Abby Fischer is confident her search for a financial analyst position will come to a fruitful conclusion soon.
But the senior at Xavier University in Ohio said she has been a little alarmed by a trend she has seen in her last few months of college.
“I’m kind of surprised about the number of friends I have who don’t have jobs,” she said. “We’re getting close to graduation now.”
Fischer is one of more than 1.6 million expected to receive a bachelor’s degree this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The national unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent in Oct. 2009 to 6.7 percent in March, so entering the workforce is not as difficult of an endeavor as it once was.
“It’s not the best it’s ever been, but it’s a lot better than what it was 2, 3, 4 years ago,” said Brian Lytle, the vice president of the Reno, Nev. office for national staffing company Spherion.
Still, the economy is not fully healed and the recession crushed the retirement plans for many baby boomers who are working more years than their predecessors.
“Those positions are not going to be opened up,” said Jeff Gerkin, the senior vice president and general manager at Right Management. The company is the talent and career management portion of ManpowerGroup.
Both Gerkin and Lytle said those exiting college with engineering degrees or strong computer skills will have an easier time entering the workforce than most, while those with social studies and art degrees might have a tough time finding work.
Business and health care are two other fields hiring new graduates, though many of the health care jobs require more education.
College graduates earn more and are hired at a higher level than those without college degrees, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
But graduating students need more than a degree in many cases to land a job. Growing Leaders Founder and President Tim Elmore said more and more companies tell him that students exiting college lack communication skills and other so-called soft skills that are necessary in today’s workforce.
“It’s a diminishing commodity,” he said.
Xavier senior Reggie Tipton is finishing up his theology major with a minor in criminal justice. He said he eventually plans to join the U.S. Marines but is taking part in the job search.
Tipton, who was born in Memphis, Tenn., and grew up in Chicago, said networking and using social media have been keys to finding leads. He said he has grown more comfortable with doing interviews.
“At first I was a little nervous but after a while, I realized you’re supposed to be comfortable and be confident so they know who you are and what you will bring to the company,” Tipton said.
Fischer, a Cleveland native, said she has submitted about 30 applications and received a handful of phone interviews. She said she has reached out to a mentor through Xavier’s business program. As a member of the university’s cross country and track and field teams, Fischer said she has reached out to past runners for help.
“I’ve had a couple in-person (interviews) and I guess I hear back from a lot more of the sales jobs than anything,” she said.
Experts said networking helps. Those struggling to find full-time employment could take an internship as a way to get experience in a field.
Communication and collaboration skills, however, could be the difference between landing a desired job and struggling to find employment.
Elmore said he has heard stories of job candidates texting in the middle of conversations with prospective employers or bringing parents to interviews. One large corporation had 50 percent of its job openings for recent grads go unfilled, he said.
“The jobs are ready,” he said. “The kids weren’t.”