Your Guide to Landing a Job

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Finding a job requires a great deal of work, including perfecting your resume, crafting cover letters, attending networking events, and preparing for interviews. It also requires perseverance, since few individuals get the first job for which they apply.

Even so, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment across all occupations in the United States will grow by roughly 7% between 2016 and 2026. This equates to approximately 11.5 million new jobs. Our guide to landing a job offers an overview of what you need to know to take advantage of these opportunities, including how to identify promising industries and how to strategically navigate the hiring process.

What Does the Job Market Look Like Today?

The overall unemployment rate in the United States sits at 3.6% as of June 2019, continuing its steady decline since the recession of 2007-09. While the labor market should continue to see growth across many industries, some fields may experience significantly more rapid expansion. For example, the BLS projects that positions in the healthcare industry will increase by 18% from 2016 to 2026, adding approximately 2.4 million new jobs. Similarly, the BLS projects employment in the field of computer and information technology will increase by 13% during that time, nearly double the average growth rate for all other sectors.

This growth in employment, however, has not translated into wage growth. According to the Pew Research Center, the current average wage has roughly the same purchasing power as the average wage of 40 years ago. Most wage gains go to the highest earners, typically those working full-time jobs that require postsecondary education and several years of professional experience.

The BLS projects that positions in the healthcare industry will increase by 18% from 2016 to 2026, adding approximately 2.4 million new jobs.

Recent graduates should consider several market trends as they begin the job search process. For one, baby boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, are rapidly retiring. While some of these older professionals may delay retirement due to insufficient savings, their ultimate departure from the labor market will create openings for younger individuals with similar skill sets.

In addition, many companies are beginning to see the benefits of more diverse and inclusive working environments, especially when it comes to driving innovation. An increasing awareness of the importance of diversity should lead to greater opportunity for people of color, women, and individuals with nontraditional professional or educational experiences.

Finally, artificial intelligence and other technological advances will likely disrupt the labor market in a significant way. While some industries may require more individuals with technical expertise and soft skills, automation may lead to a steep decline in employment for those in manufacturing, transportation, and related industries.

Is It Hard for College Grads to Find Jobs?

Increasingly, postsecondary education has become a standard requirement for entry-level jobs. To hold a competitive edge over other candidates, you may need more than an undergraduate degree.

For example, professionally focused learning, such as a badge or industry certification, can help you signal specific expertise to future employers. Participating in an internship while in college allows you to develop work-related skills and begin cultivating a professional network.

Your college or university's career office may also serve as an invaluable resource, connecting you with job shadowing, mentorship, and informational interview opportunities. Career counselors also provide advice on topics like honing your resume and following up after an interview.

2019 Hiring Trends

Companies' hiring practices have changed tremendously in recent years, largely due to new technologies and approaches.

For example, many human resource officers use software to conduct an initial review of all applications received for a given position. These systems select candidates based on whether they meet basic requirements, such as a bachelor's degree, and the prevalence of keywords related to the job function, like "supervisory experience." To help ensure that your application materials pass this automated review, be sure to optimize your resume and cover letter by closely aligning them with the qualifications and responsibilities outlined in the job description.

Some firms may also be less likely to immediately place new hires in full-time jobs. While contract or consulting roles typically do not offer benefits or the same level of job security, they do provide a way for recent graduates to build experience and demonstrate their value to an organization.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Applicant tracking systems help recruiters and companies screen application materials and manage candidate information throughout the hiring process. Advances in artificial intelligence allow ATS software to conduct "semantic searches," identifying synonyms and general concepts rather than just keyword matches. Still, candidates benefit from closely tailoring their resumes and cover letters to each open position.

Online Personality and Cognitive Assessments

Some companies use personality and cognitive assessments to evaluate either your ability to perform a certain job function or assess your potential fit within the organization. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the most common personality assessments, while cognitive tests tend to reflect the specific intellectual demands of a given role.

Project-Based Interviews

Project-based interviews give employers the opportunity to assess your skills and expertise in real time. A software developer, for example, may be asked to identify and fix an error in a computer code segment, while a marketing specialist may be required to complete a timed writing assignment.

Contract-to-Hire Agreements

Under a contract-to-hire agreement, a company hires a candidate on a temporary basis with the expectation that the position will become permanent if that employee performs well during the trial period. Before you accept a contract-to-hire position, make sure you know both the length of this period and the specific metrics by which your employer will assess your performance.

Remote Work Opportunities

Remote work opportunities allow employees to work from their homes, satellite offices, or while traveling, usually through the use of online communication and collaboration tools. These arrangements give greater flexibility to employees and help companies save money on office space and equipment. Certain jobs, especially those in service-related industries, typically cannot be performed remotely.

Landing a Job as a College Grad

While the job search process may seem daunting, you can increase your odds of success through preparation, determination, and a strategic and informed approach.

Start by reviewing employment trends in your industry and geographic area to better understand what companies need from their new hires. Spend time developing related skills through training programs, internships, and volunteer experiences. Begin building a professional network by attending events and requesting informational interviews from established professionals in your field. Customize your application materials to specific opportunities. And finally, consider working with a friend or colleague to prepare for interviews, assessments, and salary negotiations.

Tools and Resources for Job Seekers

Below, you can review five helpful resources for job seekers. You can also continue reading this series for more information on perfecting your resume, identifying professional mentors, and what to do when starting a new job.

PayScale

PayScale collects salary and wage information for thousands of jobs. Use it to explore new industries or inform your strategy when negotiating for a promotion or new job.

CareerBuilder

CareerBuilder hosts millions of job listings. It also allows job seekers to post their resumes for recruiters and provides professional development resources like career advice and salary comparison tools.

Salary.com

Like PayScale, Salary.com collects compensation data to help individuals better understand their possible value to an organization. Companies and recruiters may also use the site to budget for new positions.

The Muse

The Muse curates advice on a variety of professional topics, including how to respond to common interview questions, the most successful formats for cover letters, and how to find a fulfilling career.

Glassdoor

Glassdoor allows employees to anonymously post their salary information and company reviews. It is an essential resource for candidates who are interviewing or considering whether to accept a job offer.