April 4, 2008
Job market good for college grads
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
Three years ago, when most of this year's college graduates were just finishing their freshman year, job prospects for those just entering the work force looked bleak.
Today, however, fresh data suggest the job market will be particularly strong for graduates who hold degrees in business, finance, engineering and computer science, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based employment-services firm. But what about those with less-technical degrees?
Challenger says the nation's 54,000 English majors and 44,000 liberal-arts majors, as well as the 150,000 who studied sciences and history, may also find themselves in strong demand.
Helping to increase the number of opportunities for these graduates is a growing number of companies placing a higher priority on soft skills, Challenger says, which are those demonstrated by the ability to communicate ideas, think critically and respond positively to feedback.
Though highly favored, not all of today's liberal-arts majors possess such talents, says Laura Katen, president of Katen Consulting in Harrison, N.Y.
For Katen – who runs an employment-skills-building program called "Enhance Your Chance" – that means she spends a good deal of her time working with students, both one on one and in groups, improving interviewing aptitude, including etiquette.
Too many are focused on what a company can provide them rather than what they as employees can do for employers, she says.
"They don't understand it's not about them," Katen says. "It's about 'What are you bringing?' You need to articulate what skill you have and how it's going to benefit the company."
To that end, Katen helps refocus students' attention on the things that matter to employers during an interview: firm handshakes, consistent eye contact and an ability to articulate how past experiences make the applicant an ideal candidate for the job.
For liberal-arts grads looking to solve bigger issues, such as which career is best or whether to continue on to graduate school, a career coach may be a better fit.
That's where someone like Kate Gwon can help. Gwon, a program-development director at Springboard Career Consultants in New York, says she routinely works with people trying to figure out which career path to take or how to translate their education into a job.
It's something Gwon knows because she switched careers herself. The former cancer researcher helps Springboard clients determine their own path by providing assessment tests, career recommendations and research and other resources.
"One of the things we really work on with people is determining how their skill set can blend with the interests that they have outside the academic world into a career," Gwon says.
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