College seniors across the country are walking across stages, collecting their diplomas and scratching their heads. Sure, a lucky few have jobs waiting for them. Others, however, feel more like satirist Tom Lehrer's description of emerging from college: "Soon we'll be out, amid the cold world's strife/Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life."
Despair not, young graduates. Even though hiring for recent Baccalaureate recipients remains flat, there are still several options available for those who need to start earning money immediately. For those with no clear employment options on the horizon, I suggest starting with what I like to call "The Three T's:" Teaching, Tutoring and Temping.
I realize you may not be certified to teach in the public schools, but most school districts in the United States will allow college graduates to serve as substitute teachers, which can pay a respectable daily rate. Assuming you were a good student in college with a solid grasp of high school material, you might also pick up some extra cash working as a tutor. This could be a good way to supplement substitute teaching wages or a stand-alone business of its own. To get started, network through your local school districts, advertise on public bulletin boards, and offer your services through Craigslist or wyzant.com. Many tutors earn between $30-$50 an hour for their services (or more), depending on the field. Don't forget about standardized testing tutoring, as well; demand is often very high for help preparing for the all-important SATs.
Be sure to include temporary agencies in your job search. The reality is that, as the regulatory cost of hiring full-time employees expands, so too does the demand for capable temporary workers without strings attached. Right now, the use of temps is outpacing new hires by a ten-to-one ratio. While temporary work may not sound appealing, bear in mind that a significant percentage (well, 30 percent) of temporary workers are eventually picked up for full-time employment. Think of it as a paid internship. Temporary employment also helps you to network and to gain a glimpse inside the thriving sectors of the economy, since only busy businesses pay the premium required to hire a temp.
Beyond those possibilities, pay close attention to which sectors of the economy are growing and which are shrinking. Despite current efforts at belt-tightening in government, the public sector continues to outpace the private sector in terms of employment. Right now, unemployment in the public sector is about half the unemployment level in the private sector (about 4 percent vs. 8 percent) while a recent jobs report indicated that 73 percent of new jobs created over five months were with the government.
In terms of locating existing job opportunities, public service is one of the most promising sectors to explore for finding decent work with benefits. Almost any job that you can do in the private sector has a public sector counterpart. You can look for federal jobs at usajobs.gov. To find other governmental job opportunities, try searching for "Civil Service Jobs" in your state. To secure public sector work, make sure you meet all the listed job qualifications to a "T" before applying. Government agencies have to adhere to considerable bureaucratic rules in filling positions, so you want to make sure you follow the application stipulations precisely. Take any required civil service tests and monitor their hiring websites obsessively.
Still no luck? Then turn to the "necessities" sector. When the economy contracts, people have to give up certain luxuries, but there are some things that people are always going to need, no matter what. I'm talking about things like water, food, transportation, fuel, utilities and health care. These are basic necessities that you require in order to live, and therefore employment in these fields tends to be very reliable, even during economic recessions.
Many public sector jobs fall into the "necessities" sector, but this category also includes private sector jobs that supply essential human needs. For instance, everyone needs food in order to survive, which is why work in the food service industry remains easy to find. Healthcare is part of the necessities sector, and appears to be one of the most promising fields in terms of anticipated growth. The full implementation of Obamacare bodes well for the future of heathcare administration employment, along with medical records personnel. This is a whole new area of government bureaucracy that will need to be staffed. Liberal arts graduates without specific healthcare training can quickly qualify for work in one of these fields by earning short-term, targeted credentials through technical or career schools.
Another reason to like the necessities sector is the high likelihood you will be paid consistently for your labor. Month after month, people write checks for their utilities because, without payment, service will simply be cut off. Healthcare bills are typically guaranteed by a third party insurer or, in cases of Medicaid or Medicare, by the government. These are powerful guarantees that workers in these essential fields will receive their paychecks, come heck or high water.
Another big advantage of jobs in the necessities sector is that this work generally can't be outsourced, overseas. Because commodities in the necessities sector normally have to be "consumed" locally, they also need to be delivered locally. That means potential work and great job protection for you. They can't fix your engine or remove your appendix overseas, after all.
The bottom line, graduate, is that you've spent the last 17 years of your life developing your mind. Now, it's time to turn that brainpower to the personal problem of locating individual opportunity in the current economic climate. Analyze the problems, identify the existing opportunities, and position yourself accordingly. That's how to get an "A" in applied, real-life employment management.