According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers anticipate hiring 13% more Class of 2013 college graduates compared to the number they hired from the Class of 2012.
As for the top five bachelor’s degrees in demand, finance ranks first followed by computer and information science, business administration/management and mechanical engineering.
With companies still working with tighter budgets in 2013, many firms will be concentrating on internal referrals to fill positions and rewarding employees based on recruiting, says Dan Schawbel, career expert & author of Promote Yourself.
“One of the biggest workplace trends this year is internal hiring because companies will be investing more in their employee’s careers and it costs 1.7 times as much to hire externally,” he says.
Although the employment outlook is still hazy, recent graduates are still a hot item on the job market, says Meredith Haberfeld, co-founder of the Think Human . “You’re comparatively inexpensive, have the reputation of being eager to learn and have a huge ‘run-way’ in front of you to grow,” she says. “Don’t expect ‘easy,’ expect hustle. But you’re wanted out there.”
For December grads on the job hunt, here are four expert tips on how to land a position in 2013.
Tip No.1: Start Looking ASAP
Company hiring calendars are tough to predict during the first few months of a year. Some companies are in fast-growth mode while some are stalled, says Haberfeld. “Contemplating hiring stats can make you feel better or can make you feel worse in any given moment–it won’t help you get a job, and can mess with your mindset a little, and that’s no good,” she says.
Grads need to be prepared to follow up on leads, resume and application submissions and take many approaches to their job hunt.
“Step back from the computer–job boards and online submissions should be only a small part of the pie,” says Haberfeld. “Spend your time talking to as many people as you can about what you’re looking for and share your gratitude freely for all connections and ideas.”
Tip No.2 Open Your Application Pool
Students might have their heart set on working for a specific company, but they shouldn’t overlook openings at smaller or rival companies that can act as a stepping stone to their dream company.
Experts recommend creating a thoroughly researched, targeted list of companies to be more specific and concentrated in their approach, says Deborah Brown-Volkman, career coach and president of Surpass Your Dreams, Inc.
“Once you have your list of five, 10 or 20 companies, you can really delve into those companies: you can use your social networking piece to connect online, you can go on their websites, see if they’re doing events, you can contact them directly,” she says. While grads should look for opportunities at a range of companies, the experts warn against limiting their search to only large, well-known corporations.
“Smaller companies often provide the greater opportunity since they are typically under the radar screen of most students,” says JP Hansen, career expert and author of The Bliss List: The Ultimate Guide to Living the Dream at Work and Beyond. “Smaller companies may even have greater flexibility and can often hire on the spot.”
Tip No.3: Get Personal
Now is the time for students to follow up with contacts made during the school year or at previous jobs and internships and update them on the job search progress.
“Wish them Happy 2013, find out how they are and generously listen, authentically connect, and share that you’ve now graduated and are on the hunt for a great place to contribute your energy and talents and to grow,” says Haberfeld. “Ask who they know who would be good for you to connect with.”
Although grads can certainly reconnect over email, Volkman suggests getting out from behind the computer and taking a more personal approach such as a phone call follow up or meeting for lunch or coffee.
Tip No.4: Continue to Build a Portfolio
Even if grads don’t find a job right after crossing the stage, they should find some sort of gig to help avoid gaps on a resume, warns Schawbel as experience of one kind or another is more important than college courses or GPA.
“Do relevant projects that you can keep building into your resume,” he says. “It’s really interesting because people say I need an internship or a job to get experience but there are so many other ways to get experience now—you can connect with some consultant and do additional work for them and that builds into your resume and that gives you relevant experience.”
In addition to taking on paid or unpaid opportunities like volunteering, writing a professional blog or taking on freelance projects, students can reach out to their career services center at their alma mater for helpful resources and workshops, says Haberfeld.
“A career coaching workshop can help you if you’re missing clarity about direction, want resume or interview polish or could use a coach and team to partner with through this process.”