Students are graduating into a good job market, though college advisers caution that preparation for job-hunting is also important.
With commencement just around the corner, Chris Parsons, who is graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in supply-chain management, has had several job offers. He’ll soon have second-round interviews for three different positions he’s interested in, something he finds reassuring.
“You are told your whole life that the reason you go to college is to be exposed to opportunities that you otherwise would not have“ he said. “I feel as though all of the hard work and late nights spent in the library were all worth it.”
An estimated 5,700 UW undergraduates are expected to walk across the stage at Husky Stadium and emerge into a healthy job market, with many soon to be starting jobs or internships.
Career advisers at state colleges expect job-placement rates to remain steady. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) expects across the country employers to hire 5 percent more graduates from the class of 2017 than the previous year. In particular, students graduating with science, technology, engineering or math majors will see high job and high earning potential.
Most Read Business Stories
- Magnolia residents' AI-powered surveillance camera tracks people, cars at entrance to neighborhood, experts caution bias
- Was $1.3 billion cyberattack an act of war? Merck squares off against insurers in case with wide relevance
- Boeing 777X's fuselage split dramatically during September stress test
- Pilot union at Horizon Air blames management for 'deteriorated' safety programs, highlighting distrustful relations
- Can I keep a feature from Windows 7 while upgrading my computer? | Q&A with Patrick Marshall
Parsons may have his pick of options now, but just a few weeks ago, like about half his friends, he was still striving to get his foot in the door.
The situation isn’t unusual. The UW reported that last year students on average took 8.3 weeks to find employment. Within six months, 71 percent of UW undergraduate alumni were employed (another 19 percent were continuing with their education). Similar rates were reported at Gonzaga University (65 percent employed within six months) and Seattle University (66 percent).
Patrick Chidsey, associate director of career counseling at UW, said students may not have careers lined up yet because many students are not especially forward-thinking about their careers. Many students are drawn to larger employers like Amazon.com, or the UW itself, and many are looking at careers in public health or technology fields.
Ray Angle, assistant vice president of career and professional development at Gonzaga, said that when the economy is doing well, and unemployment is low, students tend to do well in the job market.
Chidsey said employers are looking for students who participate in research, leadership, internshipsand community-based projects, and can put to use both their classroom and extracurricular experiences. Students who graduate without an internship are at a disadvantage in the job market.
“Students need to connect what they learned and why that matters,” Chidsey said.
Ray said liberal-arts majors who have a background in tech or basic coding are at an advantage. Chidsey said other crucial skills to practice include networking, communication, public speaking and sending concise emails.
According to a survey conducted by NACE, when employers are choosing between two equally qualified candidates, they look at an applicant’s major and leadership skills as the top deciding factors. Extracurricular activities such as clubs, sports or student government were also considered influential.
Micailah Donner, a psychology and sociology major who graduated from Gonzaga last month, credits her volunteer work in a mentorship program and her summer work experiences for helping her land a job in her area of interest, working with kids.
The volunteering “gave me leadership experience, and I think this is something employers like to see.”
Still, her job hunt brought a lot of stress. After putting in about 34 applications, some of which got no response, she landed a job at Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile rehabilitation facility in Snoqualmie.
Donner said it’s important during the job hunt to not get frustrated.
“Something will eventually come along. Keep pushing out apps,” she said.
Many schools offer help for students to pick up skills and meet employers. Opportunities like mixers, career fairs and workshops can help connect students to employers and new skills.
Terese King, director of the Academic Success and Career Center for Washington State University, recommended using tools like résumé workshops, mock interviews and career fairs as early as possible
Highline College, which offers certificates, associate degrees and select bachelor degrees, recently opened a Career and Student Employment Center that offers help including résumé workshops, mock interviews and professionalism tips.
Chantal Carrancho, Highline College’s career development program manager, said the school has many nontraditional students and a diverse population, including many who haven’t done an interview in years, or speak English as a second language and haven’t done job interviews in English.Mock interviews are especially helpful for such students, she said.
Amazon is a frequent presence at on-campus career events around here. Miriam Park, director of university programs at Amazon, said workshops and job fairs are a valuable way to introduce students to parts of the company they might not be familiar with.
“With so many opportunities available, talking to students directly, learning about what they’re interested in, and introducing them to unexpected aspects of our culture and business is a great way to show students the many career opportunities available here,” Park said.
Mixers, like one Parsons recently attended hosted by the Operations & Supply Chain Management Club, can help provide students a friendly setting to meet potential employers. At the mixer, Parsons said he was hoping to gain insight into the job market and see what potential employers are looking for in a candidate.
He said his ability to network at events like this was one of the most valuable skills he picked up in college.
“When I attended my first job fair my freshman year of college, I had no idea how to interact with recruiters and demonstrate my value,” Parsons said. “ But, through industry nights, professional mixers and more job fairs, I was able to practice and hone my networking skills.”