College graduates of 2012, rejoice! You've conquered four years of homework and research papers, and you'll soon be crossing a stage to receive the coveted title of "bachelor."
But after the dust settles and the graduation parties become just a Facebook photo album of memories, you'll have bigger things to worry about. Your mission -- should you choose to accept it -- is to find a job, preferably one related to your degree. But this journey isn't for the faint-of-heart, particularly since you'll face many roadblocks along the way.
This year there are nearly two million graduates vying for a limited number of jobs. A full-time salary with benefits sounds great, but few of you will land one. A report released May 10 (PDF), found that just one in two college graduates who earned diplomas during the years 2006 to 2011 is now employed full-time. And only 60 percent of 2011 graduates employed full-time are working in jobs that require four-year degrees.
But not only will you and your recession-displaced peers be competing for the same jobs; it'll also be difficult to get one related to your major. The same report found that just 40 percent of 2006 to 2011 graduates' first jobs were related "very closely" to their earned degrees. So get ready to be a little flexible in your job search.
More Debt and Lower Pay
Consumers ages 18-24 currently hold an average of $19,344 in student loan debt, according to the latest CreditKarma.com data. What's more, entry level salaries are lower than they were ten years ago. Less money means less ability to repay student loan debts. Of current student loan borrowers, 27 percent had past due balances in the third quarter of 2011.
This perfect storm of lower salaries, higher student loan debt and increased potential for default will make it more difficult for you to get new credit when you need it, say for your first home or even a loan for a new car. And in true catch-22 fashion, bad credit can actually hinder your ability to land a job. More employers are performing credit checks alongside background checks.
Newsflash: the recession is far from over. The unemployment rate among 20 to 24-year-olds with bachelor's degrees stands at 8.9 percent as of April (compared with 8.1 percent nationally). Job creation looks bleak too -- just 115,000 new jobs were created in April, down from March's 154,000. That American Dream might be deferred for a while. A recent poll found that 18- to 29-year-olds will be delaying financial planning and life moves such as buying a home, saving for retirement and paying off debt due to economic factors.
Not All Bad News.
At this point, you might feel like your near future looks pretty grim. In light of the dismal jobs outlook and slow economic recovery, should you give up and move back in with Mom and Dad? Not necessarily, considering that there is some good news on your horizon. Employers report a 10.2 percent increase in new-grad hiring from last year. Plus, you have more earning power than your non-degree-holding peers. The median weekly earnings in 2011 for an employee with a bachelor's degree was $1,053, compared with $638 for employees with a high school diploma, but no degree.
All of this sounds promising, but remember that you're the one in the driver's seat now -- not your parents or your professors. There's a lot that you can do to kick-start your job search and get ahead of the pack. Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Clean up your online profiles and get networking.
Your future employer can -- and probably will -- use your social network profiles during the employment screening process. A recent study found that "69 percent of recruiters have rejected a candidate based on content found on his or her social networking profiles."
The good news is that nearly as many recruiters responded that they have hired a prospect based on his or her positive social media presence. After you've cleaned up your social network profiles, start using them to network with companies you want to work for. If you don't already have one, create a LinedIn profile. LinkedIn is the top network used by recruiters.
2. Perform a financial health check-up.
For those looming student loan debt repayments, set up an account with ReadyForZero, which helps you prioritize your debt. Lastly, monitor your entire financial profile with a Mint.com account. You'll be able to set up and adjust your budget based on your typical expenses.
3. Become a volunteer or an intern.
If you can't find a full-time position right away, bolster your resume with some unpaid work. Students who completed an internship while in college reportedly earn nearly 15 percent more on average than those who did not. Check out VolunteerMatch and InternMatch to find a spot that fits with your schedule and skills set.
All is not lost, graduate. Take your destiny into your own hands, and you might just land that dream job. Just remember that you're not alone. It's true that you're competing with two million fellow alumni, but they'll also serve as your support system during your job search and subsequent career building. Lean on each other during this tricky time, and the road will seem easier.
Bethy Hardeman writes on credit, personal finance and the economy for CreditKarma.com, a free credit management website that helps more than 5 million people access their credit score for free.
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