Even though the job market is slightly better than it was a year ago, college graduates will need to be flexible about the kinds of jobs they can expect and also be prepared to relocate to find one.
So what's a new grad to do?
Start at a party: graduation gatherings that bring together friends and family are the perfect way to “tap into the network you have” and get some advice on which city or region might be right for you, says Nancy Keene executive recruiter at headhunting firm Stanton Chase. “Ask a lot of questions."
Overall the job market for new grads is still weak. Fifty percent of human resource executives surveyed by employment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said the outlook for college graduates is about the same as a year ago. About 28 percent said it will be just slightly better. Twelve percent said the job market would be much better than a year ago.
"College students who are searching for that first job upon graduation should always keep their options open, in good times and in bad," said Steven Rothberg, CEO of entry-level job and internship search website CollegeRecruiter.com.
Rothberg suggests creating three lists: metro areas in which you would be happy to live; those in which you would never live in; and ones you would consider living in.
"Focus your efforts on the first group," said Rothberg, and move on to the cities you would consider working in if you need to.
Other experts recommend comprehensive research on where you’re interested in moving to. New graduates should first decide exactly what they want to be doing and list potential employers in each city, said Robert Hellmann an adjunct instructor at New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
If you don’t think there are at least 200 jobs—filled or unfilled—that fit your criteria, that city can be taken off the list.
“Take control,” said Hellman. “Don’t wait for oppurtunities to show up.”
Two websites are trying to make the decision easier: CareerRookie.com, a site by CareerBuilder aimed at those just starting their careers, and apartment listing website Apartments.com ranked the top cities which were the best for recent graduates based on the number of jobs available, the highest concentration of residents between the ages of 20 and 24 and the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
If moving back home is your idea of moving to another city, Keene says that's fine, as long as “home is an economic promising city.” If not, “go elsewhere,” she says. “You have to.”
The timing might be right, said Keene, as many companies that have slowed hiring during the recession need to “fill their pipelines” with talent as business picks up.”
But choosing the right city might come down to trial and error. “When you’re young you have time on your side,” said Hellman. “You can make mistakes, its fine”
Not being tied down by a mortgage or family matters, should make new grads more willing to take the risk and move.
“If you’re young and unencumbered,” said Keene, “take a road trip.”