10 percent fewer applicants than last year.


It is important to understand that going immediately to graduate school isn't the only alternative for the newly diploma-bestowed.

"I want seniors and recent graduates to be aware that there are jobs out there for them, despite the media's 24/7 hyperbole about the economy," Rob Brooks, director of Career Services for Mount Ida College in Massachusetts, recently told, an online resource dedicated to career advice and job search assistance. "They probably will encounter some rejection as they pursue employment, but that is normal in any economy and should not deter them from their career goals. Focused effort, job hunting skills, persistence and resiliency will overcome any obstacles to their search."

For graduates this month, as well as those who will be graduating in the near future, Adecco Group North America offers the following advice:

  • Network to build relationships. Online social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and business-oriented LinkedIn can help further your job search. But don't forget the importance of face-to-face networking with your friends, relatives, neighbors, fellow alumni, etc., as these people may be able to point you to insiders at companies.
  • Consider temporary and project work. Employers may be more hesitant to hire full-time staff right now, but that doesn't mean there aren't a number of temporary and project assignments available. These can be great résumé-, experience- and network-building opportunities and can often serve as a paid audition for a full-time assignment.
  • Learn from mentors. Seek mentorship from experienced professionals. Learning from professors or internship advisers can give candidates practical experience in decision-making and project management. Expertise in these areas comes with time; the more workers can learn from a mentor, the faster their career can advance.
  • Think about ancillary industries. Almost half (46 percent) of past graduates who responded to the American Workplace Insights Survey believe it's more important to obtain hands-on professional experience than it is to get an advanced degree. As such, graduates should try to cast as wide a net as possible. This includes examining the secondary sectors that might be looking for employees with diverse, well-rounded backgrounds.
  • Consider relocation. The majority (70 percent) of past graduates think that new graduates should be open to relocating to find the best job opportunities. Many employers are poised to hire from hot-spot cities in the upcoming years. If faced with an option to re-locate for a job, weigh the pros and cons carefully. The experience and increased number of jobs available might be worth the move.

"While our survey shows that there are some very real concerns around job opportunities given the recession, the good news is that unemployment for college grads remains well below that of less-educated workers," Bernadette Kenny, Chief Career Officer of Adecco Group North America, said in a statement. "We encourage upcoming grads to be flexible and utilize all the tools and resources out there when looking for a job, find work and an environment that interests you for whatever reason, whether it is working with many people, in a large organization, or a smaller one, in a major city or a small town."


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Job Outlook 2009 Spring Update

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, March 4, 2009

American Workplace Insights Survey

Adecco Group North America, April 23, 2009

Is Grad School Worth It?

by Farnoosh Torabi, Sept. 10, 2008

UNC Graduate School Applications on the Rise

Daily Tar Heel, March 26, 2009 Names Top Entry-Level Employers for 2009, April 21, 2009