Graduates should plan for the future

Drew Kochanny

I probably don’t need to tell anyone how bad the job market is, but I’m going to anyway. It’s so bad right now that those of us graduating in May, myself included, may want to head to Mexico, South Korea or Sri Lanka, all of which have lower unemployment rates than United States’ 9.7.

Graduating from college, I hear, is quite the feat. I haven’t done it yet, but to me, it feels a little like getting released from prison. Although, I’ve never gone through that either, I imagine one asks the same question: how am I going to make it on the outside? That may be the main thought twisting around graduates’ heads these days.

Panic has most likely set in for a lot of us, especially if for those who haven’t yet searched the job market. I’ve been dipping my toes in the job pond for a few months and I still feel behind. Come May, I’ll be taking a dive into the job search and hit the water with a cannonball. In my opinion, there are some things to remember for those who want to do the same.

First of all, don’t wait any longer. If you haven’t started searching yet, do it right now. The job market is getting thinner than Calista Flockhart and waiting will only make it worse. As of April 2010, 6.5 million people have been unemployed for at least six months, an all-time American high according to the Labor Department. I can’t imagine that number will lower with thousands of students graduating in May. The early bird gets the worm. Starting to apply now, even weeks before graduation, may give us a leg up on a few thousand who haven’t yet. Take the time to do some research and send out the resume, if even to get a few interviews out of the way.

Also, don’t be afraid to settle for less. No one is going to get that Wall Street firm job and a Park Avenue apartment right off the bat. I’m not saying anyone should settle on the first local job that comes calling, but getting your foot in the door of whatever you want to head into is a start. Experience is a key these days. Hiring departments are looking for those people who have experience in the field and sometimes the best way to get that is starting small.

Be flexible when applying. Pigeonholing yourself to only one area of the country, particularly the Midwest or Michigan, may be one of the biggest problems. According to a 2010 study by students at Michigan State University, the areas of the country that will experience the highest percent of increased jobs from last year is the South Central region at six percent, Northwest at four percent and Southwest at two percent. Taking a hit are the mid-Atlantic at an eight percent decrease, Southeast at seven percent, Northeast and Great Lakes at four percent and Upper Plains at three percent. We shouldn’t be afraid to leave our “home” area.

The last tip to work on is communication skills. Of all of the skills hiring departments are looking for, good communication skills ranked number one in a recent study. Let’s face it. The internet, e-mail and Facebook have been killing our communication skills for years. People are forgetting how to communicate in the real world. Touch up your writing for those countless cover letters and start mingling a bit more. Learn how to talk to real people, not just a computer screen.

It looks like it’s going to get hard. Congratulations to anyone who’s already found a job, though. I hope the best for anyone who is graduating from NMU come May. That is, unless you’re a communications major. In that case, get out of my way.