Companies plan to hire an average of 5 percent more college graduates this year than in 2016.
That’s according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, who surveyed companies who hire college students (NACE Job Outlook 2017).
Arizona is tied with Alaska per capita for last place for the lowest number of college graduation rates, according to the U.S. Department of Education. However, from a career perspective, these graduates may have a job waiting. Many are qualified — and, in some instances, overqualified — for jobs due the economy’s needs. And many have a “I’ll-take-what-I-can” mindset, officials say.
In other words, 2017 poses the strongest job market since the recession.
“The unemployment rate of young college graduates has since decreased due to stronger job growth, and now sits at 5.6 percent,” according to a recent report, “The labor market is still far from ideal for young graduates,” from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
In Arizona, unemployment rates in 2015 were 12.5 percent for workers under 25, a small decrease from the previous year.
“For young college graduates, the unemployment rate is currently 7.2 percent (compared with 5.5 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 14.9 percent (compared with 9.6 percent in 2007),” according to the EPI. Even with healthy growth in our economy, approximately 10 percent of ages 17-24 have a college degree or higher.
This leaves high school students graduates in the dust, because many graduates are fine with being overqualified for a job when he or she starts out. This month, Arizona’s unemployment rate is 5.1 percent with only a .1 percent change in the last three months. In the last three months, the unemployment rate dropped in 34 states leading to a brighter future for the rest of 2017.
Enrique Lopezlira, assistant professor of economics at Grand Canyon University, addresses the difficult circumstances both high school and college graduates have to face coming into this 2017 job market.
“For high school graduates, the market is not healthy, and I’m not sure when it will be healthy again. Workers without a college degree are at a real disadvantage compared with college educated workers,” said Lopezlira.
In terms of pay, the market isn’t much better for recent college graduates who may willingly take lower pay, instead of not having a full-time job.
“Wages have not grown very much and probably will not grow very much, as long as there is slack in the work force and as long as employers continue to substitute technology for workers in many occupations,” said Lopezlira.
Needless to say, college students want college-paying jobs. A major definitely plays a part in finding a job, but how hard is it to find a job that you want? Securing a job in any field is one thing, but doing what you’re passionate is another thing.
Professions such as computer engineers or data scientists might have a higher chance of getting a job he or she wants. However, according to Lopezlira, other professions such as financial advisors or nurses will face tough competition.
“For example, many of my finance students will have to settle for sales jobs/call center jobs while they get the licensing requirements to be financial professionals and economics students really need to go to graduate school to land a real economist position,” said Lopezlira.
What’s the best way to find a job in 2017?
“Network a lot and often,” said Lopezlira. “In fact, network all the time, and don’t be afraid to leverage that network. Networking will also help you understand what skills (beyond academics) are needed to succeed in your chosen industry,.
Selling yourself is vital. Beyond networking, there are resources both high school and college graduates can utilize: career coaches or advisors that specialize in professional development.
Jeff Welter, associate director for professional development at the business college at the University of Arizona, helps students focus on their vision of what they want to do when they graduate. He talks to students about their interests and then comes up with a job plan.
“We do this in a variety of ways,” Welter said. “We teach students how to research a job or industry to see if it’s something they would like to do, how to network through LinkedIn and informational interviews. We introduce them to alumni and professionals who can give advice and help get them in the door at a company.”
“We help them identify ways to gain relevant experience and skills they’ll need to be competitive, and we help them with their resumes and mock interviews,” said Welter.
With the right resources, mindset, and asking for help, UA graduating seniors such as Mckenzie Trimble will have a chance in the job market.
Trimble, who is aspiring to be an attorney, plans to take a year off before going to law school. She believes the market will be healthy for college grads. However, even with her pre-law degree, she acknowledges it will be a challenge.
“While I treasure what I learned in my major’s curriculum and know it will aid me in my transition into law school, I realistically know my degree is close to valueless in my field until I achieve a JD degree,” said Trimble.
Even though Trimble is seeking positions in legal environments now, she is facing difficulties since she doesn’t have multiple years of experience or a JD degree.
“Competition is tough because there are a lot of college graduates each year,” Welter said. “But if a student puts in the work ahead of time to have a good sense of themselves, the jobs they’re applying for and why they are a good candidate, they can be successful.”
Carly Rashoff is covering business for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the school of journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org