This is part of a series on college education. The next article will examine grades vs. the value of the college experience.
Recent college graduates are having an easier time finding good jobs than their predecessors of three or four years ago. With the end of the recession, companies are hiring.
But that doesn’t mean graduates simply can rely on getting a degree. Experts and graduates say getting a good job means meeting people, attending events and asking questions of workers in your field. And it doesn’t hurt to be flexible.
Oliver Swenson, a 2013 University of Portland graduate who majored in marketing, may not have the exact job he will keep through his career, but he did get hired by his dream company: Nike.
Posted at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Swenson works with the athletic apparel maker’s factory stores in North America, making sure they have enough of the right kind of footwear.
“It was my goal to work at Nike and so I built relationships with people,” he says.
During college, Swenson worked for the UP marketing department and learned of a former university worker who had landed a job with Nike. The links multiplied and that got him known.
Swenson says most of his classmates and friends have found work after college, though many people have settled for lower paying positions while they pursue dreams. Then again, some friends have more advanced positions than he does.
Swenson is enjoying Nike and is in a good position to pay off his $28,000 in student loans, a modest debt compared to some classmates.
In the business world, certain majors are in higher demand. Everyone in a recent pod of computer science graduates from UP got hired and are pulling in an average $90,000 per year. UP accounting majors are making $55,000 to $65,000 right out of the gate.
In 2009 and 2010, even accounting graduates were taking jobs as waiters and baristas. Now, even UP juniors in the field are scoring paid summer internships.
Some recent graduates feel confident enough to take risks. Thomas Iwasaki, a 2014 UP graduate with a major in finance, could have worked at a large bank. Instead, he took a position with a Portland startup that creates scheduling software for nurses. He wanted the unique energy of startup life.
“I won’t say it was a struggle to get a job,” Iwasaki says. “But you do need to put yourself out there quite a bit.” He joined projects and attended conferences and set up meetings.
His advice to graduates and future graduates: Start early, but don’t get impatient.
Iwasaki’s friends have met with mixed results, with some securing dream jobs and others struggling.
Graduates in less-desired disciplines don’t have it easy, but can it these days by being creative, says Peter Rachor, director for entrepreneurship at the University of Portland’s Franz Center. One history major wants to start a magazine for chefs. While she is doing that, she is working as a receptionist.
A political science major is looking for work in the legislature and not having much luck, but has gotten contract work on political projects.
Graduates of all kind should prepare, but should feel confident for the next few years, Rachor says.
“I think we will see the job market stay pretty strong, especially here in the Northwest,” he explains. “Portland and Seattle have new businesses. Nike and Intel intend to add employees in the coming years.” Currently, Intel has more than 400 Hillsboro jobs advertised.
Rachor says medium sized firms like Jama Software and Sparkloft Media in Portland are also showing strength.
Linda Favero, program director of Alumni Career Services for the University of Oregon, says graduates have a good chance of finding a job that fits if they are willing to build human networks during college.
“Those who think you will get a job just by getting a degree will be disappointed,” Favero explains. “But those who get out and build relationships will succeed.”
Internet searches are not enough because about 80 percent of jobs are not posted publicly, she says. Those positions go to people who happen to be known to companies. Favero tells students to schedule meetings with employees and bosses just to ask questions. People like to talk about their jobs and like to help, she insists.
“And as they get to know you, when something opens up, you are one of the people they think of,” says Favero.
In addition, most companies want workers with proven experience. That’s why internships and leadership schools make graduates more marketable.