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What’s Ahead for 2012 College Grads?

Everywhere you turn these days, it seems that the prevailing message is one of doom and gloom for the economy. Bleak job prospects, weak financial sectors, faltering retirement plans and other economic woes dominate on Internet, print and broadcast news. Amid all of the negative reports, how can college graduates have any hope for their employment futures?

Not so fast, my friends. Believe it or not, there’s real reason for optimism for college graduates looking to enter the work force in 2012. Little by little, the signs indicate that brighter skies are ahead.

Hiring Outlook for 2012
In its most recent Job Outlook Report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that employers surveyed plan to hire 9.5 percent more graduates from the class of 2012 than they did from 2011.

A word of caution: Most of those hires could be replacements for existing positions. Graduates in business, engineering and tech-related disciplines are likely to have a competitive advantage.

Salary Projections
In 2011, graduates saw overall average salary offers rise by 6 percent over 2010, according to the NACE. A bachelor’s degree graduate’s average starting salary increased to $51,171 from $48,288 in the previous year. Engineering graduates earn the highest-paid salaries, with petroleum engineering graduates at the top of the list with $82,740 — a 7.1 percent increase over 2010.

If those numbers continue their upswing, then 2012 graduates can feel confident that the coming year will be a good one for new hires. The NACE will release its next update on average starting salaries in the January 2012 issue of Salary Survey.

The New Reality of Job Openings
If most of the job openings will be for “replacement” hires, what does that mean for new job creation? While a few companies are aggressively pursuing new hires, the reality is that you cannot rely on your degree alone to get you a job.

New graduates will need to aggressively market themselves to prospective employers. If you can prove that you are the best candidate for the job, then you will have an edge over your competition.

Getting an Edge
So how, exactly, do you prove your worth to employers? It all begins while you are still an undergraduate. Here are few smart ideas:

· Take advantage of any paid or unpaid internship programs. Show employers what a diligent, productive worker you are, and they may consider hiring you on. Make yourself indispensible so they can’t afford to lose you.
· Volunteer in a nonprofit. Take on a leadership role at a local nonprofit, and produce results. Show that you can work for the betterment of your community while making a difference within the organization.
· Sharpen your written and oral communication skills. Your job application is not the place for spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. No matter what type of job it is, you will need to have strong communication skills, both verbally and in writing, to earn the respect of your supervisor as well as your peers.

Looking Ahead
If you are preparing to enter the labor force in 2012, then take swift action now to ensure you have a job secured upon graduation. Just the same when you are preparing for college, you need get ready for the battle you are about to face. By making the extra effort now to set yourself apart from your fellow graduates, you will be in a better position to get precisely the job you desire.

About the Author
Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance writer specializing in higher education, retirement  financial planning and college planning services topics. You’ll find her work featured at College Funding Resource, FeliciaGopaul.com, and numerous other blogs and financial websites. In her free time, Karen enjoys a variety of fitness activities, including yoga, hiking, karate and dancing.

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  1. Demonstrating their skills is important. I often suggest new grads apply for and work internships to show their interest in a new career. In addition to gaining valuable experience, employer’s often will hire their interns when they graduate. A win – win for both sides.

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