(ARA) – Each year a new crop of students graduates from colleges and universities, and joins the millions of unemployed across the nation in seeking work. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent in March 2010, with an average of 6.3 people now competing for each job opening. This represents a rise from only 1.7 workers competing for each position when the recession began in December 2007.
Competition for employment is fiercer today than ever before. To prepare for life after graduation, there are steps college students can take to bolster their appeal in the job market. Martha Schottelkotte, director of Career Services at Brown Mackie College – Cincinnati, works with college students daily to help them strengthen employment prospects. "There are definite steps students can take to pave the way toward employment well before they graduate," Schottelkotte says. "We encourage students to adopt a professional mindset the moment they enroll."
Schottelkotte goes on to outline five steps students can take to prepare for the eventual job search.
Join student clubs for major area of study.
"Student clubs provide a venue in which students operate as a team to set and reach goals, much like a small business," Schottelkotte says. "Most employers indicate that teamwork is the fundamental mode of operation. Participating in a club and holding a position of leadership indicate to potential employers that the student is willing to show initiative and work beyond the parameters of simply being a student." Participation demonstrates the skills necessary to be successful in any workplace.
Join professional organizations.
Professional organizations provide opportunities for students to attend industry events, including workshops, annual meetings and networking sessions. "Networking is vital to creating employment options," Schottelkotte says. "Membership shows a commitment to the industry and a desire to increase expertise. It also provides the opportunity for a student to identify a mentor in their chosen field." According to Careerbuilder.com, networking is the No. 1 way to obtain a professional position. A local list in our yellow pages
Focus on academic excellence.
"Achieving a grade point average (GPA) that earns a student a dean’s or president’s listing is a very strong accomplishment that can be highlighted on a pending graduate’s resume, and will quickly help the potential employer decide if they will read that resume further or discard it," says Schottelkotte. "The immediate impression is that this person sets the bar high for themselves. Think about it for a moment, would you prefer a medical assistant who earned an ‘A’ in the Anatomy & Physiology course, or a ‘C’?"
Secure an internship or externship.
Both internships and externships give students on-the-job working experience at a company in their chosen field. Internships usually offer financial compensation, while externships are unpaid positions which often garner college credits instead. According to the Brown Mackie College 2009 Annual Employer Survey, 65 percent of employers prefer candidates with externship experience. "This is an opportunity to apply knowledge from the classroom in a real workplace setting," says Schottelkotte. "Upon graduation, students can add this experience to their resume to augment skills to make them more marketable." These experiences also provide the opportunity for the pending graduate to network with professionals in the field to increase employment opportunities. myMotherLode has job listings in the Classifieds.
Do volunteer work.
"The willingness to give to your community in an uncompensated fashion is an indication of character, generosity and sense of humanity," Schottelkotte says. "Most corporations feel so strongly about volunteerism that they create opportunities for employees to participate in volunteer work during operating hours, or as a work-related event. If a potential employer is reviewing two resumes that are comparable item by item, but only one of the candidates has participated in ongoing volunteer work, the candidate who volunteers will get the interview." Check the list of events for active local non-profit organizations here.
Courtesy of ARAcontent